FOR the sporty-minded buying a five-door diesel hatch used to be a bit of a let-down.
But these days there is the MINI Cooper SD.
This is one of the brightest stars in the small car market and although it is BMW engineering through and through there are enough icons of the old BMC Mini on board to make those lucky enough to have lived in the Mini's golden era to make you imagine that you are roaring down a deserted 1960s leafy Memory Lane with not a care in the world.
The Cooper SD, especially in the five door variant, is close on the ideal when it comes to a combination of power and practicality.
Even if it is slightly slower than the petrol variant, the SD is no pretender to sporty performance because its stats speak volumes Its zero to 62mph sprint of 7.4 seconds is enough to satisfy the most demanding of modern hatchback drivers.
There's more torque, and economy on the combined cycle is 68.9mpg with miserly CO2 emissions of 109 g/km.
OK, there is more of a diesel growl than the crackle and pop of the petrol exhaust note but there is some sprightly handling when you use the sports set up on the active menu.
First class grip and light positive steering make this car something of an addictive drive.
On the practical front there is 72mm more space between front and rear wheels, and there is a surprising amount of room in the rear seats for two although it will take three at a push.
The engine is a new generation 2.0-litre with 143bhp on tap and is a major factor in the Cooper S range.
It has to be because the manufacturer cannot be seen to be dumbing down the iconic reputation of the traditional Cooper S which consistently been feted as the ultimate performanceMini, having won the Monte Carlo rally three times and countless other races and rallies around the globe.
Not only is it the most performance-oriented dieselMINI, theSDfeatures the largest displacement power unit ever to grace the engine compartment of MINImodel in the marque's 52 year history.
It features an all-aluminium crankcase to keep weight down while a special and very powerful turbocharger with variable intake geometry is controlled by the engine management system to deliver mighty thrust at all engine speeds.
The common-rail direct injection system features solenoid valve injectors in the centre of the cylinder head that inject each precise dose of fuel at a pressure of up to 1,600 bar.
But this parsimonious technology is only the beginning because the MINICooperSDmodels are equipped with the full panoply of technology to eke ever more miles from every litre of diesel.
This car featured brake energy generation, auto start/stop, shift point display, electric power steering and demand-based ancillaries such as the alternator.
It was also fitted with the MINI Sport pack which includes JohnCooperWorksdoorentry strips while the driver grips a tactile JCW black sports leather steering wheel with contrasting red stitching.