Zoomer Consumer: Mini 50 Mayfair




We should all look so attractive at 50: Mini Cooper S – Mayfair 50

Like many of us turning 50, Mini celebrated by making some cosmetic changes while keeping the good stuff beneath. The 50 Mayfair Special Edition costs $5,000 more than the Mini Cooper S ($10 more per year celebrated) but enthusiasts won’t mind a bit. Collectors will eat it up.

Some unique features available just for one year

Referencing that London neighbourhood, Mini used the Mayfair title in the ’80s to connote pampering. That hasn’t changed, despite their German ownership. Among the goodies that certify your 50 Mayfair status is a bright ‘Jubilee’ placard adhered to the chrome grille. NB: hoods will want to steal it, so be careful where you park.

Other accoutrements include a top-of-the-line stereo and state-of-the-art infotainment system (Bluetooth and USB friendly), unique colours, ‘toffy’ leather steering wheel and heated sport seats, a sunroof – and charmingly aggressive spoked 17″ wheels.

Regular Mini goodies

They use space well in the Mini. For instance, window and lock controls are in the middle by the stick because there’s no elbowroom.

As always, Mini’s circular design ethic is evident throughout. Sit inside and behold: It’s a careful exercise in roundness. From the instrument panel to the key remote that you insert into a slot before pushing the circular start/stop button, so much looks like motherly Mickey Mouse ears – you just want to hug it.

Speaking of Disney, under the hood it’s more Hercules for its size: a turbocharged 16-valve engine that puts out 172 hp. But that’s only part of the reason it’s fun to drive.

Especially the drive

Despite its size, this is a sports car. Press the sport suspension button and you suddenly feel the road. Shifting puts you further into the drive experience. (The 6-gear manual transmission with reverse beside first takes getting used to until you learn to thrust hard; you’re nervous you’ll inadvertently go backwards.)

Corners become your best friend.

At the risk of sounding obvious, the Mini has a tight turning circle and low centre of gravity. The wheels are placed at the corners of the car like a yogi in downward dog, defying velocity with extra gravity when you push it in a tight turn. All these features make it a joy to drive, especially in the city.

Excellent performance but still good on gas

Just 1,407cm tall, it puts you very close to the ground. Consequently the sensation of speed is very real – like a funhouse ride. Now consider that it can rush to 100km in 7.3 seconds and you’ve got one fun little ride. Yet, it squeezes out a respectable 5.7 litres per 100km on the highway and 7.8 in the city.

Duh, it’s still small

Technically, you can fit four but I wouldn’t recommend making it a habit. Sure, Europeans have been doing it for 50 years but they’re also comfortable in Speedos.

But it can take a punch

Within five minutes of getting into it for the first time, I ran over a truck tire it that suddenly appeared in my lane. Boxed in on the highway, I had no choice but to run over it. See above regarding low centre of gravity and nearness to the ground. This was a quick, hard up and down.

Rattled, I got off the highway immediately and checked before deciding whether to call BMW Canada and take it right back. It was absolutely fine. In fact, I was unable to find any evidence of scratching or distress.

London’s always been a tough town.

Price As Tested: $ 34,900

— Steven Bochenek