MINI Cooper D Review
Car Tested: 2015 MINI Cooper D 3-Door
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 40.59 lakhs
The new generation MINI gets more convenient with a diesel heart yet has the same emotional connect with the driver
Enthusiasm is simply defined as a source or cause of great excitement or interest and the best example of enthusiasm in our automotive world is MINI. It is an iconic British automotive marque that has a big history and eminent cult following. However, the purpose of this hatchback has changed with its new iterations. The first generation MINI was introduced as a budget car for the common man or dare I say “Aam Aadmi”. In 2001, the MINI Cooper was introduced as a premium hatchback having a performance centric, fun-to-drive nature with a touch of retro style. Now the latest generation MINI tries to retain all of that while offering more practicality and convenience at the same time. We drive the new MINI Cooper D to examine whether it can hold a candle ahead of its forefathers.
Motor Quest: The original MINI was first launched in 1959, which was manufactured by British Motor Corporation. The car was considered as a British icon and was a small economy vehicle that was also offered in many avatars. It was available as a premium sedan, commercial mini van, station wagon, utility army vehicle and more. The new gen MINI is a style icon having a performance centric nature.
Exteriors – The third generation MINI doesn’t get radical changes and clings on resolutely to its original identity. When viewed from a distance, the silhouette is unmistakably the same for a layman but get closer and you would notice interesting new details. Upfront the twinkling new headlights have grown bigger, integrating LED DRLs that look fantastic in the circular pattern and gain solid attention on the move. The bonnet bulge with black race strips adds to the sporty character of this hatch. The wide three-slat grille also acts as a front bumper from the lower half.
Notice how cleverly they have used chrome highlights on the front grille, headlamps, tail lamps, door handles and around the window line yet it doesn’t look over the top. From the side profile you must have realised that it has grown bigger in dimensions and yes it has. The new MINI is 98 mm longer, 44 mm wider and 7 mm taller having a 28 mm increase in wheelbase. The front-end has been tweaked for better aerodynamics. The black contrasting roof is the signature style of the MINI and those big round wing mirrors look quite classy. The rear gets bigger and the tail lights make it look fatter but cute compared to the lean profile of the previous gen.
Interiors – The circular styling theme continues on the inside as well that looks phenomenal and tastefully done. The attention to detail makes it one of the most unique cabins to be in. The dashboard gets a layered design with lots of action happening on the centre console. The materials and colours of the dashboard are highly customisable. Our test car came with all-black interiors that feel quite sporty. The multi-function steering wheel feels good to hold but has only manual rake function, no reach. The instrument cluster is now positioned ergonomically behind the steering wheel. The MID shows fuel mileage, temperature, date, distance to empty, etc. Most of the controls in the car are fighter jet inspired toggle switches including the inviting big red illuminated switch to start/stop the engine. Switch on the engine and the fancy heads-up display pops out behind the instrument cluster displaying speed, directions for the navigation system, call info and media information (radio channel, music title, etc.), switch off the engine and it folds down neatly (it can be turned off with a switch of a button).
The huge 8.8-inch MINI Connected display is the party piece of the interior having a dynamic LED ring around it. It has some fancy tricks up its sleeves. It changes its colour with different modes. The ring acts as an RPM metre showing yellow light in the low-end that turns orange in the mid-range and red when you hit the redline. It also reacts to your input for increasing/decreasing music volume or temperature of the climate control. The best part is that when you lock the MINI and are about to leave, the ring blinks in red like a heartbeat. Such details create an emotional connect with the car. The MINI Controller for the infotainment system has a touchpad so you can scribble your inputs, very convenient to use. It displays necessary car information including flat tyre monitor, engine oil level indicator, service schedule, etc. The Bluetooth connectivity is seamless and you can also keep a tab on your Twitter, Facebook profiles by connecting with the MINI app. Sound quality is very good, lifting your mood within no time. Shockingly, it doesn’t get auto dimming mirrors.
The quality, fit and finish is fabulous as all the materials used are of top notch quality. The controls and toggle switches all have tactile feedback and the AC vents with air volume control work really well. The front seats are supportive, especially for the driver as the contours provide extra comfort and stability at corners. All BMWs come with adjustable extended thigh support which is a boon for long drives. Sadly the seats are manually adjustable. The footwell has dead pedal but there is limited room and sometimes your foot can foul with the door pad while using the accelerator. To access the rear seats one has to pull the lever situated behind the driver’s seat that flips and slides forward. Ingress and egress for an adult is a bit of a task and so is to sit at the rear for long journeys. However, it is roomy enough for short trips and comfortable for kids for long journeys. Compared to the previous MINI’s back seat, it is much more practical and spacious. Boot space has improved too with good storage space of 211 litres without a spare wheel.
