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Click to view road test review picture galleryIs Black the new
  Green? If it’s the all-
  new second-generation
  turbocharged MINI
  Cooper D, then Yes.
  Saving the world
  has never been so
  much Fun
...”


WHETHER YOU BELIEVE WE CAN SAVE THE WORLD by everyone driving green cars or whether you think mankind is doomed whatever he does now, there's comfort in the new MINI Cooper D. Why? Well, for a start you might fill it up from a black hose at a forecourt pump, but its economy and emissions are definitely green with a capital 'G'.

Don't take our word for it — let the figures speak for themselves. How about CO2 emission of 118g/km? And fuel consumption of 76.3mpg (touring), 64.2mpg (combined) and 50.4mpg (urban)? All achieved without a whiff of expensive hybridisation. And, adding to the smile-inducing spec, 0-62mph acceleration in 9.9 seconds and a top speed
of 195. Sorry, just kidding — that's kilometres. For us stand-alone miles-per-hour-loving Brits, that's still a handy 121mph.

The full list of what's new on the second-generation MINIs — and
what makes them even more desirable than BMW's first-born MINIs — is both long and comprehensive. It begins with every external feature and body panel being new — as, too, is every interior panel and surface. In addition there are new state-of-the-art engines, a new suspension set-up, an electric power-assisted steering system, larger disc brakes, six-speed manual 'boxes across the range, an On/Off starter button, more spacious interiors, head airbags, a Diesel Partic-ulate Filter for the Cooper D and reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel.

If you are worrying that an obviously more refined MINI means less driver enjoyment, be assured that the list of what hasn't changed includes the kart-like handling, the wheel-at-each-corner control and the penny-pinching MINI tlc service and maintenance packages that contribute to the MINI's unbeatable ownership prospects. Oh, and the cherished MINI badge and the cheeky styling!

Clearly the headline attraction for MINI D buyers is the superb real-world economy of what is the BMW Group's cleanest car — helped by
a variable-geometry turbo with overboost and four valves per cylinder its combined fuel consumption is, at 64.2mpg, the highest for any
MINI yet. Its diesel particulate filter almost eliminates diesel exhaust emissions and helps to make the MINI diesel engine one of the most environmentally friendly in its class — putting it cleanly into hybrid
car-levels of economy and emissions — while its 118g/km figure puts
it squarely into the VED tax band B for UK road tax.

While a bhp figure of 110 might not sound a lot, the turboed 'D' has a lot going for it in the torque department. Under normal conditions, peak torque of 177lb ft is achieved between 1,750 and 2,000rpm. However, an overboost facility means that the MINI D driver can call on 192lb ft of torque at 2,000rpm — both identical torque figures to those of the new 140mph MINI Cooper S!

Walk round the new MINI before you climb aboard and you'll be hard-pressed to pick out what's new. Which is exactly how MINI customers want it. And who can blame them? But slip behind the steering wheel, shut the very solid door and you're immediately aware of the better, more shapely high-backed seats — wider, with effective bolstering, effective lumbar support and an excellent adjustment range — and the roomier cabin, with its first class finish.

A nice touch is the ambient cabin lighting that uses up-lighters in the top of the B-pillars and down-lighters in the front overhead console: these can be adjusted from orange to violet to rich blue. Cool. Not in the mood? No problem — they can be turned off completely. We also like the foolproof audio/on-board computer integrated neatly into the lower arc of the large central speedometer. Sticking with tradition is the handbrake — so you can still manage 'Italian Job' turns should the occasion arise. Another well-considered touch: the sunglasses holder above the driver's door. And the rear headrests that drop down virtually flush with the top of the rear seats when not in use to maxim-ise the driver's rearward visibility.

The revamped cabin remains as unique and idiosyncratically striking as it has always been — everything is designed around a circular theme — although there are numerous improvements throughout. The good
news is that the sportily low driving position is excellent, thanks to the 'grippy' steering wheel and the steering column now having reach and rake adjustment. All-in-all, a nice place to be; whether your cruising serenely at 90mph on the French autoroutes or listening to the radio
in a traffic jam on the M25!

The Easy Entry tilt 'n' slide front seats really do make the rear seats quite accessible. Once seated, the sculpted (and larger) individual rear seats are comfortable enough for average-sized adults; not only are they easy to travel in, they remain agreeable over long journeys. As with most other cars on the road, the two best seats are up front. Even MINI enthusiasts will agree that the boot is small. But it's usable: with squashy bags you can fit in quite a bit of luggage for a weekend away. Full-scale holiday trips — or pre-Christmas shopping expeditions — can be easily accomplished by folding the 50:50 split rear seats — and they fold flat, too. At a stroke, this swells the boot's 160 litres to 680 litres.

