BMW has responded to powerful new rivals with updates for the M5 and M6 - including a racy new 575hp Competition Package option
Mini Convertible Cooper D review (2010 onwards)
Summary - Mini's got a brand new diesel engine from big brother BMW so we get a diesel Mini Convertible for the first time. Rivals run screaming to the hills. The end.
We like - brilliant new BMW diesel engine makes a massive improvement, fun to drive, economical, bulletproof image, quality
We don't like - never going to escape the diesel noise, no rear legroom, slightly imprecise gearbox, options list may bankrupt you
Your scribe has never been a particularly big fan of diesel-engined Minis. They've always been rather noisy and, without the sparkly responsiveness of petrol power, made the Mini's otherwise supreme chassis feel rather flat.
Salvation has come. Mini is giving its second gen cars a facelift - a tweak or two in places, hardly substantial; the phrase 'new bumper geometry' is mentioned in the spiel - in time for the arrival of the all-new Countryman.
With these changes afoot, Mini has also taken the opportunity to ditch the old Peugeot-Citroën derv burner for a new 1.6-litre turbodiesel sourced from parent company BMW.
Why Mini didn't do this in the first place is a good question with a complicated answer. Just be pleased it now has. The difference is outstanding.
So much so that Mini is now happy to sell you a diesel Convertible. This has the more powerful 112hp Cooper D engine option only; a lesser 90hp One D is also available in the hatch and Clubman.
The arrival of these new diesels completes a range refresh that started earlier this year with upgraded petrol engines. Let's take the Convertible Cooper D for a spin.
Ok, so the new BMW-sourced engine still sounds very obviously diesel. You'll spot this both outside and in - potentially a particular problem with the Convertible if you've the roof down around town.
Get it up to motorway speeds, though, and you'll drown the diesel rasp (such as it is) right out with wind noise. But either way you'll likely stop caring the moment you put your foot down.
Compared to previous diesel Minis this new engine is a revelation. Throttle response, aided by the variable geometry turbocharger, is much snappier - even before you resort to hitting the Sport button.
It also slings the needle round the rev-counter with glorious aplomb, slugging the Mini up the road with a proper sense of purpose that you just didn't get before - and that's while hauling the added mass of the Convertible.
The lighter Cooper D hatch can hit 62mph in 9.7 seconds; in the Convertible it takes 10.3, but with more peak torque than the turbo petrol Cooper S either version feels plenty pokey enough on the move.
A slight downer on all of this is the gearbox, which we found strangely imprecise. It was tricky to be sure which gear you were selecting, and we often confused first and reverse. Not ideal.
Ride and handling
The Mini is the most fun car to drive in the premium small car sector. Fact. The Citroën DS3 runs it close, and there are some non-premium hot hatches that may be better over all, but if you want giggles and glamour, Mini is it.
The old diesel always felt like it was sapping the Mini's strength here, peaking way before the chassis and enforcing a very different driving style to the petrols - more flat-footed than tippie-toes.
Gladly, the new engine almost totally reverses this situation. Helped by its all-aluminium construction - which keeps the weight down - it feels much flightier and more willing to play. Even the ride quality has improved.
If you want to wring your Mini out to the redline every time then stick to petrol, but the new diesel is at least a party-minded plaything, rather than a dowdy nay-sayer.
No miracle cure for the minuscule rear legroom, but alongside the exterior update - new bumpers and upgraded lights plus revised grilles and side vents, depending on the model - Mini has also mildly modified the interior.
Extra black-finish trimmings are hardly worth the yawn, but there are new toggle switches for the climate control, and the radio controls have been totally relocated to within the central speedo.
More interesting is the new Mini Connected in-car infotainment system. This is inspired by BMW's ConnectedDrive, but includes features even big bro BMW doesn't get yet, focused on iPhone integration.
With the Mini Connected app installed you can follow news feeds, Twitter and Facebook on the move via the central display, send text messages, use Google search to perform navigation tricks, and even listen to internet radio.
We found the radio connection a little patchy - hardly a shock given it's using the iPhone's 3G connection - but the system certainly works in principle. And the ability to search address details on the internet makes life with sat-nav still smoother.
Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to try the Dynamic Music function, which creates music in time with your driving style. No, seriously. Compatible with iPhone only at the moment, but other smartphones should follow.
Economy and safety
Another result for the new diesel engine: the regular Mini hatchback is down to just 99g/km CO2 and up to a remarkable 74.3mpg. Standard Auto Start Stop and other 'Minimalist' technology helps here.
That's for both One D and Cooper D versions, too. The Clubman and the Convertible can't quite match this achievement, returning 103g/km and 105g/km, respectively.
That's still equal to 70.6mpg for the drop-top - a truly impressive result, reaffirming Mini's position as the leading premium eco contender. Though Fiat's TwinAir technology (as seen on the Fiat 500 TwinAir) does hold a petrol advantage.
Safety is taken care of by the usual airbags and dynamic ESP, though you have to wonder what Mini Connected is going to do for driver attention levels...
The MSN Cars verdict
While the refreshed looks barely merit a mention, the new engine gives Mini's diesel models a totally new lease of life. It's a significant improvement over an already strong package.
Not only is the new diesel much better matched to the Mini's fun-to-drive spirit, it also offers benchmark economy and emissions, and starting from £14,120 for the One D hatch it's decent value for money.
The Convertible costs from £17,925 - no, not cheap. But you are getting the Mini image factor, the Mini entertainment factor and one of the best diesel engines in the entire supermini sector.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||N/A for this review (1.6 and 1.6 turbo are available)|
|Torque, lb ft||199|
|0-62 mph, secs||10.3|
|Top speed, mph||120|
|CO2, g/km / Tax, %||105 / 10|
|Ratings||Mini Convertible Cooper D|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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