The Mini Cooper D posts an official fuel consumption figure of 3.9 litres per 100km and C02 emissions of 104g/km, slipping in just beneath Toyota's current Prius (the next Prius claims it will hit 3.9l/100km and 89g/km) and the Smart mhd.
The brand’s Australian marketing manager Chris Brown says making diesel cool and sexy is the challenge. "That's the $64-million dollar question, and I think the thing working in our favour is inherently it's a Mini. "We're relying on the fact that a diesel in a Mini package is still a Mini," he says.
Brown says the benefits of diesel are well accepted, but some of the other technologies don't carry over. "Some of the new technology doesn't carry over into the automatic - the automatic stop/start and the shift indicator for example.
"Those people more interested in economy are going to go for the manual, those looking for convenience will go for the auto. "We're expecting 50/50 but we're not sure on our volume targets, we're conservatively thinking about 200 between now and the end of the year," he says.
The D can be spotted in traffic by Mini-philes by a bigger front air intake and the broader power dome bonnet that accommodates the larger induction hardware for the 1.6-litre common-rail direct-injection turbodiesel.
The particle-filter equipped engine was co-developed and is shared with Peugeot and Citroen and has a variable-geometry turbocharger.
The turbo shares an overboost function (when the right pedal is floored) with its petrol siblings, giving an additional 20Nm of torque above the 240Nm available from 1750rpm.
Mini staffers say 70 per cent of the peak torque is on offer from 1250rpm and if you feel the need, the engine delivers 80kW of power at 4000rpm. The official Mini blurb claims that's good enough for a 9.9 second sprint to 100km/h and a 195km/h top speed, says Mini.
The launch drive fleet was devoid of any optional six-speed automatics - which up the price from $33,750 for the manual to $36,100 - and also increases the thirst to five litres per 100km.
Aids to fuel economy
With the six-speed manual gearbox you get the auto stop/start function which stops the engine when the gearbox is in neutral and the clutch pedal is not pressed. As soon as the clutch pedal is touched, the engine re-starts.
The Cooper D also brings with it brake energy regeneration, which re-charges the battery when coasting or braking, as well as smart oil and water pumps that only kick in as required.
An underbody aero-panel, a ‘friction-optimised’ crank drive, electric power steering and more aluminium panels and components help lighten the load on the fuel bill.
The Cooper D carries the same equipment specification as the petrol-powered Cooper, which means stability control, six airbags, 15in alloy wheels, air conditioning, CD sound system, trip computer, sports steering wheel with audio and cruise controls and height-adjustable front seats.
If any car can make diesel trendy then a Mini has a shot at it. Dressed up in the optional ($37,350) Chilli pack as it is in the images, the spunky little four-seater looks the goods.
The little diesel is quiet and reasonably smooth, with plenty of torque to more than adequately shift 1090kg.
Idling through city streets a gear higher than otherwise would be possible, the little Cooper D pulls up hills with no throttle pressure at all.
The gearshift is smooth and quick, giving the consumption-conscious driver a chance at achieving the ADR figure of 3.9l/100km to rapidly swap cogs even before the optimistic economy-encouraging gearshift indicator.
Trust is required to believe the claim of 70 per cent torque peak on offer from 1250rpm.
The alloy block for the diesel has meant weight over the front end has not soured the handling, so the go-kart road manners have not been tarnished.
The automatic stop/start function takes some getting used to and the rattle as it stops is a little rough. The start-up time, followed by engaging a gear and getting away, can be a worry, as drivers behind expect the little hot-hatch ahead of it to be quick off the line.
On the launch drive through the crawling CBD traffic, suburban main roads, freeways and onto country roads, my co-driver and I managed to match the 3.9-litre fuel use claim by the company, although our overall average was just over 4.1.
Mini Cooper D
Price: from $33,750.
Engine: 1.6-litre common-rail direct-injection intercooled turbodiesel.
Transmission: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic ($36,100), front-wheel drive.
Power: 80kW @ 4000rpm.
Torque: 240Nm @ 1750rpm (260Nm on overboost).
Performance: 0-100km/h 9.9 seconds, top speed 195km/h (manual).
Economy: 3.9litres/100km, tank 40litres.
Smart mhd, from $19,990.
Toyota Prius, from $37,400.
Peugeot 207 1.6 HDI XT, from $28,990.
Citroen C4 1.6 HDI, from $30,990.