To take a marketing stance that claims position as ‘Australia’s most fun and fuel efficient car’, well, you’re just crying out for attention. And you’re bound to get it - the good, the bad and the ugly.
In the case of the 2009 Mini Cooper D, the first diesel powered Mini Cooper to enter the Australian market, the claims don’t stop there.
At the Australian launch of the Mini D in Melbourne this week the message was all about good clean fun. Apparently it still exists.
Better still, it’s the type your mother would approve of, your environmentally conscious children would applaud, your Prius driving neighbour would envy and your wallet would notice.
The Mini Cooper D is on a mission to prove that ‘clean’ and ‘fun’ can produce a vehicle without compromise.
While the Mini Cooper D looks almost identical to its petrol siblings, runs the same capacity engine as the standard Mini Cooper and offers a similar range of options, with its diesel power it now hopes to set a new benchmark for fuel efficient cars.
The usual Mini dynamics and drive attributes remain. Steering is direct and worthy of its go-kart handling comparison. The brakes bite quick and sharp and overall handling is confident and obedient.
The interior is modern retro and offers a range of customisation options. Cabin space is snug, at best. A large flat windscreen and big side windows open up the small cabin and visibility is good.
Storage capacity is tight, but average for its class. Safety is well covered with features that include six airbags as standard, ABS with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution control.
Basic creature comforts include a multi-function three-spoke leather steering wheel, cruise control, in-dash CD and six speaker sound system. More advanced technology whims like Bluetooth and navigation systems are dealt with as options.
In a casual launch atmosphere where there was ample time allowed for Prius bagging, everyone was keen to hit the road to see just how far from reality these claims really were. The fuel consumption being the prime target – and the only one we could put to any test to be honest.
Over a test route that involved three stages, my co-driver and I produced a range of fuel consumption figures.
Our first leg involved a busy city loop and a leisurely stint along Melbourne's Kew Boulevard before arriving at our first stop in the Yarra Valley - around 70kms from start, where we reached an average fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100kms with an average speed of 42.8 km/h. It wasn’t quite the claimed 3.9 litres quoted, but very close.
The second and third legs of the drive route covered around 105kms of winding country roads and mind-numbing freeways before we returned to the CBD with an average fuel consumption of 4.3 litres per 100kms at an average speed of 63.8 km/h. At one stage during the drive route we were averaging 4.1 litres per 100kms.
The Mini Cooper D houses a 1.6-litre, turbocharged, direct-injection, four-cylinder engine that delivers 80kW at 4000rpm. Maximum torque is 240Nm at 1750rpm. By comparison, the petrol Mini Cooper engine delivers 88kW at 6000rpm and 160Nm at 4250rpm.
The Mini diesel engine performed without fault. Not once did it shows signs of drag, lag or fatigue – from stand still or under acceleration.
Gear ratios were smooth and power was constant – even up hill. The 15-inch light alloys fitted to our test vehicle, and which come as standard, were the perfect choice for the stiff ride of the Mini D.
Travelling on a variety of road surfaces the Mini D delivered a surprisingly smooth ride – no jolts, bumps or clunks – which made for a reasonably effortless drive.
In its standard form the Mini D offers the same level finish as the current Mini Cooper and two transmissions will be on offer - a six-speed manual starting at $33,750 and a six-speed automatic with Steptronic and steering wheel gear shift paddles starting at $36,100.
A Mini Cooper D Chilli is also available priced from $37,350 (manual) and $39,700 (automatic).
The Mini Cooper D comes standard with Shift Point Display which prompts gear changes via a digital display, brake-energy regeneration which draws on the kinetic energy to charge the battery and automatic start-stop (manual transmission only) as standard.
Our test vehicles were manual, so we spent some time getting acquainted with the start-stop function. When the car comes to a standstill and neutral is engaged, the engine automatically cuts out - with the grace of an inexperienced teenage learner driver. When you engage the clutch the engine resumes.
There are several variables that determine whether or not this start-stop feature kicks in, with engine temperature being top of the list.
After a day of driving I was still not comfortable with this feature. Economical and clever, yes. Enjoyable, no. Not surprising, there’s a button located just in front of the gear shift which allows you to switch off the start-stop function.
As any enthusiast will agree, the credentials of the Mini go far beyond facts and figures – there’s a type of modern day retro street-cred that accompanies this iconic model.
So will this heart-felt nod to the environmentally conscious prove to be the tipping point in attracting a new breed of Mini drivers?
Albeit a brief guided tour in the Mini Cooper D, our First Steer impressions were positive. CarAdvice will put the car through a more detailed review in the coming weeks.