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2014 Mini Cooper S vs. 2014 Mini Cooper SD

Mini Cooper S

Mini Cooper S

The much-awaited 2014 Mini Cooper S is finally here, and it has already gained significant praise in the motoring press for its combination of speed and frugality.

But how does it compare to its diesel-powered brethren, the Mini Cooper SD?

First of all, let me start this piece by saying that the new Mini Cooper S is a much, much better-rounded car than the previous generation. It rides better, the interior is better, it sounds better, and it goes harder. If you're a current Cooper S owner, this new model is a direct upgrade.

But if you're looking for better economy with 90% of the thrills of an S, an SD might tempt you.

The new Cooper S is powered by a new 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-pot, which has replaced the 1.6-litre four-pot in the old car. This new unit produces 189 horsepower and 207 lb /ft of torque - 19 bhp more but 59 lb /ft less than the 2014 SD. It will get from 0 - 62 mph in 6.9 seconds; 0.3 seconds slower than a Volkswagen Golf GTI, exactly the same as Ford Fiesta ST; but its extra capacity over the fast Ford works wonders at higher speeds, where the S pulls a commanding lead on the motorway above 80 mph.

It also helps that the Cooper S's gearing is perfect. It will hit 60mph in second gear, whereas the Fiesta ST needs third to do the same, as does the 208 GTI.  As such, the Cooper S feels like a more grown up hot hatch than those competitors, on-par with the bigger, more desirable Golf GTI.

When it comes to throwing the S about, the new Cooper hot hatch is a revelation. It sits somewhere in-between the charm and playfulness of a Ford Fiesta ST and the effortless handling prowess and luxury of the Golf GTI. But, it has a charm of its own, with sharp and light steering, a wicked throttle response, a gorgeous exhaust note, and good - but not perfect - damping.

Drivers can even choose from three driving modes; Eco, Sport, and Mid.

The SD is only 10kg heavier than the S and so it shares the same handling characteristics.

When it comes to practicability, the Mini Cooper S and Mini Cooper SD are the same. They share the same cabin space, the same rear leg room, and the same boot. You get 211-litres of space in the boot with a maximum load capacity of 731-litres when the rear seats are folded down. That's way, way behind the 380-litres you get in a Golf GTI, and even lower than a Fiesta ST (290-litres), but at least the boot is deep and the rear lights don't intrude on entry space.

With a raspy exhaust note, flexible power, great handling and lots of charm, the 2014 Mini Cooper S is a match for any hot hatch on the market today. But how will fitting the same car with a diesel engine change things? Let's take a look.

Mini Cooper SD

Mini Cooper SD

The Mini Cooper SD is the same car as the S. It shares the same chassis, the same suspension, the same transmission, the same seats, the same cabin, the same switchgear, the same tyres, but one thing it does not share is the S's 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-pot. BMW has fitted the SD with their latest-generation four-pot twin-turbo diesel, an engine which has been tuned to create a linear power delivery and maximum torque very low down in the rev range.

The 2.0-litre twin-turbo common rail diesel engine has a power output of 170 horsepower at 4000 rpm and 266 lb /ft of torque from 1500 rpm. This is a similar engine to the one you will find in the BMW 1-Series 120d, only refined for a smaller more sports-orientated car. Power is sent to the front wheels by a six-speed manual gearbox and the car will accelerate from 0 - 62 mph in 7.2 seconds; that's 0.3 seconds quicker than a manual Volkswagen Golf GTD (7.5 seconds) and exactly the same as an Audi A3 1.8 TFSI.

So make no mistake, the Mini Cooper SD is a hot hatch.

It drives like one too. The SD weighs 1150kg (just 10kg more than the S) and so it is just as fun to throw into corners. Accelerate to 50mph and change down into second gear for a tight corner, accelerate out, and you're greeted with a proper thump in the back by the car's 266 lb /ft. The engine likes to rev - less so than the S's, of course - but it holds its own to 4000rpm at which point you need to change up to keep the engine in its sweet spot. Unlike the power deliveries that have plagued some diesel-powered hot hatches in the past, though, the SD's is as close to involving as a petrol as you can get in 2014.

Overall

The Mini Cooper S is a brilliant hot hatch with the flexibility and raw sound you would expect from a petrol-powered four-pot. The SD, meanwhile, can't match the S's flexibility or noise, but it does match in-gear performance and pulls just as well on the motorway in sixth gear up to 80 mph.

Ultimately, which car is best for you comes down to your mileage. The SD is the more economical machine here today, with a CO2 rating of 106 g/km (3-door manual) and combined fuel economy of 68.9 mpg - running costs that would shame a four-year old Golf Bluemotion. Its petrol-powered counterpart can only manage 49.6 mpg with a CO2 rating of 133 g/km, so if you're a company car buyer, the choice is obvious - SD for you. But if you're a private buyer and do less than 15,000 miles per year, the Mini Cooper S should be your first choice; both cars are similarly matched for performance in the real-world, but the petrol S is going to offer more thrills when you find a stunning country road.

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