First drive: 2010 Mini Mayfair Cooper S in Dubai
The new Mini has looked pretty much the same since its debut as a lifestyle car sometime in late 2001. There was a major refresh in 2007, with a facelift and new engines. We drove all the body variants since then, including the Cooper S hatchback, the Cooper S convertible and the Clubman S. Then the next big change came in 2010, with a switch to a turbocharged 1.6-litre with a smidge more power for the Cooper S. That engine also made it into the “Mayfair” special edition. We’ll now see what makes it so special.
Truth be told, the Mayfair is nothing more than a regular 2010 Cooper S with a paint job, custom interior and badges. It celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original Mini. The Mayfair does so with a brown paint scheme with racing stripes, stripes on the mirrors, stripes on the brown-plastic parts of the dashboard, a grille badge, white-painted wheels and some nice door-step plates. It comes standard with items that are optional on the regular Mini, such as the brown upholstery, panoramic glass roof, navigation system and grille-mounted driving lights.
There isn’t much new to say about the interior beyond what we’ve already covered in previous reviews. It is spacious up front, cramped in the back, has just enough elbow space, and comes with a boot big enough to fit a week’s worth of groceries, but no more, unless you flip down the rear seat. Somehow, they also managed to integrate three cup-holders in the limited space, for the Starbucks crowd.
The ergonomics are intentionally quirky, according to Mini, but we had an easier time getting around the toggle switches, rotary buttons and joystick-controlled screen due to past experience. However, it takes ages to enter waypoints in the navigation system and we still couldn’t find a “point of interest” feature where we could just enter the name of a mall or a hospital. Choosing radio stations and songs can also be confusing, but is worth it once you figure it out. And you still have to use the keyfob to unlock, insert the fob into a hole and start the car by pressing a button, even though the key is fully electronic.
Our little Mayfair had the new direct-injection 1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder that makes 184 hp and 240 Nm of torque. This may seem like a small increase of 12 horses over the previous engine, but we believe we actually felt the difference. It felt more muscular on the roll, and actually gave the impression of a fast car rather than just a quick car, even when saddled with an automatic. There is a solid kick from the get-go, squealing its tyres as it takes off, and it doesn’t let up until redline.
Of course, the Mini is a noisy car, and all that buzzing from under the bonnet makes it feel faster than it really is. Our 0-100 kph runs during November netted a time of 7.2 seconds, pretty much the same as the older version, so it isn’t a whole lot faster now. But we assume it has better mid-range torque, and the issue of delayed responses to throttle inputs have been somewhat resolved, somthing that plagued the old automatic models. Gears can be manually changed via paddle-shifters, though they aren’t particularly instant in their responses.
What remains responsive though is the front-wheel-drive Mini platform. It still handles like a go-kart, grips like glue, brakes like a squirrel, and turns at a twist of the wrist. You will feel everything going on under the seat, and you can make the car dance to any tune with one hand on the firm steering wheel and the other hand firmly on the handbrake.
For all the fun it offers, the Mini is also economical, possibly slightly more so than before, as we netted 9.8 litres/100 km in mixed driving conditions.
The Mini remains one of the most fun cars ever to hit the streets. It is very expensive for what it is, at Dhs 155,000, but you can get the same amount of fun from any old Cooper S. The Mayfair package will simply make your car look like something out of a 1960s road rally.
For full reviews, prices and specs, see the Mini Cooper buyer guide.