First drive: MINI Cooper SD

The Cooper S badge was first fitted to the fastest Classic Minis back in 1963. Now, perhaps controversially it's found its way on to the back of the fastest MINI diesel.

Is the Cooper SD worthy of the badge? We headed off to the UK launch in Somerset to find out.

On the outside, spotting the differences between petrol and diesel model will be difficult. As hatch, convertible, Clubman and the bigger Countryman look the same, with only the unique Cooper SD badging and the familiar diesel hum giving the game away.

Like the exterior, the interior is identical, with Cooper SD models even fitted with the same Sport button that sharpens the steering, throttle and the exhaust note.

The big news happens under the SD's bonnet, as it's fitted with a new 143bhp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. Besides being the biggest engine to ever be fitted in a MINI, it also has the most torque at 305Nm, beating even the range-topping John Cooper
Works models.

The resulting performance figures are pretty impressive for hatch models too, the dash to 60mph is covered in 8.1 seconds, with a top speed of 134mph. Bigger Countryman models are slightly slower with a 0-60mph acceleration time of 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 123mph.

Want to make your Cooper SD even sportier? Well, MINI have released a factory-fit Sport Pack that's available for all models including the hottest diesel.

On the outside, the pack includes unique front and rear aprons, curved side skirts and 17-inch cross-spoke alloy wheels.

Sport pack changes for the interior are more subtle with highlights being a John Cooper Works black sports leather steering wheel with contrasting red stitching, the manual gearknob with red shift pattern and matching red stitching on the leather gear lever and handbrake gaiter.

The pack adds a certain ammount of JCW aggression to the SD and costs £2,260, with the price falling to £1,415 for models fitted with the Chili pack.

So what are they like to drive? The first thing that hits you when you drive the hatch, convertible and Clubman versions of the Cooper SD is the massive low-down torque.

Best described as pokey, you do find yourself using the slick six-speed manual gearbox and accelerator more than the rapid Cooper S versions. Work the diesel engine hard and it is quite vocal too and is probably at its best in cruising mode.

I recently had a Countryman Cooper D on test and whilst it was great fun to drive and more practical, the 1.6-litre 110bhp diesel engine felt really slow. The Cooper SD version of the Countryman is better, but performance is more adequate than sporty.

In standard hatchback form it's priced at £18,750 and costs £735 more than its petrol equivalent and £1280 more than the Cooper D. Whilst it is quick and frugal, if you're going for a hatchback, convertible or Clubman, a Cooper S or Cooper D might be a better option. On the other hand, if you're after a MINI Countryman, the Cooper SD might just be the best version on sale.

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