The Cooper D is pretty well specified. Standard equipment includes
15-inch light alloy wheels, electric door mirrors, tinted glass, roof spoiler, automatic rear wash/wipe, an auxiliary in connection and single CD/radio, attractive cloth upholstery, an Easy Entry function (front or rear check) one-shot electric front windows (the rear windows are fixed), electronic power-assisted steering and remote central locking with automatic 10mph drive-off locking and Stop/Start button. In addition, you get a white or black contrast roof and door mirrors.

Safety equipment is, commendably, comprehensive and includes ABS, Corner Braking Control, Electronic Braking Distribution, ASC+T auto-matic stability and traction control, a tyre defect indicator, MINI Mobility System along with 'smart' front airbags, side airbags and cur-tain head airbags. Oh, and Isofix child seat attachments plus passen-ger airbag deactivation.

The only important thing missing is in these muggy days of global warming is AirCon. However, specify the Chili pack — it adds 1,995
to the Cooper D's 14,175 list price — and you not only get air conditioning but a lot more besides: Sports seats with cloth/leather upholstery, an attractive three-spoke sports leather steering wheel, velour floor mats, passenger seat height adjustment, front fog lights, an on-board computer, interior lights pack, a Storage Compartment Pack, more exterior chrome trim and a set of 16-inch 5-spoke Star Blaster alloys.

Dock the 'flying saucer'-shaped electronic key and press the starter button. The engine fires into life and settles to a refined idle. Engage first, let out the well-weighed clutch and within minutes of setting off you're physically reassured that, like the first-generation cars, the
new MINI does exactly it says on the label — handles imperturbably,
no matter how heavy a right foot you have.

The new turbodiesel unit feels strong from standstill and an immed-iately obvious benefit of the healthy torque is that you don't need
to swop gears so much. Unless you're in a playful mood, of course.
In which case the new six-speeder 'box offers you a quick 'n' slick change action.

Take it to the 5,000rpm red-line and it feels a darn sight quicker that the paper figures would have it. While it's the best part of a second shy of the petrol-powered Cooper's 0-62mph figure (9.1 seconds petrol vs 9.9 diesel), it scores with the extra pounds of overtaking muscle: 177/192 with overboost vs the petrol Cooper's 118lb ft. Consequently, swift overtaking moves are easily executed. In fact, it likes to play hard — a real goer.

In town or out on the open roads you can appreciate the MINI's superb visibility. Liberated from the constraints of town and city, the Cooper
D proves to have lost none of the brand's trademark focused handling. Power may come from an oil-burning unit under the bonnet, but that doesn't stop it having bags of grip. As we've said before (and so have countless others) the MINI is one of the best-handling front-wheel drive cars around. Totally chuckable. And it still is.

In common with its petrol-powered Cooper brother, the Cooper D is happy to demonstrate that, along with the name and looks (only the
'D' badge on the tailgate gives the game away), it also shares the same pleasingly grippy chassis, the same body control and the same sharp, responsive steering with notably good feel at low speeds.

Impressively, thanks to a handling-oriented suspension set-up able
to accommodate poorer surfaces, ride comfort is also good. For the record, the run-flat tyres are 195/55s by Goodyear. The powerful brakes — discs at each corner; vented at the front — are, happily,
well up to slowing things down when necessary. Pedal weighting is likewise good. Overall, this diesel-fuelled MINI responds well to a thrash. But most owners will, no doubt, be keen to capitalise on the Cooper D's thrifty nature. Overall, we recorded a notable 51.6mpg — and we were caning it some. Even with the 8.8-gallon tank, that still promises a feasible range of over 400 miles between fill-ups.

So, what to say to all those who have criticised the new second-generation MINI for looking as cheekily iconic as its predecessor? Not
a lot, really. With the one millionth new MINI leaving the Oxford pro-duction line in April 2007, one doesn't really need to say anything at all.

To its already universally-acknowledged appeal the new MINI Cooper
D adds the greenish 'halo' that has, up until now, been reserved for hybrids. Not only is the Cooper D cheap to run at the pumps, but the tlc servicing deal (five years/50,000 mile servicing for just 150; or eight years/80,000 miles for a fixed cost of 530) has to be a real steal. Added to that, the retained values are rock-solid and it's as clear as the 'D' on the new MINI's rump that you can have your motoring cake and eat it. As they say in California: Save 'n' Smile!

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MINI Cooper D | 14,175
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 51.6mpg | Power: 110bhp | Torque: 177/192lb ft

CO2 118g/km | VED Band B 35 | Insurance group 8

Visit MINI's website Click to go there now


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