Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Review of Ken's "My Cool Mini" Mini Cooper Car

While I was on my birthday trip a few weeks ago, I saw Ken's Mini Cooper at a Target store in New York.  I didn't buy it then because, although it looked nice, it also seemed big and expensive ($29.99).  After I got home, I kept thinking about it and all of its shiny redness.   I don't own a Ken doll, but I could imagine my Monster High girls having an awesome road trip in that car.   I love real Mini Coopers, which has a lot to do with the awesome movie, The Italian Job.  If you've never seen that movie, check it out and then afterwards, try not to like Mini Coopers.  I'd be thrilled to own a real Mini Cooper except for two things: my family wouldn't fit in it, and I'm in love with my 20-year-old Camry.  So anyway, after I got home from that trip I caved and bought Ken's Mini Cooper online using some of my hard-earned Toys R Us dollars.  Here it is:

Ken's Mini Cooper
Ken looks very suave on the box.  I want to mess up his hair a bit, but he looks good:

For most of my life, I pictured Ken as looking like this.  After reading Hippolyta's blog, I started giving Ken some more consideration.  He has really pulled his look together over the last few years.  

Based on this picture, Ken and Barbie barely fit in their car, but that's pretty typical of Barbie cars from what little I know.  The Mini Cooper is a tiny car, granted, but Ken's head shouldn't be much higher than the seat back...certainly not any higher than the windshield.  

The Mini Cooper comes in a big cardboard window box.  Inside, there's a bright yellow cardboard insert with a minimal city skyline design on it.  In the car, there's a cardboard Barbie and Ken sitting in the front seats.  It's an ok display, but I don't think the yellow color shows off the red Mini Cooper to its best advantage.  It's a bit blinding:

I need sunglasses to look at this display for any length of time.
The car is attached to the cardboard with three of those black plastic twist attachment things that we saw on the Fashionista Barbie head.  You just have to lift the tab slightly and twist the black piece to the left and that's it.  Do that three times and in 10 seconds the car is out of the box.  Couldn't be any easier, and then the clean-up is simple.  Not a ton of plastic taped to the cardboard or anything like that.

All that's left attached to the cardboard is a small plastic bag holding the car's rearview mirrors:

Ready to roll!

Ken's cardboard double looks more proportional than the Ken on the box.
Look Ma, no legs!
The car looks sweet, and pretty accurate:


This is Ken's car, right?  So...Ken hearts himself?  
I wish the top closed.  It looks like it will, but it doesn't.
The doors open and there are some nice details inside, including a navigation system and a gear shift:

I didn't think they made cars with gear shifts any more.  Good for Ken!
Those spots are not from my camera.  The interior is dusty or smudgy or something.
See the real instrument panel here.

The rearview mirrors and all of the dashboard instruments are decorated with matte white stickers.  The mirrors would have been a lot more realistic if they'd been made out of reflective or shiny silver stickers.

There are seats belts in front, but not in back.
The details on the back of the car are not quite as good as the front of the car.  In the front, there are a lot of molded details in the grille and around the lights, but in the back, its mostly stickers:

The seats are almost level with the bottom of the car.  All of the leg room is under the hood.

My son thinks the seats are bad.
I like the coffee cup holders!
In fact, the seats are molded into the same piece of plastic that is the bottom of the car and so you can see the pattern of the seats when you turn the car upside down: 

The wheels do not have axels.  Each wheel is individually mounted to the side of the car.  There is no rotational movement in the wheels, so the car can't turn.  In fact, the front wheels don't even spin very well on a wooden floor.  The steering wheel does not interact with the wheels.  This all sounds like I am being picky, I know, but I remember buying die-cast scaled model cars for my boys when they were younger, and these models were metal, incredibly detailed and the steering actually worked--oh, and they sold for 10-20 bucks at places like Big Lots and BJ's.

Another complaint: the backs of the seats are hollow.  This just looks cheap.

Also, there's zero leg room in the back seat, so even though I assumed none of the Monster High girls would be able to ride in back, now I am starting to wonder if Chelsea and her friends will fit back there.

Since I don't have Ken, let's see who else can fit into this car.  The Liv dolls' heads are pretty big and look a little silly sticking out of the car, but Hayden fits in the seat nicely:

And she can hold the steering wheel  in a realistic way:

That seat belt doesn't look regulation, though.
Ghoulia also fits nicely into the driver's seat.  Her head looks at just about the right height--maybe even a little low to be completely accurate.

Road trip!!

Ghoulia cracks me up.
She looks so serious and focused (stressed?), and she can just barely see over the wheel.
Here's Fashionista Artsy going for a test drive.  I would expect her to fit this car perfectly.  Indeed, she looks surprisingly in proportion to the car and not at all like that picture on the box:

This car was made for me!
Here she goes, starting up the engine...

