2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair

A half-century ago, a revolutionary little car hit the market. The Mini was small, front-wheel drive, had its wheels pushed to the corners to improve stability and make the most of its interior space, and it was inexpensive. The redesigned version by BMW retained all of that – except for the low price-tag, of course. In honour of the birthday, Mini has released a pair of special-edition packages: the 50 Camden, and my tester, the 50 Mayfair, named for London’s famous upscale neighbourhood.

Available on both the Mini Cooper, and on my turbocharged Cooper S tester, the Mayfair adds $5,000 to the $29,900 price-tag of my vehicle. That gives you a package of “Toffy Lounge” leather and trim, 17-inch alloy wheels with run-flat performance tires, heated sport seats, auxiliary grille-mounted driving lights (which only come on with the high-beam headlights), sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth, USB port, and the Mayfair 50 badges, which are really what this vehicle’s all about.

2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair. Click image to enlarge

As mentioned, the Mini isn’t inexpensive anymore – the least-costly Cooper Classic model will run you $22,800, and checking off all the available options on the $29,900 Cooper S, even without the Mayfair, will top $42,000. Call it the price of admission: nothing else on the road looks or drives like it, and that’s its appeal to fans, who buy it not for its practicality or perceived value, but because they simply want one.

Both the Mini Cooper and Cooper S use a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. On the Cooper it makes 118 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, but with my tester’s turbocharger attached, that rises to 172 horses and 177 lb-ft, which peaks at a mere 1,600 r.p.m. To use the technical term, the Cooper S scoots. For every action there is a reaction, though, and hard acceleration is accompanied by a ferocious tug: you’ll have to consider the torque-steer as part of the charm.

Power goes to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, as in my car, or a six-speed automatic, which can be added for another $1,490. The row-your-own is a slick system, with a pleasantly notchy shifter, nicely-weighted clutch pedal and big chrome shifter ball, and just adds to the fun of driving this little car. A Sport button adjusts the throttle response and also tightens up the steering – I felt the change in the get-up-and-go, but honestly, I didn’t really detect that much in the steering wheel. On an automatic-equipped model, it also alters the shift points. The official figures for the stick shift are 7.8 L/100 km (36 mpg Imp) in the city, and 5.7 (50 mpg) on the highway; in combined driving, I averaged 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg Imp).

2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Mayfair. Click image to enlarge

Little else on the automotive scene tackles curves and corners quite the way the Mini does — Lotus, perhaps, but be prepared to pony up at least $60,000 for that. The Mini’s quick steering immediately sends the front end in the direction you’ve indicated, although it stops just shy of being twitchy, and the steering wheel communicates everything the tires are feeling. The chassis is exceptionally stiff, which gives it great “tossability” into corners. The trade-off is that the rigid construction transmits every road imperfection straight into the cabin, especially with the run-flat tires: potholes are going to be messy.

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