From £14,6207
Potent diesel engine impresses, although this is a Mini model a long way from the sweet spot in the range

Our Verdict

Mini Cooper S

Now in its third generation, we find out if the bigger, cleverer and more mature Mini can still entertain like it predecessors did

Mark Tisshaw
31 October 2014

What is it?

A range-topping diesel model for BMW’s third-generation Mini three-door hatchback. First seen in the new five-door Mini, this potent 2.0-litre turbodiesel is now offered in the smaller model badged as Cooper SD.

And with a badge like that, Mini would have you believe this is a performance diesel hatchback. You get the looks, chassis and a similar kind of performance as the Cooper S, but with better economy. That’s the theory, anyway.

What's it like?

A very un-Mini-like driving experience, one that’s a long way from the Cooper S. Not that it’s a bad car, mind. The engine is strong and exceptionally refined, doing its best work on motorway cruises. It’s a nice match for the automatic gearbox, which is slick and unobtrusive.

Economy in the mid-50mpg range is also easily achievable, making this a very nice little car for covering great distances in, especially when you’re sitting in such a desirable interior.

The drivetrain makes this Mini feel every bit the baby BMW, but sporty it is not. Yes, the performance is impressive, but the urgency and turn of pace from the Cooper S model is lacking.

The dynamics also take a hit from having a bigger, heavier engine providing power. The ride and handling balance is still tidy, but the sharpness and poise from the petrol powered-Minis is left behind. 

Should I buy one?

Don’t be taken in by that badge. This is a Mini that’s more GT than GTI. If you’re sold on the way the new Mini looks and undertake a serious amount of miles, making refinement and motorway performance the overriding factor, then Mini has made the model for you.

But that of course is going to be an incredibly small amount of people and at odds with the Mini’s mission statement. It is not a bad car – far from it, in fact – but it is a very niche product, and a very expensive one at that. 

With every new Mini we drive, our original verdict that this is a car where less most definitely is more is reinforced, the sweet spot of the range being right back with the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol-powered One model.

Mini Cooper SD auto

Price £21,070; 0-62mph 7.2sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 70.6mpg; CO2 104g/km; Kerb weight 1265kg; Engine 1995cc, 4cyls, turbodiesel; Power 168bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 266lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed automatic 

31 October 2014
At a costly £21,070, unless it has more standard equipment, you'll need to do a lot of mileage to justify this Cooper SD over the standard Cooper model, which is already very economical anyway, still pretty quick, costs less to fuel being a petrol model, costs the same to tax and is a massive £5,770 less to buy. And even after 100,000 miles, you still won't even get anywhere near to breaking even with the standard Cooper, so it's a completely false economy.

31 October 2014
Yeah I agree! I just couldn't buy a mini in a diesel format. Diesel just isn't fun especially in a small package such as a MINI. The Cooper S was a hoot in the outgoing model. Totally impractical in a lot of ways, but it's a carefree car so frugal driving should be a side issue.

1 November 2014
I've had two of the supercharged Cooper S petrols - the first uprated to 210bhp and the second standard but with the Works suspension. Both fantastic fun with the wailing supercharger and go kart handling. On the downside, perhaps the older I got, they became quite tiring on longer trips but that's not a big issue. My other half has the previous Cooper SD and although can't be compared to the previous Cooper S models I had, I can say that Smilerforce I have to disagree unfortunately as it is actually quite a lot of fun! I'd never say it has the full involvement you get in the petrols (I can't comment on the turbo S in the last model as I haven't driven one) but it's so much faster in the real world compared to mine (even including the 210bhp which had 190 lb/ft torque which wasn't too bad for a light car)! I've had a couple of the best drives on well known country roads period in the SD and if you really go for it all that torque makes it seriously fast, especially out of bends. In the new model the petrols seem to be so good that the need for the SD may have diminished, but just wanted to clarify that in the last model, yes it may have 8 tenths of the excitement of a petrol, but boy it's seriously quick on a point to point twisty drive!

