MINI Cooper S Mayfair Edition Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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The last (new) Mini Cooper was sold in the North America more than three decades ago, criticized and considered an unsafe vehicle by the likes of Ralph Nader - Shame on you Ralph!  The diminutive British icon was created by Sir Alec Issigonis and first introduced on August 26, 1959.  The classic Mini is still a wildly popular cult car.  Supposedly, only 10,000 were sold in the U.S., where this car was tested, over an 8-year period, but today more than 12,000 are registered -- they must be multiplying, even if they're not related to the VW Rabbit – so much for Ralph and VW.  In essence, the Mini was an "engineered" car, rather than a "styled" car, hence its incredible popularity and perpetuity.  Love for, and acceptance of the original Mini has been shared over its legendary lifespan by common folk and royalty alike.  Its heritage may well be categorized as neo-European. 

Reintroduced for 2002, the MINI Cooper Coupe was a modern, up-to-date interpretation of the lovable, cult-status classic, rather than a retro styling exercise.  It represents what the Mini might well have become, had regular evolutionary changes been allowed to evolve naturally.  Both the MINI Cooper and Cooper S are powered by a 1.6-litre, inline four-cylinder engine that resides in an East/West orientation beneath the bonnet, driving the front wheels, as did the original.  The engine block is now made of aluminum rather than iron.  The Cooper is normally aspirated with a single exhaust on the right while the Cooper S comes with a turbocharger and centered dual exhaust.  A drive-by-wire electronic throttle is featured, replacing mechanical linkage and providing power that is instantaneous with optimal fuel economy and minimal emissions.  The Cooper S model cranks out 172 horses and 177 pound feet of torque. 

The motor is mated to either a Getrag 6-speed manual gearbox as standard fare or an optionally available Aisen 6-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic manumatic shifting.  The auto gearbox allows for manual shifting via the traditional stalk -- flicking to the rear shifts up, while blipping the stalk forward initiates downshifts -- or by way of steering wheel mounted paddles, with thumb buttons above the spokes facing front for downshifts and levers behind the wheel for upshifts on both the left and right sides.  A column-mounted tachometer adds a definitive touch to the diminutive ride's sporty
mission statement.  Top speed for the Cooper S automatic is 224 km/h (139 mph), electronically limited.  Engines are from Brazil, transmissions are of German origin, and assembly takes place in Oxford, England, making the MINI a truly global product. 

One of the shortest cars on the road in America from bumper to bumper, the diminutive "funster" seats four adults comfortably.  Convertible models are capable of scooting from 0-100 km/h in a tad over 9 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 195 km/h (121 mph), while the Cooper S Hardtop covers the distance in just under 7 seconds and kicks the top speed up to 224 km/h (139 mph). 

The MINI's form is reminiscent of the original.  The new MINI is of course larger; more streamlined and displays softer contours.  The Cooper sports a smooth hood, has no foglamps and rides on smaller standard wheels and tires.  The Cooper S wears special badging, rides on larger wheels and tires, and features an integrated hood scoop and fog lamps. 

Over the past few years, I've been able to review virtually every model MINI offered. My latest test MINI was a Cooper S hardtop with the $5,000 Mayfair Package, which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the MINI, and includes 12-spoke alloy wheels, "Chrome Line" interior and exterior trim, Toffee Color line theme, interior surface Toffee lining, driving lamps, foglights, and Xenon headlamps.  There was a special Mayfair edition of the classic Mini back in 1982.  The base price of my Cooper S Mayfair test car was set at $34,900.  The car was finished outside in a rich, luscious Hot Chocolate metallic paint (exclusive to the Mayfair trim), with an equally attractive Leather Lounge Toffee interior, trimmed in White piping – hey, it's a pricey package, but there's a lot of content for the money.  Additional options included the Steptronic automatic transmission, dynamic traction control, a multi-function steering wheel, unique exterior quarter-panel badging, "Comfort Access" keyless entry, Bluetooth and USB/iPod adapter. 

The Mini Cooper S hardtop with the Mayfair package is a stunning ride, both visually and in terms of performance over challenging routes -- grin-producers of the highest order. 
Acceleration is exhilarating; gear changes are smooth in either automatic or manual mode.  Handling is athletic and positive, carving efficiently through challenging curves in a spirited and controlled manner.  Braking is efficient, bringing the go-kart like MINI to a halt in short order.  Experiencing the MINI is a joy.  Driving the diminutive "funster" is a rewarding exercise, initiating an insatiable degree of lust to own one.  The exhaust note of the Cooper S alone may well be worth its additional cost.  Add the potency of turbocharging to the maneuverability and stability provided by the sport-tuned suspension and the Cooper S is a clear winner. 

New for the 2010 model year is a multi-function steering wheel with cruise control that's now standard on all MINIs, and for the first time, a harman/kardon sound system is available for all MINI hardtop, Convertible and Clubman models.  Special 50th Anniversary packages, include the Mayfair and Camden equipment groupings and are available for both MINI Cooper and Cooper S hardtop models.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Mini, 2010, Cooper S, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Subcompact,

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