Rough with the smooth

 
Ryan Borroff
THE drive for good fuel economy usually puts a dampener on fun, with one almost always coming at the cost of the other. If you’ve driven a Mini you’ll know that the Cooper S is an exciting drive. The problem is the minute you hammer one around the Kent countryside then the fuel economy tanks. Meanwhile the Cooper D, though frugal, lacks the excitement of its petrol counterpart.

Enter Mini’s new SD model, a car created to blend the best of both. Thanks to advances in diesel engine technology, the SD engines which will feature across the Mini range – Hatch, Convertible, Clubman and Countryman – give you near-Cooper performance but with frugal economy. The 2.0-litre, 143bhp diesel engine is the largest engine ever to grace a Mini and brings almost 30 per cent more power than the existing Cooper D. The 143bhp engine has loads of torque too which makes for a very spirited drive.

We chose to drive the hatch and the convertible and looks-wise the cars are almost identical to their Cooper S siblings, with only the subtle SD badging communicating that these cars are diesel versions. Out in the countryside around Bath, both the hatchback and convertible proved enormous fun. Their new SD engines have loads of power, seemingly from the get go, which means you can fly about in them at what feels like blistering speed.

WEIGHT SAVING
Corners are especially good fun because these cars ought to feel a bit heavier, but they don’t. Thanks to some clever weight saving measures initiated by the engineers at BMW, the SD models are only slightly heavier than the petrol S models, so you can still throw them around confidently.

In both cars we found the engine a bit noisy, particularly when revving hard. The new engine is somehow less refined than we expected and can make a bit of a racket but the six-speed manual gearbox was slick. Inside the cars are just like their siblings; characterful and with a quality feel that most of Mini’s rivals can’t get near.

But it’s the economy that is mind boggling. Despite being capable of such lively high jinks, the Mini Cooper SD has a combined fuel economy of a massive 65.7mpg while emitting just 114g/km of CO2.

This is achieved with the help of technology including Brake Energy Generation and Auto Start/Stop and it’s considerably more than the 48.7mpg of the regular Mini Cooper S. Sure the Cooper S is quicker at 7.0 seconds rather than 8.1 seconds, but I swear during most people’s commutes they’d never notice. The Cooper SD feels quick and thanks to its nature seems a bit more raw and a bit edgier to me.

And with those emissions it seems that clean, green and mean is suddenly a real possibility. Which makes the Mini Cooper SD something of a diamond, if a bit of a rough one at that.

THE FACTS: MINI COOPER SD
PRICE (as tested): £18,750
0-62mph: 8.1 secs
Top speed: 134 mph
CO2 g/km: 114g/km
MPG Combined: 65.7mpg

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN: 4*
PERFORMANCE: 4*
PRACTICALITY: 3*
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3*