Model/Engine size: Cooper SD ALL4
Fuel economy combined: 57.6 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 10/10
MINI has introduced a new SD ‘performance diesel’ engine that offers more power but virtually unchanged economy and emissions compared to the standard diesel, and it’s new throughout the MINI range; we tested it in the Countryman.
Why the Countryman? Well, we gave the
MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4
a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10/10, mainly due to it offering excellent economy, all-wheel drive, and MINI character and fun all in one package. One of the main areas where it could have been improved was with more power and torque. So as soon as MINI announced that a new 2.0-litre diesel engine was available, with similar economy but better performance than the existing 1.6-litre unit, we thought that the prayers of potential Countryman diesel buyers had been answered.
Although we also tested the Hatch, the Convertible and the Clubman with the new SD engine, it’s the Countryman, with its extra size and weight, that we felt really needed the extra power.
Before we take a look at the detail of the car, let’s just have a brief recap of MINI’s green progress over recent years.
In 2001 the engine sizes of the MINI range varied between 1394cc and 1600cc, the emissions were 129 – 202 g/km CO2 and economy was 33.6 – 58.9 mpg. Ten years later in 2011 the engine sizes are larger, ranging from 1600 – 1995cc, yet the emissions have dropped to 99 – 169 g/km, and economy has improved to 36.7 – 74.3 mpg.
This is in part due to ‘MINIMALISM’ – MINI’s version of BMW’s EfficientDynamics, in other words a range of technology to reduce emissions and improve economy, including Brake Energy Generation, Auto Start/Stop, Shift Point Display, Electric Power Steering and demand-based ancillaries such as the alternator.
One outcome of such technology is that MINI has already achieved an average CO2 of 128.8 g/km across the fleet.
Diesels only represent a relatively small share of the MINI range (18%), although this percentage is increasing each year – and MINI is hoping the SD will help to accelerate that figure.
So what are the vital statistics of the SD? The standard MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 (in 6-speed manual form) manages 57.6 mpg (combined) and 129 g/km CO2. The SD also manages 57.6 mpg combined (along with exactly the same 53.3 urban mpg and 60.1 extra-urban mpg), and 130 g/km CO2 (yes bizarrely it’s 1 g/km CO2 different even though the economy figures are identical).
But it’s in the area of power and torque where the difference lies; the Cooper D has 112 hp and 270 Nm torque; the SD has 143 hp and 305 Nm torque. That’s around 28% more power, and the highest amount of torque in the entire MINI range (with the torque coming in at 1750 revs). This results in the Cooper D managing 112 mph and 0-62 mph in 11.6 seconds; the SD can achieve 121 mph and 0-62 mph in 9.4 seconds. Luckily the SD comes with an anti-torque steer system.
So what’s it like to drive? Well, predictably, very similar to the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4, but with more power. But if you’re expecting the same sensation of stepping from a BMW 320d to a 335d then the difference is certainly not as marked; if you really do want a lot more performance you need to go for the MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4 – but unlike the move from the Cooper D to the SD, the economy in the Cooper S is much worse.
The SD comes with a Sport button and this does change the character of the vehicle; the accelerator pedal becomes more reactive and the steering is firmer, making it feel more like a driver’s car.
We did try the SD engine in the Hatch, the Convertible and the Clubman. Being smaller and lighter cars, the extra power of the SD engine is more noticeable in these models. So if you want an economical and powerful MINI and don’t need something the size of the Countryman, then one of these could be your answer.
The Countryman initially received a fair amount of criticism from many motoring journalists. It seems that many in the media were obsessed with comparing the Countryman to a MINI Hatch, and as a result the Countryman was marked down for the way it drove. Yes, the Countryman is bigger, taller and heavier than a MINI Hatch so it doesn’t go round corners in the same ‘go-kart’ way, but if you compare the Countryman to other cars in the same class, then it compares well for driveability.
As you may have guessed from the photos, we tested the Countryman SD ALL4 on Salisbury Plain; it’s not designed to compete with a Land Rover Defender, but over much of the terrain on the Plain, the Countryman coped impressively.
Visually, the SD looks identical to the Cooper S. It may not look particularly elegant to everyone’s eyes, but it certainly looks purposeful, and there is a definite resemblance to the Countryman World Rally Championship car, which MINI hopes will reflect positively in terms of sales figures.
In terms of technology, the SD comes with MINI Connected. By downloading a free App to your iPhone, you can benefit from all sorts of up-to-the-minute techie features. You can send someone’s address to the car for it to start route guidance, and you can listen to thousands of internet radio stations from around the world. If you need roadside assistance for any reason you can track where your rescuers are, meaning you can sit in a coffee shop until they arrive rather than in the rain at the side of the road.
It all sounds good so far but there is one last statistic that you need to be aware of – the price difference between the Cooper D and the SD; the D ALL4 costs £20,300, but the SD ALL4 costs £23,190 – that’s an extra £2890. If you want to look at it another way, it’s just a £685 premium over the Cooper S – you won’t have quite as much fun in the SD, but you’ll save on fuel and insurance bills.
You can also buy a Countryman SD with just front-wheel drive. This has emissions of 122 g/km, so there’s not a huge amount of difference (probably due to the fact that even the ALL4 operates in front-wheel drive only for as much of the time as possible), but it’s certainly cheaper at £21,970. It’s unlikely that most people will make use of the four-wheel drive capability during the vast majority of time that they drive the car, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if you need it. This time will primarily come once a year when it snows, but you’ll only get the most out of the four-wheel drive system if you swap the standard tyres to winter items.
You can also buy the Countryman SD with an auto box. But beware – the economy drops from 57.6 to 46.3 mpg and the emissions increase from 130 to 160 g/km CO2 – so the auto option certainly isn’t the green choice.
Why do we like the Countryman? Because it offers car buyers the chance to have a four-wheel drive family car with lowest-in-class emissions, a fun driving experience, interesting design, and the brand appeal of a MINI. In summary, it’s a more fun and interesting all-rounder than anything else in the class – and it’s efficient too.
If we awarded the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 10 out of 10, then we can’t award the SD anything less, as it improves upon one area of weakness of the Cooper D, the relatively low power. So, yes, the SD also gets 10 out of 10. On the downside, £2890 is a lot more money than the Cooper D. And remember that 88% of all MINIs are specified with some form of options package – so the eventual price is likely to be much higher than the basic list price.
If you like the idea of a fast, four-wheel drive MINI but you’re not sure about the styling around the rear of the Countryman, then consider waiting until the more sporty two-door Paceman coupe version comes along – but you’ll have to wait until 2013. Of course before that the MINI Coupe and Roadster appear, just to give you more options to think about
Fuel economy extra urban: 60.1 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 130 g/km
Green rating: VED band D – first year £0
Weight: 1395 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 19%
Price: £23,135 (From £16,000 to £23,135)
Insurance group: 20E
Power: 143 bhp
Max speed: 121 mph
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds