MINI Cooper D review
The MINI Cooper D is smooth, frugal, but not sporting enough.
Press the engine start button, and the 1.6-litre diesel stirs into life with very little noise or vibration. The MINI has a refined idle. And with more than 70 per cent of the Cooper D’s 260Nm of torque available at only 1,250rpm, there is barely a trace of turbo lag once on the move. It’s strong from a standstill and feels urgent from low revs, but when pushed hard, the MINI’s unit doesn’t quite have the punch you crave. Out-and-out performance isn’t bad though, with a 9.2sec 0-60mph time. And around town, the Cooper D is excellent, with responsive steering and superb visibility. What’s more, when you go beyond the city limits, the diesel Cooper retains MINI’s trademark go-kart-like handling, with bags of grip. As with the petrol version, the D is one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars around, and while the diesel adds 45kg to its kerbweight and the chassis’ reactions are slightly dulled, it still has sharp steering and strong body control. Comfort levels are also high, thanks to a supple suspension set-up that deals with rough surfaces well.
The oil-burning Cooper looks identical to the petrol variant, apart from the ‘D’ badge on the tailgate. And as with all MINIs, there’s a huge variety of styling options, so you can create a highly personalised car. There are 17 different paint choices, while the interior can be specified from 264 combinations of colour and trim. Our test car came with the all-important Chili pack, which adds larger alloys, front foglights and chrome exterior details. At £1,995, it’s not cheap, but does also include air con, half leather sports seats and a leather steering wheel. If you want your MINI to have a sporting edge, this pack is essential. The Cooper D competes in an increasingly crowded ‘hot supermini diesel’ sector. The Skoda Fabia vRS, Fiat Grande Punto Sporting JTD, Peugeot 207 GT HDi and Ford Fiesta Zetec S TDCi all count as rivals.
The cabin has a unique design. There are virtually no straight edges or angles, and everything is designed around a circular theme. This includes the instrument pods, vents and even door handles. There’s no doubt the cabin has a special feel, and the finish is excellent. It’s not perfect though. The rear seats are very cramped, and while they have Isofix child seat mountings, access isn’t easy – even kids will find them a squeeze. Then there’s the tiny boot, which is only suitable for shopping or the occasional weekend away. The cabin lacks stowage as well, especially in the shallow door pockets – this was also a bugbear of the previous MINI. The low driving position is good, though, and the steering column now has reach as well as rake adjustment. But what about this car’s raisin d’etre – fuel economy? Good news there – a return of 52.5mpg is impressive, and gives it a range of 462 miles. Not bad considering the 40-litre fuel tank. Retained values are absolutely cast-iron too, and MINI’s tlc servicing package is the best deal around; the initial outlay of £150 is good for five years or 50,000 miles’ worth of servicing. Naturally, CO2 emissions are minimal too, at just 118g/km, so really it’s only the higher list price over the petrol Cooper than counts against the Cooper D.