The 210 Challenge Edition Mini has been built to celebrate the fact that the latest Mini will soon hit the track competing in the Mini Challenge race series.

It's essentially a standard three-door Cooper S hatch, with its 2.0-litre petrol engine boosted from 189 to 207bhp and given an extra 15lb ft to get you in the party mood.

Visual upgrades on the outside include 18in alloys, stripes, spot lights and lashings of carbonfibre, while inside every car comes as standard with usually expensive options such as Mini's Media XL pack, front and rear parking sensors, a Harmon Kardon sound system and variable dampers.

Besides the increased power and torque, the also standard John Cooper Works tuning kit offers a new exhaust with a carbonfibre surround at its business end and two modes: Standard or Track. Unlike conventional sports exhausts, it's switched on and off using a Bluetooth remote and comes with cautionary small print: 'Track is not to be used on the public road'. 

You could think of the 210 as a 'JCW-lite', then. A taster before the real deal is launched soon. However, at near enough £30,000 there's nothing 'lite' about its price.

I'm sure you want to hear about that exhaust first. Well, two clicks of the Bluetooth remote's button opens a baffle, and from then on the noise is unlike anything we've heard from a road-going Mini before. Of course, enjoying it is reserved for the track.  

It's not only loud but also full of character, popping, cracking and gurgling on and off the throttle. Another double tap of the remote closes the flap and you're back to standard Cooper S noise, but to be truthful, the small print all seems a bit much. It's noisy, yes, but no louder or more antisocial than, say, Jaguar's F-Type REither way, it adds to the experience.

The extra power, if well managed, feels welcome and usable rather than overwhelming at the front wheels, and moving through the six-speed manual gearbox is every bit as enjoyable as it is in the standard Cooper S, and causes more drama at the pipes. Being able to pull harder from low revs is useful, too. 

Aside from the variable dampers, the suspension and steering are unchanged from a standard Cooper S. No bad thing, because there's decent front-end bite, while over-confident entry speeds and the subsequent understeer can be sorted with reduced throttle input to help the nose to fall back in line.  

Switching from Normal to Sport mode increases throttle response and damper stiffness, but there's little noticeable difference in cornering ability and a drop-off in ride quality in return. The steering is given an extra dollop of weight, too, but it never feels as communicative as that of a Ford Fiesta ST.

The 210's interior is also standard Cooper S, save for some carbonfibre trim. Therefore, the dash materials and leather seats are suitably plush, the switchgear nicely damped and the infotainment, being BMW iDrive-based, one of the best on the market.

If you're sold on what you've read so far, I'd get down to your Mini dealer. Scratch that, pick up the phone, because there are only - you guessed it - 210 examples being produced.

You'd have to be extremely keen to own it at £30,000, though. Given that the more powerful new JCW is just around the corner and will be available from around £23,000, and that the 210's trick exhaust should only be used on track, there's currently more sense in saving a huge sum and buying a standard Mini Cooper S.

However, sense aside, the 210 Challenge Edition is very well equipped and genuinely faster and just as fun without being more frantic. It remains to be seen whether the even more powerful JCW will manage to blend those qualities quite as well.

Top 5 Hot Hatches

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • McLaren 720S
    Car review
    26 May 2017
    This is the first of McLaren’s new generation of cars — and what a way to begin it is
  • Suzuki Swift
    Car review
    26 May 2017
    Suzuki’s best-selling supermini returns in a new guise and with mild hybrid tech
  • Renault Captur
    First Drive
    22 May 2017
    Renault's big-selling compact crossover gets a mild cosmetic facelift
  • First Drive
    22 May 2017
    The hardcore track-focused Performante has active aerodynamics and more power than the standard Huracán - so, does it unlock the supercar's full potential?
  • Abarth 595 Trofeo review
    First Drive
    19 May 2017
    The 158bhp, 169lb ft 1.4 T-Jet Turbo engine delivers sudden bursts of urgent, energetic driving - but can it be too much sometimes?