It seems that a high price is placed on frugality in the Mini world, the 1560cc diesel-engined Cooper you see here coming in at an eye-watering £16,530. OK, so this particular press demonstrator is loaded with options totalling more than two grand, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you could save a few quid by omitting them, they’re all needed for both your own comfort and a decent resale value.
The basic price of £14,175 leaves the D bereft of air-conditioning, front fogs and on-board computer, and sees it come fitted with uninspiring cloth seats, 15in wheels and a non-leather steering wheel. To gain air-con (but not climate control), a smattering of leather, 16-inchers and a few extra niceties such as velour floor mats and an interior light set, you’ll need the £1995 ‘Chilli’ option pack. Plump for full leather, a Bluetooth phone connection and satnav and you’re close to £20K… It’d better be good then.
Slide the round plastic ignition blob (you can’t really call it a key) into its slot, tap the start/stop button, and the small, turbocharged diesel unit wakes with the kind of vocal rattle that takes bystanders by surprise – it’s not the noise they expect from a funky, sporty-looking Mini. That said, once underway the clatter quickly subsides to an unobtrusive level and it gets to work reasonably enthusiastically.
With just 107bhp it is, of course, the torque that’s all-important here, and when the engine’s automatic overboost function kicks in to improve performance by 15lb ft at 2000rpm, the D reaches a peak figure of 192lb ft – the same as the £16,010 Cooper S, which, incidentally, comes with sport seats and 16in wheels (but no air) as standard.
Keep your right foot planted and the needle arcs slowly around the rev-counter binnacle, but speed builds rapidly enough for a sub 10sec dash to 60, and there are six well-chosen ratios to keep everything on the boil. Just as we found in the new S, some of the steering detail from the first-generation Mini has made way for greater refinement in this new, slightly larger model. It still turns-in as keenly as ever, but from then on loses a little of its former clarity and can be knocked off its stride by an awkward mid-corner bump. However, grip levels are high and a good degree of adjustability remains.
The brakes are sharp and strong to the point of causing the tail to shimmy – useful if you want to pivot the D even more forcibly into a bend. Driven this way the Cooper’s fun side finally kicks back in, allowing momentum to be maintained and the power to be re-applied early.
Over the period of our test the on-board computer showed our average fuel consumption to be 45.8mpg, which is impressive for the mix of driving the car was put through. The Cooper D is also BMW’s cleanest ever car, with CO2 emissions of 118g/km putting it in road tax band B, which currently equates to just £35 a year. Just as well – you’ll need all the help you can get after that hefty purchase price.