Review and road test of the MINI Cooper SD Hatch R56 (2011 - 2014)
By Andy Enright
A fast diesel road car always feels like cheating a little bit. It doesn't feel right that you can have more torque than a Porsche yet eke quite so many miles from a gallon of derv. Most of the really good diesel expresses tend to be big executive models but MINI has spread the love and delivered us the Cooper SD hatch. If you like the sound of a car that could return better than 65mpg yet still have the chops to see off many hot hatches, you aren't alone. The British public took to this MINI with unbridled enthusiasm. Does it stack up just as well as a used buy? Find out here.
3dr hatch (2.0 diesel [Cooper SD])
The Cooper SD arrived in March 2011, forming part of the facelifted second generation - or R56 in MINI-speak - range. Stung by criticisms that the 112bhp Cooper D was a bit pedestrian, the Cooper SD packed a 143bhp punch and felt like the real deal. MINI used the launch to promote another innovation, the MINI Connected app-based system which provides a range of additional services to use in car running off your iPhone. This generation was replaced by the all-new MINI 'F56' model at the start of 2014.
What You Get
The MINI has had its styling refreshed on countless occasions but it always comes out the other end looking like a MINI. Perhaps more than any other car, this one is inextricably linked to a certain look, namely the classic design cues laid down by Alec Issigonis in the late 1950s. BMW has sensibly kept the links to the past very much intact and the latest cars are yet another variation on that theme.
Inside, this MK2 model feels of much higher quality than BMW's first generation version. Gone are those indicators that felt like you were snapping a biro every time you used them. The centrally mounted speedometer houses entertainment and, if specified, navigation functions. The slimmed-down centre console offers decent space in the footwells while for the MK2 range, the old fashioned ignition key was replaced by a round signal sensor that slots next to the steering wheel. A start/stop button was also fitted as standard, while small ergonomic and quality improvements were made on later MK2 models, cars that also got revised steering wheels and altered controls for the ventilation and audio systems. Cooper SD models got the option of a Sport Pack, which featured 17-inch John Cooper Works alloy wheels, Dynamic traction control and an electronic diff lock to work with the existing DSC stability control, a body styling kit and leather trimmings for the cabin.
What To Look For (used_look)
What to Look For
Virtually all of the teething issues that afflicted the MK1 BMW-made MINI were laid to rest with the MK2 model. The 2.0-litre BMW-sourced diesel engines have proven extremely reliable, with higher mileages not proving a problem. Make sure that the car you're looking at has been serviced on the nose and also make sure that the first owner ticked the air conditioning option box.
With such a huge amount of stock available, you can afford to be fussy and you'll also find quite a marked amount of price variation between ostensibly similar examples. Interior quality has moved on leaps and bounds and shouldn't throw up too many issues. Where the MK1 BMW-made MINI would often twitter like the queue for a Justin Bieber gig, the second generation car seems to be built of sterner stuff. Customer reliability indices suggest that owners are happier with this generation model as well. Check for kerbed alloys and uneven tyre wear that might indicate tracking that's been knocked out of alignment.
approx based on a 2012 MINI Cooper SD hatchback excl. VAT) Expect to pay around £140 for a clutch assembly. Front brake pads are around £40, a full exhaust about £360, an alternator around £130 and a tyre around £85. A starter motor is about £120.
On the Road
The reason keen drivers will love the Cooper SD is simple. Torque. This was the first 'new' MINI to get a two-litre engine and it proved to be a serious piece of kit. The 143bhp power output seems only mildly impressive at first glance, but the muscle this engine serves up in terms of torque takes some beating. At 1750rpm, this unit makes 225lb/ft of torque, which means that it feels more muscular than a Porsche Cayman. That pulling power gives this MINI prodigious overtaking ability. The sprint to 60mph of 7.8 seconds doesn't begin to suggest how beefy this engine is.
All Cooper SD models are equipped as standard with a super light six speed manual gearbox. The 22.8 kilo transmission is one of the lightest gearboxes of its kind and offers well-matched ratios and a precise, short shift gear lever action. A six speed automatic transmission was available as an option and includes shift paddles on the steering wheel for auto drivers with a sporty inclination. The SD's diesel engine featured the same torque steer management software which was added to the petrol portfolio in 2010.
As with all MINI hatch models, body control is excellent, the brakes well up to speed and turn-in is tenacious. The steering isn't as meaty as on first generation cars and all-round visibility can be an issue but the MINI remains a great entertainer. The diesel engine in this one doesn't detract from that one jot, ability even the petrol-engined 'S' would find hard to live with. The sprint to 60mph of 7.8 seconds doesn't begin to suggest how beefy this engine is.
The MINI Cooper SD is the complete package. It's fun to drive, affordable to run, still looks good and has proven reliable. What more could you ask for? Yes, there is a bit of nose-heaviness apparent at the edge of the handling envelope and petrol-engined MINIs don't understeer quite much, but for road driving you wouldn't really notice. The payback comes with its sheer overtaking punch.
MINI Cooper SD Hatch R56 (2011 - 2014) review by Andy Enright