She has some trouble grabbing the wheel:

She can shift...

And check her mirrors...

And then after a few adjustments, she finally gets a reasonable--if dainty, hold on the wheel:

Not all Barbie dolls are as articulated as Artsy.  Many of them do not have wrist articulation.  I wonder how some of the Barbie Basics would fit in this car?  This position might work for holding the steering wheel, but this straight-armed gal surely couldn't drive.  Now I really wish I had Ken so that I could test out his driving skills in this car!

Artsy can tote a few small friends in this car:

Viveca misses the seat belt by a mile, but I don't think little kids are supposed to use those shoulder seat belts anyway...or even sit in the front seat, so that's fine

Tamika can't quite sit down all of the way:

But again, after a little maneuvering, the girls can sit pretty convincingly in the back seat:

Bottom line?  I love the way this car looks from a distance.  It is a very accurate model of a great-looking car.  The color is bright and shiny and the white racing stripes are an excellent touch.  It's not pink!  The lights and grilles on the exterior all look realistic and detailed.  The interior has some fun accents like the circular navigation screen and the tiny "Mini" logo on the steering wheel.  Both front doors open, which makes positioning dolls inside the car easy.

If you look closely at the car and start to play with it, some of the details fall short.  The entire car is made of lightweight molded plastic.  It feels cheap.  I worry that it would break easily if given to a younger child. who wanted to zoom it around.  The interior details are all molded into the black plastic with the exception of a few white stickers.  The seat backs are hollow and the wheels have a very simple attachment with minimal movement and no connection to each other or to the steering wheel.  The play value compared to other toy cars is low because of the lack of maneuverability.  The opening doors, wheels and steering wheel (which rotates loosely) are the only moving parts on the car.  Oh, how I wish that the convertible top opened and closed!  The few Barbie dolls I own interact pretty well with the car, although I wonder how some of the less articulated dolls would manage.  Liv and Monster High dolls can share the car and the bright red color goes particularly well with the Monster High palette.  Unfortunately I can't comment on how well Ken himself fits into the seat or holds the wheel.

I'm on the fence about recommending this car--it definitely depends on what you're looking for.  If you're looking for a replica of a Mini Cooper, there are smaller, more accurate, higher-quality models out there for a similar price.  If you're looking for a fun toy car, this one doesn't drive well enough to be satisfying.  If you're specifically in the market for a Barbie car, and are expecting construction of this quality, this car is a good choice.  It'd be a slam dunk for $20.  It is a classic, unique design that stands apart from the fleet of purple and pink Barbie vehicles on the market.  Aside from the VW Beetle, it's the only Barbie car that has ever caught my attention.  I am content to own it as a prop, but not yet convinced that it is here to stay.

Age Level
3 and up, although the quality of the construction might not tolerate rough play.
When I compare this car to the similarly-priced die cast vehicles, it seems overpriced at $29.99.  Its price seems more fair when compared to other fashion doll cars that are available.
Large, accurate depiction of a Mini Cooper, but with lightweight molded plastic construction and poor mobility.
Very good.  Mostly cardboard with a plastic window.  Secured in the box with three plastic anchors that are easy to remove.
This is definitely toy-quality, but collectors of Mini Cooper models might be interested because of its accurate appearance.
The car does not have good movement.    It can only drive in a straight line.  However,  the car is nicely scaled to Barbie, and Chelsea-sized dolls can fit in the back seat.  Liv and Monster High dolls can share the car.
Recommended with some reservations.



  1. Apparently there is a Sindy (barbie clone) mini cooper, too. Another blogger compared the two...I'll have to see if I can find it. Yeah, some of the barbie basics can't even sit all the way down, so they'd probably have a hard time driving:D It is a cute little car, even if Ken does love himself.
    I personally love the Barbie VW van I found at goodwill. It is darling and again NOT pink. That's a good thing to find, and pretty rare these days.

    1. Oh, I'd love to have a Barbie VW van. That is an excellent find! I have the LEGO VW van and adore it. So much detail!

      I'd be very interested to read the other blog about the different Coopers. I was very conflicted about my overall impression of this toy. Definitely a love/hate relationship. I mean, it looks really amazing, but what's the use of a car you can't race around on the floor? I raised two boys. I appreciate zooming cars. :)

    Found it! She doesn't seem to address the wheel issue, though. But the Sindy car IS bigger.

    1. Wow. The Sindy car looks so different! I love it. I especially love the trunk. How cool. Those are great comparison pictures! Thank you so much for the link, Miss Lola!!

  3. Cute photos + Great review! :-)


  4. Does the front hood open?

    1. Sadly, no. That would have been very cool.