Fun with fuel economy
Turbo-charged diesel models also offer high connectivity
Following up on the success of diesel-powered BMWs in the Thai market, MINI has also decided to offer diesel engines for its product line-up in the Kingdom.
The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-charged diesel engine, which is also shared with the BMW 3 Series, comes with two output levels (D and SD), and is available in three MINI models. They include the hatchback (both low and high output), Countryman (low and high output) and Coupe (high output only). The Roadster and the Clubman models don't get the diesel.
The entry-level slugger (D) produces 112 horsepower and 270Nm (from 1,750-2,250rpm) while the high output version (SD) pumps out 143hp and 305Nm (from 1,750-2,700rpm).
MINIs are always fun to drive, and with the diesel engines, also offer great fuel economy. Claimed average fuel economy figures range from 16.4km/litre for the Countryman D to 19.6km/litre for the Cooper D.
Although it may seem funny that after spending as much as Bt3 million for a tiny subcompact (yes, I'd classify them as subcompacts just like the Honda Jazz and Mazda2) you would care so much for fuel economy figures (just buy a Camry and save millions will ya), this is the way the automotive world evolves. Less fuel consumption means lower emissions, and that directly affects the environment in a positive way.
But I'm sure MINI diesel owners could be more concerned about fuel costs, which directly affect the amount of money in their wallet, rather than the environment, which still seems a far-away subject considering Thai peoples' current lifestyles. And most of all, the performance hasn't been sacrificed a bit.
When I say performance, I also mean the driving enjoyment. Many people dislike the sound that diesel engines produce. They are usually loud and rattle like a snake on high alert. But floor the accelerator in the MINI diesel and you'd discover sporty acoustics that you would never expect from a diesel engine.
There's plenty of torque that is instantaneously available from low revs, and performance figures show that they are equally as fun to drive (or even better due to the much higher torque) as the gasoline versions. For example, the Cooper SD accelerates from 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds, and boasts a top speed of 205km/h. Now, this is what differentiates the MINI from other subcompacts in the market.
Many compare driving a MINI with driving a go-kart. Although I wouldn't totally agree, the message is clear. They are nimble and highly entertaining to drive. The steering is tight and precise while the location of the wheels at the extreme corners of the car helps it hug the road better than other cars with longer front and rear overhangs.
The suspension is on the stiffer side (here is where the go-kart concept steps in), and you'll probably feel every bit of shock and vibration when driving over potholes or speed bumps (there's also considerable noise if the bumps are a bit high). But then nobody buys a MINI for comfort.
Although the MINI looks like a car for teens and women, I personally know many 40-year-old men who drive them. It's a fun factor that adds a splash of youth into their daily lives.
Personally, I wouldn't consider spending this much for a MINI (too bad we have insanely high import duty for automobiles) as the same amount can be used to purchase a decent locally assembled BMW 3 Series, which is a REAL car and a much wiser investment.
Look at the interior of the MINI and you'd see plenty of plastic that make you think of Chinese toys. And they don't seem to be well-built either - squeaks and rattles will show up sooner or later. OMG, this is actually a kids car.
And that large speedometer on the centre console? I actually thought that BMW's core philosophy was "form follows function". But this is probably the opposite of that as no one in their right mind would be able to look at that speedo safely while driving down a winding mountain road. That's why the rev counter and an additional digital speedometer is located where it should be - behind the steering wheel.
But inside this useless speedo is a digital display that really makes up for that first mistake. "MINI Connected" provides trendy features like Internet connection as well as amazing apps from an iPhone 4 (which you MUST have if you want to make the most out of your new MINI).
I use a Blackberry and have no idea what this is all about until BMW's PR guy lent me his iPhone to try out the function. Got some problems connecting at first but once connected, I discovered once again that life is full of surprises.
Apart from all sorts of fun and games (like the Force Meter or Digital Sports Instruments), even the turning signals have special assigned audio notifications. Bling, bling, bling….Yes, it sounded just like that.
Okay, I love the MINI, but I wouldn't buy one since I don't think it matches my personality. A good-looking 40-year-old guy driving a MINI in downtown Bangkok could be interpreted as something else if you know what I mean.
But for driving pleasure and on-board fun, there is nothing that beats it right now.
MINI Cooper SD specifications
Engine: 4-cylinder turbo-charged common-rail diesel
Bore and stroke: 84x90mm
Compression ratio: 16.5:1
Max power: 143hp/4,000rpm
Max torque: 305Nm/1,750-2,700rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Top speed: 205km/h
Average fuel consumption: 18.9km/litre
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut/multi-link
Steering: electrically powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 10.7 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented discs/discs with ABS, EBD, CBC, BA
Track (f/r): 1,459/1,467
Wheels: 17-inch alloy
Tires: 205/45 R17
Fuel tank capacity (litres): 40 litres
Price: Bt3.14 million
Distributor: MINI Thailand Ltd
In addition to existing features of MINI Connected, including Facebook, Twitter, Dynamic Music, MINIMALISM Analyser, Mission Control, Web news and Web radio with connectivity via iPhone 4 and above, the new application of "Driving Excitement" is now available for more fun on the road. The Driving Excitement application offers the "Condition Check" function to keep an eye on - among other things - the engine temperature, fuel level, status of the optional Sport Button, and outside temperature. Should conditions allow, the display in the on-board monitor proudly declares everything "BE MINI".
The second function of Driving Excitement is the Force Meter, which measures and records the longitudinal and lateral acceleration generated over a pre-defined timeframe when pushing on and braking, and through right and left-hand corners. The on-board monitor uses a virtual MINI to show the direction in which the forces are developing at any particular moment. The strength of the acceleration forces is displayed within a circle, with various segments illuminating to reflect the driver's responses at the wheel.
The third function of Driving Excitement is the Digital Sports Instruments, which presents the vehicle data graphics in typical MINI style. In the centre of the virtual instrument, the driver will find the coolant temperature gauge, while to the left the engine output shown in either kW or hp currently being requested by the driver. Displayed in the same form on the right of the temperature gauge is the engine's current rpm or torque, according to driver preference. The output and revs/torque data are presented in drag indicator mode so that the maximum values achieved remain visible in the display for a short time after the driver has taken his foot off the gas.
The MINI Connected app for the iPhone 4 and above also includes a detailed tutorial outlining the fundamentals of skilled, sporty and safe driving.