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Putting on the style

Fashionable, powerfull and pricey, the Mini Cooper S Mayfair Edition is a perfect design accessory - finds Adrian Ion

May 2010 - From the Print Edition

2 Photos
Fifty years after the first Mini was produced, the iconic British car is now living again through its best years.
Once the brand was taken over by BMW, the Germans saw a revitalised potential in a sporty small city car for a new type of young, late-90s urban customer and they transformed the Mini into a must-have for fashionistas and metrosexuals.
But beyond the image of a cool car, BMW fitted the vehicle with a brilliant chassis and potent engines that made the new Mini a desirable model also for clients who were searching for performance and good handling.
So the overall package may be more than appealing, but there is one relevant drawback - the price. A driver is looking at a cost that would qualify many mid-sized limousines as direct competitors, but the guys who sell the car argue that the Mini client does not make a purchasing decisions on price - it is a style issue.
What would a driver gain in this hefty price tag? This is a finely tuned car that moves like a go-cart, the expected quality of a BMW and a set of cheeky engines.
As Mini turned into its half century in 2009, BMW launched an anniversary edition, named after the luxury London residential zone Mayfair, which has special trim features on the outside and inside. I took the Mini Cooper S Mayfair Edition for a spin.
At first contact with the car, I was impressed with the shape - it seems almost square, with its large 17-inch wheels and small ground clearance. The wind shield is almost vertical, as is the end of the car.
Once inside, if a driver steps for the first time into a Mini, it is important to take a few minutes to adjust to where all the buttons and switches are now situated. If this ‘rehearsal’ is not undertaken, it is difficult to locate them instinctively when driving, as they are not in the place or in the same shape one might expect. The creators of the new Mini over-designed some parts of the car, leaving practicality as a second attribute. The speed dial incorporates all the information dials of the car except the rev counter and is huge, but positioned wrongly in the middle of the dashboard and this makes it quite distracting, if a driver wants to look here while moving. I could not get used to this - even after driving the car for three days. However it was easier to discover the switches which operate the windows or temperature and where the radio CD tuner was located.
The best part about the Mini is the way it drives. As I mentioned before, the chassis is great and offers high levels of adrenaline combined with the 1.6 litre and 175 hp engine. Performance figures are decent with 7.1 seconds from 0 to 100 and a top speed of 225 km/h. And if a driver wants more power a John Cooper Works version will add some features in the performance area.
Handling is mostly neutral but, when forced, the limitations of the front wheel drive become obvious and the car understeers.
In practicality the Mini does not score too many points. The legroom in the back seats is small, the boot is enough for a weekend for two or the occasional shopping bags, but there are options on the market that give more in both areas. What a driver can′t get in many other cars is the public sympathy. Everyone seems to like it, from children to elderly people. Even if the car is quite common on the roads, it still turns heads, especially if the Mini is pimped with a special colour, stripes or the British flag on the roof.

Vital statistics

MINI Cooper S
Engine: 1.6 litre, 4 cylinder, 16 V engine 175 hp 225 km/h top speed 0-100 km/h in 7.1 seconds. Average consumption: 6.2 litres/100 km.
Car size (L x l x H) 3714 x 1683 x 1407 mm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or, as an option, 6-speed automatic



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