Specs on the 2010 Mini Cooper 50 Mayfair

Sunday, May 16, 2010; F01

Bottom line: Mini Coopers are for practical people who enjoy art, dance, poetry and theater. For dreamers who understand the cost of inaction on urgent matters, who want to help the Earth without hurting the spirit of adventure. The Mayfair is the best Mini yet.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Very good on all three. But the car can be a danger to your legal and financial standing. It has a small engine and relatively little horsepower, yet it zips! And it does that with such beauty and alacrity, it attracts unwanted attention from law enforcement personnel. It's a traffic ticket with a smile.

Head-turning quotient: It's a work of art.

Body style/layout: A front-engine (transversely mounted), front-wheel-drive subcompact built for utility and fuel efficiency.

Engine/transmission: The standard Mini Cooper engine is a 1.6-liter, transversely mounted, four-cylinder job--118 horsepower, 114 foot-pounds torque. In the tested 50 Mayfair version, it is linked to a six-speed Getrag manual transmission.

Capacities: There are seats for four people. With rear seats raised, luggage capacity is 5.7 cubic feet. With rear seats down, cargo capacity is 24 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 13.2 gallons of required premium gasoline. ("Required" here means required.)

Mileage: We averaged 37 miles per gallon, mostly on highways. Had we stuck to posted speed limits, we could've saved time and money (no roadside arrest and ticket) and fuel. I mention that as part of my pledged community service agreement. To put it another way: You can go to jail or to hell in a Mini just as fast as you can in anything else. Four cylinders does not automatically mean "no power." It is how those cylinders are engineered that counts, and these four are engineered with BMW oversight.

Safety: Standard equipment includes rigid body structure, four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front/solid rear), anti-lock brake control to prevent brakes from locking up in panic stops, electronic brake-force distribution to better balance brake force per wheel based on the car's passenger and cargo and passenger loads, electronic stability and traction control, and side and head air bags.

Price: Base is $18,800; dealer invoice, $16,920. Total for the tested model is $24,500, including $4,500 for the Mayfair package, $500 for the Hot Chocolate Metallic exterior paint and a $700 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $22,120.

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