The 2004 Mini Cooper reminds me of a clown's car - the one that 10 clowns pile into at the circus. When doing some research on the Mini before writing this review, I came across a photo of a group of Mini enthusiasts who, back in 1999, managed to shove 25 people in this car made for four. Why, you ask? After stuffing my children in the back for two weeks, I'd like to know the answer to that question as well.

By driving a Mini Cooper, I was instantly initiated into the "Cooper Cult," as I'm calling it. Everyone I saw driving one waved enthusiastically at me. I felt an immediate sense of belonging to this exclusive, but quickly expanding club.

The obvious put aside (that this Mini isn't meant as a kid carriage), let's delve into the practical applications for the Mini Cooper: It's cute, it's affordable, it gets great gas mileage and umm... well, that pretty much covers the important stuff.

Although the Mini Cooper certainly isn't meant as a mom-mobile, I surprisingly discovered some mom (and dad) friendly features. Can't guess what they are? I'll give you a hint: ease of loading and unloading children isn't one of them.

However, ease of installing child car seats is. The Mini's Latch connectors are cleverly stored, and easily accessible, in compartments covered by flip up lids. My oldest child could readily buckle her own seatbelt thanks to the stable buckle base.

I love the fact that the Mini's rear seat is made from one molded piece (rather than a seat bottom and seat back cushion). This eliminates the possibility for the crack to get littered with pieces of free cookies from the grocery store, the ones I use as an "incentive" (i.e. bribe) to get my kids to behave while I'm shopping.

After some initial concern from a fellow parent about the safety of driving children around in such a tiny car, I'm pleased to inform you that the Mini Cooper is safer than it looks. With six airbags, and a "go-kart-like roll cage" it manages to hold its own in crash-test results. It also comes equipped with a standard accident sensor that unlocks the doors and turns on the interior lights and hazard lights in the event of a crash.

Speaking of standard equipment, the Mini has some pretty neat features that, gladly enough for us women, who control the majority of household spending, are included at no extra charge.

The "speed compensating volume" turns the stereo volume down when the car slows down, and alternately, turns it back up again when accelerating. This is particularly important, because noise filtration is not one of the Mini's strong points.

The 2004 Mini Cooper also has a standard air-conditioned or heated glove compartment. That's what I call innovation! Finally, a car that can keep my kids milk chilled on the trip to grandma's house, or a bottle of baby formula warm in the winter. Clever!

On the flip side, some of the Mini's controls are impractically placed. When stopping by to visit with some neighbors on the street, I couldn't figure out how to open the window. After foolishly fussing around for a while, it took five of us (one being 3 years old) to discover that the window controls are actually located under the radio and thermostat. And the speedometer? It's on the center of the dash above the radio.

Although the 2004 Mini looks cool and has some neat features, it's not the most comfortable car in the world. Its somewhat cramped and bumpy ride makes me glad to get into something that's smoother to drive and easier to get my kids in.

* For more information on the 2004 MINI Cooper and its safety features visit Cars.com.