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Mini Hatch Mini Cooper D

Driven May 2007

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Small diesel cars are a sales flop in Britain, and for perfectly good reasons. A diesel motor is an expensive thing, and bolting it into a cheapish car adds too much to the overall price. Ah, but don't small car owners want economy? Good question, but they already get pretty good thrift from their petrol superminis.

Fuel cost isn't their main consideration; a low front-end price is. The extra tank range of a diesel isn't much of a benefit in a car you drive mostly in town, and the louder low-rev racket of a diesel is an issue when you're stuck in urban gridlock.

On the other hand Minis tend to make their own rules and sure enough I can see the case for this Mini Cooper D. In this generation II new Mini, the D label is attached to a Cooper not a One. The reason for its promotion is that the old One D had a feeble little Toyota diesel whereas in the new Cooper D the motivation and knocking sounds are provided by a bigger and more sophisticated 1.6-litre Ford-Peugeot engine.

It's got a variable-geometry turbo with overboost, four valves per cylinder, an aluminium block and a particulate filter. These mean, respectively, it's punchy, efficient, light and clean.

It's also less frantic than a petrol Cooper. Good thing or bad thing? Depends on the road and on your mood. For a flat-out thrash on a twisty road, it's not so nice as the petrol Cooper, which costs a grand less and has a cheeky, tack-sharp, revvy little engine that's a hoot to cane.

But the diesel would probably cover ground faster than the petrol, because it bestows its torque so generously. That's handy for unexpected overtaking or a bend that's tighter than you thought.

I'd say buy the optional upgrade for the speakers and amp (£320). They have a lot to fight against. Any new Mini is a bit noisy and the diesel adds a bit of its own percussion to the mix.

So really, this is almost as amusing a car as a regular Cooper, perhaps more so if you don't like changing gear so much. For the rest of us, the Cooper D still makes good sense.

Sense that stems from the fact that the official fuel figure is 64.2mpg (combined, not extra-urban). For one thing, it's cheap to run - especially as Minis hardly depreciate and are cheap to service if you get the TLC bundle.

Second, you can bask in a low-carbon greenish glow. Third, you will go another 100 miles on a tank compared with the petrol car. Fourth, the Cooper D does 118g/km CO2, which means low company car tax and as of next year there may well be a sub-120g exemption from the Congestion Charge. A hot-hatch that pokes it up Ken is very appealing.

Paul Horrell

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