MINI Cooper D
The plan was to drive from Melbourne to Sydney for the MINI AUnited event, and to test MINI's claim of being able to do the trip on one tank of fuel - about 40lt - in the new-to-Australia Mini Cooper D (D for diesel).
I had driven a Cooper D in the UK when I was there in 2007, so had some idea what to expect. Then, I drove from Perth, in Scotland, to Maidenhead on the outskirts of London on a single tank of fuel.
On that trip, I spent nearly an hour stuck in peak traffic in Edinburgh, then drove through the Border Country and along Hadrian's Wall, before returning to the M6 and heading south, with a short detour to Padiham to visit a Mini business.
So, I thought Melbourne to Sydney would be a snap. I decided, though, that this would not be a case of pootling along at 80kmh to try and stretch the economy, but would be a real-world test, like the drive in the UK. Let's face it, when driving from Melbourne to Sydney, or between any of the capital cities, chances are most people will want to get there as quickly as possible.
So, I cruised on the speed limit at all times, with the cruise-control set for most of the trip. I must admit, though, that I find this type of driving extremely boring in any car.
Thankfully the Cooper D had a decent stereo to pump out my favourite tunes at a volume to drown out my own singing (yet another reason I usually travel by myself), and enough gadgets to keep me entertained. The trip computer helped keep my brain active - making calculations in my head and then checking if they were correct further down the road.
Some of the gadgets are more useful than others. There is a display to tell you when to change gear, to maintain the best fuel economy. Anyone who can drive a manual should (but often doesn't) know which gear to be in at any time, but I did find it useful from time to time - even if only to remind me that there were in fact six gears available.
A lot of effort has gone into making the Cooper D as fuel-efficient as possible. To this end is the auto stop-start feature. Basically, when you stop at lights, with the car in neutral and foot off the clutch, the engine automatically switches off. As soon as you depress the clutch to change into first gear, the engine starts up and away you go.
This takes a little getting used to, particularly as stalling the car is such an unnatural thing to do and usually considered a mistake, but it soon becomes second nature. Don't worry though, there is no delay in getting off at the lights. By the time you have selected first gear, the car is running and away you go.
Another handy feature to help save fuel, that goes on un-noticed, is regenerative braking. This means that energy normally lost while braking is redirected as electricity to help keep the battery topped up.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 20 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>28</plumshop> <plumshop>27</plumshop>