Driven: Mini Cooper S Bayswater – it’s more than just a looker.

Frankly, the mini is probably the most famous automotive marque in the world. Personally, I have not met a person who hasn’t heard of the MINI. Over 5 million of the original, classic mini were built and although that number seems relatively undermined compared to the Beetle (21.5 million were built), its revolutionary design and petite physique took over the roads for over 3 decades.

When BMW took over Rover Mini in 1994, there was a plan. The mini was a badge that needed to be revived and in 1998, BMW Designworks in California came up with the R50 Mini One. Quickly the word spread out, and when it was launched in 1999, it was crowned, the 2nd most influential car of the 20th century, losing the title to the Ford Model-T.

History lesson aside, over a decade after the new generation was launched; Mini is now going strong and following its ancestor’s footsteps with the Mini London Collection – a set of limited editions named after London’s high streets. The classic Mini’s London Collection was named after places such as Mayfair, Picadilly and Park Lane. This week, we got our hands on the new R56 Mini Cooper S Bayswater edition that was launched in celebration of the Olympic games in London last year.

First impressions – looks JUST like any other Mini if you’re not eagle-eyed enough. When marques like Ferrari or Lamborghini launch limited/special editions, you can expect more fire power from the engine and that it’s been lightened to make it go round the prestigious Nurburgring 3.5 seconds faster. But this is a Mini.. A vehicle specifically designed to get an individual from point A-to-B, in grace and stylish manner.

The exterior is portrayed in Kite Blue metallic, specifically composited for the Bayswater limited edition along with 17-inch ‘Sandblast’ light-alloys wrapped in low profile rubbers. The high-gloss black surfaces and machine-polished edges of the rims produce a sporty stance to the little ‘go-kart’. Notice that the stripes are not homogeneous to the ones on the standard Cooper S or JCW (John-Cooper Works) edition, and differentiated between each other – one Blue & one Grey. And to remind the people around that it’s special, you’ll be able to find a ‘Bayswater’ badge on the side fins. Like we said – you need to be ‘eagle-eyed’ to spot these cues.

The interior is also similar, leather in exclusive ‘anthracite’, trimmed in brown and blue stitchings, mated with piano black dashboard inserts. A rather lovely place to feel expensive in – as comfortable as a dining chair and as luxurious as a library. Everything you could possibly need in a car can be found at the right places, except for the obscure speedometer sitting, ‘slap-bang’ in the middle of the dashboard. The cluster however, is a ‘love-or-hate’ situation. Once you get inside, if you couldn’t find the ‘Bayswater’ badge, it’s actually on the edge of the seat’s backrest, sticking out like a tag on a t-shirt.

It required us to spend some time before finding the right driving position, and even after thinking that it’s JUST about right.. we started moving around again. One aspect that we found practical was the steering – the fact that on top of the usual up and down adjustment, it could also be moved closer or further to you, to find the perfect adjustment for the various drivers out there.

The engine definitely has sufficient poke to tag along with the relatively light body. Power derives from a 1.6 litre Turbocharged engine delivering 184 bhp and 240 newtons of torque. As tested, the Cooper S Zerotohundred sprint was 6.9 seconds.

“Handles like a go-kart”. This was mentioned on the brochure and they weren’t being deceptive. Seriously, it certainly feels like handling a go-kart. The steering is sharp and direct. Takes time to get use to. The first few hours spent driving the car was horror because we kept switching lanes when taking a corner. The ride is rather firm and bouncy, but is definitely reminisce of the original classic mini. Think of it as, a practical, more useable go-kart.

Once you get acquainted with the back-punching ride and the quick steering, you’ll begin to enjoy the package. Just because it’s a fashion item doesn’t mean it can’t be a serious piece of kit.

Although the hot-hatch market is flourished with choices, with the Megane RS250s and Volkswagen Golf GTIs ranging around the same price with the Mini Cooper S, there’s a sweet spot with Mini. Yes – the RS250 is a more rewarding drive, especially on track and the GTI is faster and more practical to live with, but those two cars has a missing element. The Mini Cooper S has what writer’s call, ‘character’.

The Mini, especially in Bayswater selection, turns heads! It will turn heads as much as a supercar would and without a doubt, it’s a ‘chick-magnet’. Girls love Minis! And if most men can’t seem to figure out the appeal, we absolutely understand. Youths would totally love the Cooper S because when you’re a teenager, you want to turn heads and be seen. At the same time, would love something fast and potent. Which we think, is exactly where the marketing strategy of Minis are.

BMW has managed to capture the old retro feel and style of the classic mini, and synthesize it with modern day technology, power and efficiency. The classic Mini manage to take on the world by storm, despite its miniature figure – rest assured, the new Mini would do it, at an even greater level.

The new Mini Cooper S Bayswater edition is priced at RM248,888 and comes with a handy 3 years (or 50,000km whichever comes first) free service as well.