What is it?
Up until now, the one thing you would never look for in Mini’s diesel range is grin-making performance. With two diesel offerings of 90 and 112bhp respectively, the best that you could hope for would be a bit of liveliness around peak torque revs.
Well, the Mini Cooper SD changes all that by bringing a larger portion of power and a significantly bigger wedge of torque to the table.
The SD, which is identical to a regular petrol-powered Cooper S, ups the ante with 143bhp and 225lb ft of torque. That’s more torque than any other Mini in the range, including the John Cooper Works. On paper, it looks promising, with the 0-62mph sprint coming up in 8.1sec and a top whack of 134mph.
The engine is a turbocharged all-alloy 2.0-litre unit that does its bit to keep the weight of the Cooper SD down to just 1150kg; that’s only 10kg more than the equivalent petrol-powered Cooper S, which bodes well for the car’s dynamics, not to mention fuel economy.
What's it like?
From the first punch of the starter button, you’re in no doubt that there’s oil being burned under the bonnet; it’s not a supremely refined engine, but nor is it particularly unpleasant to live with.
At cruising speed, all that torque means that you can pretty much leave the Mini in third gear on a B-road; that gear will get you from 30 to beyond 70mph, which is a pretty decent performance envelope.
The SD feels genuinely quick, and the car’s handling is entertaining enough to make you push a little harder (you’ll not last long just cruising on a favourite road).
Riding on 17-inch wheels, the SD’s grip levels are confidence inspiring and understeer doesn’t manifest itself below mildly silly speeds. Not unexpectedly, the ride quality is a bit firm, though, especially at lower speeds.
Should I buy one?
Compared with the petrol Cooper S, the Cooper SD asks a £740 premium. That’s not bad – diesel premiums tend to be higher – and for many buyers this will make the most economic sense. So while I’d still prefer the petrol version, this is the first diesel Mini to put a genuine smile on my face. Which is good.