Performance – This time around, the MINI is also being offered with a diesel mill that makes it quite functional on our congested city driving conditions. It is a 3-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo diesel that churns out 114 BHP at 4000 RPM and 270 Nm of torque at 1750 RPM. This 3-pot oil burner has exceptional refinement and low-end performance. It is ready to swoop forward with negligible lag and continues to accelerate strongly till the mid-range but hits the flat spot near the redline of 4700 RPM. You must be wondering how does the motor sound, well, it’s not loud as the Cooper S but the engine note is sporty and you can hear the sweet sound inside the cabin despite being a diesel powered car that usually doesn’t sound good.
The zippy nature of the diesel mill makes it quite fun to drive in town
Mated to the 1.5-litre diesel engine is a 6-speed automatic transmission. It is fairly quick and the gearing is such that it lets you shoot the gaps in city traffic easily. At the same time you can cruise at a calm 1800 RPM in 6th gear at 100 km/hr. In the ghat section or winding roads you won’t feel the need of more power but in a straight line it lacks power. It has a manual mode but without steering mounted paddle shifts, which would have been more fun. In manual, it changes the gears on its own near the redline and sadly even the downshifts won’t happen above 3000 RPM. 0-100 km/hr sprint is done in 9.2 seconds and the top speed is 204 km/hr. The MINI Cooper D returns a claimed fuel efficiency of 21.15 km/l and with a heavy foot we managed 14 km/l in real world driving conditions, which is amazing for a premium hatch.
Driving Dynamics – The new MINI with its mature character has got a new attitude as well. Earlier it used to be young and sprightly with its razor sharp handling but back breaking stiff suspension, which wasn’t a pleasant feeling on our choppy roads. The new suspension on the MINI feels like a fresh breath of air with a relatively pliant ride quality. It is damped very well too and you don’t hear those harsh noises filtering through the cabin. Big potholes can unsettle the passengers but it has improved by leaps and bounds.
With a more comfort oriented setup you have to compromise a bit on the handling department. No, there is no body roll at all and the steering feels direct but I didn’t feel the popular go-kart handling of the MINI, which was present on the older car. It is indeed fun throwing the car around bends and the chassis has a terrific balance of weight with limited understeer in spite of being a front-wheel drive. It has grown in dimensions but has got reduced weight and more rigidity. Steering feedback is precise, which is always expected from a car having BMW engineering, though it is slightly heavy at low speeds. The braking performance needs special mention because the pedal bite is ideal and it comes to a standstill very quickly.
Safety and After Sales Service – Surprisingly the new MINI gets only four stars in Euro NCAP’s crash test considering that the previous gen got a healthy five stars of safety rating. There is no compromise on equipment. It comes with ABS, EBD, six airbags, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Electronic Differential Lock Control, Hill Start Assistant, etc. BMW has good after sales service in India but there are only limited outlets of BMW that handle MINI servicing.
Verdict – It is quite interesting to see the way MINI has evolved over time. It has got drastic changes with every passing generation yet it feels special and makes you fall in love all over again. For instance, the styling, it has got substantial changes yet it looks similar. The interiors now have a sci-fi theme but still have the retro appearance of the old MINI. The dynamics have changed but the spirited nature is very much the same. Now the choice of a diesel engine makes it one of those cars in your garage which you won’t fret to take out to go to office every day. And how can we forget the love for diesel cars in India and the proud feeling when someone asks the “kitna deti hai” query for a premium car. Truly an interesting car to have in your garage if you have that sort of money lying around.
The new generation MINI Cooper comes as a desirable package considering the fact that it has a diesel engine under the hood and a more practical and spacious cabin. It is a premium hatch which you can consider for daily usage but not for outright performance, for that you need to look at the Cooper S.
* Cute design language that grabs everyone’s attention, especially females’
* The interior gets loaded with more equipment and is more spacious
* Frugal diesel engine with good city performance
* Much better ride quality and still offer sharp handling
What’s Not So Cool
* No steering mounted paddle shifts
* The diesel engine feels slightly underpowered out on the highway
* Steering feels communicative but isn’t as sharp as its predecessor
* Quite an expensive premium hatch
Alternatives: Fiat 500 Abarth, Mercedes A-Class, BMW 1-Series
MINI Cooper D Specifications
* Engine: 1496cc, in-line 3-cylinder, 4V
* Power: 116 PS @ 4000 RPM
* Torque: 270 Nm @ 1750 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed automatic
* 0-100 km/hr: 9.2 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 14 km/l
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson Struts (Front), multilink (Rear)
* Tyres: 195/55/16 Alloy
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Disc (Rear), ABS
* Safety: ABS, EBD, 6 airbags, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Electronic Differential Lock Control, Hill Start Assistant
MINI Cooper D Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 3821 mm X 1727 mm X 1414 mm
* Wheelbase: 2495 mm
* Boot Volume: 221 litres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 44 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1150 kgs
* Ground Clearance: 124 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.4 meters
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta
Further Reading –