1 November 2014
Diesels are great on paper, but in the real world, their misleading mpg figures and superior price are making them far less attractive. £21k for a diesel supermini is outrageous even if it is premium. I have been driving diesels for the past 6 years but my next car will be petrol.

1 November 2014
It's all good discussion and opinion so no apologies needed! Which cooper S did you have? the MK1? There was an uplift in torque between the first and the second and more comparable to the torque of the diesel on the MK2 cooper S. It's always the the lag that annoys me in diesels as well as the rough sound but the cocoper S mk 2 was a lovely car to push to the limits. Plus it was a much better petrol engine in the MK2. BMW were never happy with the original, but they made the best of what they had.

My point generally was 21k seems an awful lot for a diesel MINI especially when frugality can be bought in a better product. Diesels suit bigger cars where the gruff sound can be absorbed better. It's too small a product for diesel engine IMO.

1 November 2014
The last sentence of the review advises that the sweet spot of the range is the 1.2 One, and offers a link to the review of that car. Whereupon we find that that review advises upgrading to the Cooper if funds allow. Is Autocar gradually setting up its own version of the staircase optical illusion, with every test leading on to another until we get back to the start?

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

2 November 2014
bowsersheepdog wrote:

The last sentence of the review advises that the sweet spot of the range is the 1.2 One, and offers a link to the review of that car. Whereupon we find that that review advises upgrading to the Cooper if funds allow. Is Autocar gradually setting up its own version of the staircase optical illusion, with every test leading on to another until we get back to the start?

I was thinking the same thing. In the previous Autocar articles on the new Mini I remember reading that the Cooper, which gives nearly all the driving thrills of the Cooper S but with better ride and refinement, is the best all round Mini!

So, a bit of mixed messaging going on here, or it could just be that different testers have different views.

2 November 2014
Same, I saw that too, and then checked the authors of each review; not surprised to find it's actually four different authors who reviewed this Cooper SD, the Cooper D, the 1.2 One and the Cooper. True, it's different testers with different views, but Autocar should at least be consistent; the only way we'll get a better idea of which is best is if someone has driven the Mini range. Although to be fair, it's no contest that the Cooper is the far better option; by £1550, the 1.2 One isn't really much cheaper as it loses performance and things like alloys which buyers will add on for £300 anyway, thus eating a chunk of the relatively small saving already. The diesels, as I said, aren't much cheaper to run than the petrol models, though all the Minis' on-paper MPG is optimistic. And the Cooper S is a lot more expensive and not that much faster in the real world really.

4 November 2014
BMW: PLEASE STOP MEDDLING WITH MINI. This latest iteration is a testament to your lack of knowledge. The first two gens of revived MINI's were great, now we have this brick. It's so ugly!!! It isn't faster, more economical, as fun to drive, or unique. Gone are all reasons to buy this car over anything else. The quality is still poor, the features overpriced and all optional, and instead of being razor sharp it is still uncomfortable but has tons of body roll. The aural stimulation of the R53 blower wine and the R56's turbo bov and exhaust are gone. The F55 5-door looks like a MINIvan and the boot is still as useless as ever. Why did BMW emulate the 500L?

2015 VW Golf GTI PP

4 November 2014
Not specifically related to this article but if anyone can offer information I'd be appreciative. The only diesel car I've owned was a 1997 Rover 620 turbodiesel, which I bought at about ten years old and ran as a second car for a couple of years. It was very comfy and had a reasonable turn of pace for a family saloon but each winter there would be at least a couple of occasions when I'd go out in the morning and find the diesel had frozen. Or waxed as I was informed is more correct. So long as I didn't drain the battery trying to fire it up then with the aid of a kettle I would eventually get away, and once running it was okay, but I have wondered whether this is something that is maybe only really a problem up here in the highlands, and whether more modern diesels have solved the problem. As it stands I'd be quite wary of having to rely on a diesel as my only transport in a harsh winter.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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