Uncle Steve Writes – Part 3 of 4 – MINI Cooper SD

In the penultimate part of the 4 part series, ESM’s Uncle Steve covers his most recent car purchase.

So, as previously mentioned, the Leon FR TDI has gone, arriving in its place is a MINI Cooper SD hatchback. Again purchased from our tame motor trader, Cooper MINI Durham. So let’s get right down to the specs:

  • MINI Cooper SD Hatchback
  • Lightning blue with contrasting black roof and mirror caps
  • Chili pack
  • Media pack
  • Sun protection glass
  • Anthracite roof lining
  • Chrome line interior
  • Chrome line exterior
  • Piano black interior trim
  • Heated front screen
  • Park distance control

It, therefore, comes well spec’d (in my opinion and that’s the only one that matters!) – very few options were left un-ticked on this build, despite this the total time from order to delivery was 17 days and this included weekends and a bank holiday Monday! I really can’t speak highly enough of the customer service provided by Cooper MINI Durham, they were easy to deal with and got me the car I wanted very quickly even though it required a factory order.

Again I negotiated what I consider to be a very good deal, once again I can’t get close to it using the online brokers and Cooper Durham were a pleasure to deal with, offering a variety of vehicles in stock but not pushing them when it was clear they didn’t meet my needs. Nothing was too much trouble and when our saleswoman was away for 5 of the 17 days she called to let me know in advance and provided an alternative point of contact should I need anything during those 5 days, I’ve never had to chase them for a call-back and they’ve done everything they promised, on time.

It’s early days with my MINI, it’s only got 1600 miles on it so far, but things are looking very positive. It averaged 70mpg on my recent trip to Liverpool, granted I was deliberately driving conservatively given that I was running the car in and I was also trying to see whether I could achieve the stated 72mpg on the extra-urban cycle. Given that it had only around 700 miles on the clock when I averaged 70mpg, I reckon once fully run in the 72mpg that is specified should be achievable. I think this is remarkable given that this is a 2 litre BMW engine that’s turbocharged and tuned to an output of 145Ps.

The interior of the MINI feels classy and the materials are high quality, the half-leather seats are well bolstered and comfortable, the piano black interior trim looks fantastic (although it is a fingerprint magnet!). The anthracite roof lining finishes the aggressive look and matches the exterior, it might sound like all this black would be too much but it isn’t and it really works well and makes the car look great.

The media pack is excellent, there’s still the large centre speedo running around the outside of the screen but the screen really lifts the tone of the interior and makes it feel properly finished off. The interface is a MINI skinned version of BMW’s iDrive system and is excellent and easy to control (overlooking the dial scrolling different directions in different modes and the requirement to set the maps into night-mode manually rather than being controlled by time or exterior lights – why BMW?! Why no auto-night mode for the maps?! – sat navs costing £50 have this!) [I almost wrote a whole article without a rant but failed there!]

The MINI Connected system is gimmicky and a bit of a waste of time, there are so many limitations to what you can do with it that it becomes easier to control the features through the phone rather than the iDrive dial. For example, there is no way to select podcasts through the MINI Connected system, therefore I’ve purchased a phone holder so that I can still have access to the features I need. Another limitation of the MINI Connected system is that it can only run 1 app at a time and as soon as you jump from say the Connected App itself to the Stitcher app you lose access to the MINI Connected app features. MINI have clearly tried something innovative but unfortunately they’ve missed the mark quite considerably with this system. That said I’m still glad I opted for the media pack, the saving of purchasing the pack means that I didn’t really pay for MINI Connected anyways and it does have 1 or 2 useful features like Google Maps Send-To-Car whereby you can plan a route on your home computer, using Google Maps, and then send that route to your car GPS using the MINI Connected App on your iPhone.

The media screen also functions in conjunction with the parking sensors to display a radar like screen when reversing to show you how close you are to particular hazards and where they are in relation to the rear of the car – cool!

It has to be said the engine has opened up nicely and has torque to excess, producing more torque than even the JCW GP model, considering this is a 2 litre diesel taken directly from the BMW 1 and 3 series it is remarkable that the Cooper SD only weighs 10kg more than the 1.6 litre Cooper S. This results in excellent handling and performance that finds itself in the awkward position of being between warm hatch and hot hatch, fitting neither category properly. Around town and on my commute I’m currently averaging around 56mpg which is considerably higher than the Leon FR TDI which this replaced – at least 11mpg higher. Road tax comes in at a staggering £30 per year, this car is quick but economical – all things to all men!

I’m very glad I selected the Chilli pack, the xenon headlights really are fantastic, I now know why people say once they’ve had xenon they can’t go back to standard halogens. One minor feature which most MINIs have but I really like is the extended interior lighting, whereby you can control the colour of interior lights placed in the door ellipses, roof lining etc. These can be set to 1 colour or set to permanently rotate through all the different colours available and they do a cool cycle through colours when the car door is opened – it’s the little things!

I had a hard time making my mind up when I spec’d this car, simply due to the endless options that MINI provide, this became harder still when I insured it as I had to list every single optional extra including Chilli pack. That said the personalisation is part of the fun, if you don’t spend extra on packs and additional features, then you’ve missed what MINI stands for – quirkiness, individuality and panache!

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