Road Test: Mini Hatchback 1.5 Cooper D 3dr

£17,175 when new

No matter how much each successive generation of the Mini hatch grows physically, it still feels like the nippy choice, the car you'd have over rivals because it's sportier. So it shouldn't come as much of a shock to discover that most Mini hatches sold (about 65 per cent) are petrol. However, that still means 35 per cent of Minis - and that's a lot of cars - are diesel.

This one, like the petrol Cooper, has three cylinders, from which BMW has liberated 114bhp and 199lb ft, so the Cooper D is good for 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds. The 80.7mpg and 92g/km CO2 numbers are even more impressive. BMW has clearly invested a lot of R&D in this engine (understandable when you learn it's also heading for future front-wheel-drive BMWs), and it shows.

Three-cylinder engines can be a bit rough at idle, but this one mutters away smoothly in the background. It's also punchy, with plenty of torque available from just 1,500rpm. This is a fine engine for pottering about and simply getting the job done.

But it doesn't suit the Mini's more playful side as much as the petrol - as soon as you start to rev it a bit, the good manners take a back seat and it becomes coarse at the top end. Good for your bank balance, less so for your soul.

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