This is old news isn't it? We've seen this new new MINI before...
Ah, but no. You've seen the new Cooper, and the new Cooper S - the sportiest models. This brand spanking pair of cheery-faced tearaways comprise the Mk II entry-level Mini One, and suspiciously unsporty-sounding Cooper D. Yes, that is D for Diesel. We do understand your confusion, however. There are minor exterior trimming differences, but otherwise they look pretty much the same as any other new new Mini, and still don't have any rear legroom. Given the huge range of options available (15,000,000,000,000,000 possible combinations, apparently) spotting one of the new Minis on the road is best done by the boot badges.
Hold on a minute. I'm sorry - did you say Cooper diesel?
Thought you were looking a bit stunned. While 'Cooper Diesel' does sound like a contradiction, we should point out this is an entirely new derv-burning engine. It's out with the old Toyota-derived unit, in with a BMW-fettled PSA/Ford 1.6. This features clever stuff like variable turbine geometry on the turbocharger, second generation high-pressure common-rail diesel technology, and an overboost function. As the Cooper badging suggests, this should in theory serve up a livelier driving experience. The added bonus is seriously impressive fuel economy and very respectable emissions: 64.2mpg combined, and only 118g/km of CO2.
That's all very well, but how does it go?
With only 108bhp, the Cooper D is 10bhp down on its petrol namesake for power. But it makes up for this with 177lb ft of torque - and even 191lb ft during short periods of overboost. The average-sounding 9.9sec 0-62mph time is deceptive, as these torque figures match the range-topping Cooper S for pulling power, ensuring the D is no slouch on a twisting back road. The difference is the performance arrives much lower down the rev range, so instead of wringing it out to the redline, the Cooper D goes best when driven slightly more sympathetically. The chassis is still well up for the challenge, whatever you throw at it, but the Cooper D seems to prefer smoothly rapid progress rather than all out attack. The diesel engine is disappointingly noisy, but it does have a relatively lightweight aluminium construction, helping the handling no end.
But what if 'rev the nuts off it' is my most favourite cliche?
Well, if you're on a budget, try the Mini One. Using a 1.4-litre version of the petrol Cooper's 1.6-litre engine, the One's not exactly quick but it's certainly enthusiastic. The 93bhp and 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds means you shouldn't get into too much trouble, but as with any Mini (including the Cooper D) pick a big set of alloys and you can expect to be bounced about a bit. Again, fuel economy and emissions bring good news: 49.6mpg combined is a 15 percent improvement over the old model, while 138g/km of CO2 shows a 16 percent improvement. The dynamic weak points of both variants are the brakes, which are a little nervous on bumpy surfaces, and don't offer a huge amount of feel.
Starting at 11,610, the Mini One would be decent value even if it wasn't also fun to drive. The frugal Cooper D seems expensive at 14,175, but with the promise of excellent fuel economy it should pay for itself over time. Add in the fabulous TLC servicing packages (five years' servicing for just 150? Bargain isn't the word...), build quality, image, and strong residuals, and there's a great case to be made for either car. Just don't plan on carrying any passengers in the back...