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Mini Cooper D: First Drive

Date: 18 April 2007   |   Author: John Mahoney

Category: Supermini
Prices: £11,100-£19,700
Key Rival: Peugeot 207

There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Speaking to Mini boss Andy Hearn, I expected him to ooze the latter.

Mini has been a phenomenal success: the Oxford factory can't make enough, RVs are the envy of everyone and running costs are low, low, low.


Baiting him with talk of an all-new Fiat 500, Ford city car and many others lining up to knock the Mini of its perch, Hearn, in the politest possible way, smiled and said "bring it on". Nothing could shake his relaxed, confident demeanour. Hell, even calling him Adam throughout the duration of the interview didn't muster a correction. Arrogance then.

Then I drove the new diesel Mini and found out it was, in fact, confidence because the Mini hatch line-up is complete.

But it wasn't always the case - the last oil-burning Mini was a mere token nod to those drawn to the black pump. With a puny 75PS Yaris engine under the bonnet, Mini quietly stuck a 'One' on the back to avoid disappointing customers. Now, if you check out the new car's rump, it says 'Cooper D', because, instead of shopping at Toyota, Mini has called on engine partner PSA and bought off the shelf the excellent 110PS 1.6 HDi.

This allows for some impressive figures, like 64.2mpg, an ability to hit 60 in less than 10 seconds, and emissions of just 118g/km, meaning come 2009 the diesel Mini could be congestion charge exempt.

Actually, the O-62mph time doesn't do the Mini justice. Packing the same punch as the Cooper S, it can cover ground at license-melting velocity - whatever the road surface - thanks to stunning damping that keeps the Cooper in touch with the road.

It's not perfect, though. The handling seems to come at the cost of a stiff ride, and there is the cacophony of noise from both the engine - that only ever settles at m-way speed - and road and tyre noise generated by the 16-inch tyres.

Talking of the 16-inch alloys, they cost. Our basic Cooper needed speccing up to the tune of £1995 to gain them as well as half-leather and aircon - expensive stuff.

Luckily with residuals as they are, come disposal you'll get a large proportion of that back, which is why it's rumoured Mini don't discount for fleet business - now there's confidence.