The latest MINI Cooper and Cooper S have earned a reputation built on the driving experience. MINIs last diesel effort, the 88 bhp One Diesel was almost the black sheep of the family. Whilst there was no denying its sharp handling characteristics shared with the rest of the last MINI range, there was a bit of a shortfall in the performance department.
So I don’t mind admitting that I was a bit cynical when I heard that the new diesel MINI was going to carry the hallowed Cooper name – would John be turning in his grave? On sale from April and priced from £14,175, there’s little to differentiate the Cooper D from its petrol brother from the outside, accept for a more bulbous front airdam. But that’s about the only difference.
The biggest change can be found under the bonnet. Unlike the One D’s Toyota-sourced D-4D unit, the Cooper D is powered by a more powerful 1.6-litre turbo-diesel developed in association with PSA, Peugeot Citroen and Ford. And more importantly MINI’s sporty diesel has standard kit including electric windows and mirrors and the all-important chrome-plated grille.
Have you ever seen a standard MINI? No, me neither, and to cater for this, the Cooper D is offered with Pepper and Chili option packs. For those who want more, there’s an extensive list of stand-alone options including dashboard finishes, full leather trim, a panoramic sunroof, bonnet stripes and sat-nav.
There’s also the full compliment of safety kit, with the usual airbags, ABS and traction control systems fitted as standard. However, curtain airbags inflating from the roof and intelligent airbags are standard Cooper D features. The latest MINI hasn’t been crash tested yet, but the fitment of all the extra kit should see an improvement on the previous four-star result.
The new engine has more power than before and it’s the BMW Group’s cleanest car ever, producing just 118g/km CO2. One of the greenest engines in its class, it is fitted with a diesel particle filter which reduces all emmissions and puts the Cooper D into VED tax band B for UK roadtax costing an owner just £35 per year.
It’s a flexible unit too, with peak power identical to the new Cooper S delivered between 1,750 and 2,000rpm. The slick-shifting six-speed box means that the Cooper D is reasonably refined for a diesel, even at motorway speeds.
So what’s it like to drive then? Well, not much different from the standard Cooper actually – which is a good thing. The electro-hydraulic steering feels sharp and slack free, making it very easy to flick the Cooper D from bend to bend, wondering at the precision of the chassis when it comes to the corners. The 1.6 diesel is very tractable at low revs, meaning you’ll be working the excellent six-speed manual less to get the best out of BMW’s baby.
What Mini traditionalists will make of this latest car to wear the Cooper badge is anyone’s guess. But, I fear most comments will not be complimentary. But if they could get past the badge, they’d realise this is an excellent package. Having fun at 60+ mpg with the Cooper D is entirely possible.