Car Test   R0335
May 2003
First Drive BMW Mini
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: One D (diesel)
June 7 is D-day for the Mini Ė thatís the day this fourth model in the range hits the streets, powered by a diesel engine. Only the D badge and an initial remote rumble from under the big clamshell bonnet give the game away, because the significant changes lie under the now-familiar retro-styled skin.
   The heart of the newcomer is an all-alloy, 1.4 litre/75bhp derv-burner courtesy of Toyota, who uses the same (at least, a very similar) unit in the Yaris D-4D. Itís a second-generation (higher-pressure), direct-injection, common-rail diesel with a turbocharger and intercooler that delivers 133lb ft of torque at 2000rpm Ė and thatís very obvious. Below this, thereís nobody home when you press the accelerator, but when the tacho eventually reaches 2x1000, the pace picks up and you can row the car along at a respectable pace if you keep it in the mid-range sweet spot twixt 2500 and 4500rpm.
   This means that the driver is no stranger to the gear lever, but thatís all right, because the D is equipped with the Cooper Sís six-speed gearbox which has a weighty but positive shift Ė it works well. And, of course, it has a lovely long-legged top ratio thatís pulling getting on for 30mph per 1000rpm, so cruising at 70mph is hushed and relaxed Ė not to mention economical. Overall, you can expect about 55mpg.
   On this Mini D, electric power steering has been replaced by an engine-driven hydraulic system. However, this has been tuned to match the steering characteristics of the other Minis and, indeed, is very alert and responsive, with a not unpleasant meaty weightiness.
   Quiet and tenacious tyre grip enables the Mini to be cornered with great gusto, with roll firmly under control. No complaints, either, about the suspension on smooth roads. Watch out, though, when the going gets rough Ė lumpy and cratered tarmac (the sort we encountered on the Isle of Man launch) results in really jerky, bumpy progress. It seems that BMW has not only captured the essence of the original Mini, itís even replicated its ride.
   It also remains faithful, at least in spirit, to the earlier facia, featuring an over-the-top parody of that famous big central speedo. Elsewhere, thereís an appreciable amount of glossy, tubular-plastic architecture around what the younger set rate as the fun and funky cabin; oldies may be less enamoured. Either way, itís a pretentious far cry from the Spartan original.
   Reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel and a height-adjustable seat give a comfortable, huggy driving position with plenty of glass providing good all-round vision. The column stalks look cheap and plasticky, but are easy to work, as is the neat row of toggle switches in the centre console, once youíre familiar with them.
   The front occupantsí comfort isnít matched by those behind, though. Thereís plenty of width to the long seat cushion, and good foot-space and headroom, too, but you sit quite erect, kneeroom is tight behind an Ďabout averageí driver, and thereís 10cm less legroom than in the (shorter) Yaris; best left to the youngsters.
   Boot space isnít much to write home about, either; in fact, thereís room for only a couple of soft bags. With two (or three) people on board, however, the divided rear seat backrest(s) can be folded to provide a useful, extended load deck Ė albeit a stepped one.
  considering size, price and rivals
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
  • numerous brake control and stability systems
  • big choice of optional equipment
  • good range between fill-ups
  • accessibility under the 'clamshell' bonnet
  • prospect of BMW/Toyota reliability
  • front seatback controls fiddly
  • noisy wiper clonk at end of stroke
  • centre console strut hard on driver's left leg
  • fussy, overstyled speedometer
  • no spare wheel; run-flat tyres optional (std on S)
This Mini D retains the fun factor and entertaining handling of its swifter stablemates. OK, it might not be as dashing to drive, but how comforting to cruise quietly in sixth and savour the savings. However, some may feel that this variant is a contradiction in terms. You donít buy a Mini to be sensible, and the limited space and practicality emphasise the point. Itís worth remembering that the £2600-cheaper Yaris has these Ďsensibleí features in abundance already. Why pay more?

engine 4 cylinder, 1364cc turbo-diesel with intercooler,
16 valves; 75bhp/133lb ft
drive front-wheel drive. Six-speed manual
suspension front: independent MacPherson coil spring/damper struts
rear: trailing and track control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers
wheels/tyres 5.5in steel with 175/65R15T tyres
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with ABS, EBD and cornering brake control (CBC)
0-62mph* 13.8sec
official mpg~ 48.7/65.7/58.9
maximum speed* 103mph
CO2 emissions 129g/km
* maker's figure  ~ urban/extra urban/combined

size and type 3-door mid-priced supermini   trim levels Mini One, Cooper, Cooper S. Salt, Pepper and Chili pack options
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.6 litre/90bhp, 4/1.6/115, 4/1.6/163
diesel: 4/1.4/75
  drive front-wheel drive. Mini One: 5-speed manual (Steptronic CVT automatic with Sport and 6-speed sequential modes optional). Cooper S and D: 6-speed manual
notable features available traction control, cornering brake control, tyre pressure monitor, large central speedometer, two front and side airbags, all-in-one bonnet/front wings, 15in/16in/17in/18in wheels, large sunroof, Xenon headlamps, heated washer jets, cruise control

  in centimetres (3-door hatchback)
  length 363
  width - including mirrors 193
    - mirrors folded 169
  height 142
  load sill height (inside/outside) 16/62
  turns lock-to-lock 2.5
  turning circle (metres) 10.7*
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 84-114
    - headroom 94-101ß
  rear - typical legroom 92
    - typical kneeroom 70
    - headroom 94
    - hiproom 93
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 34-120#
  load length to facia No
  load width 84-93
  load height (to load cover/top of aperture) 53/81
ß no sunroof  * maker's figure  # rear seat folded
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