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AFTER the first month with my MINI Cooper 1.5 five-door, apart from the colour, about the only thing I wasn’t so happy about was the drop in fuel economy. So far the gamble of swapping from diesel to petrol wasn’t working, as despite careful everyday driving I was struggling to get past 270 miles to a tank, or about 30mpg – about half of what I got with the bigger Clubman diesel.

So my goal this month was to try and break the 300-mile range ceiling and I’m pleased to say I succeeded. A trip to Suffolk for a meeting seemed the perfect test, with half a tank of unleaded left and a predicted 180-mile range. Could I make the 200-mile round trip without another visit to the petrol pumps with the MINI Cooper 1.5?

I drove the MINI normally. It’s so hard to stay sensible – even low speeds are a hoot! – although fuel-saving tactics such as short-shifting were used. The Cooper proved the perfect companion for this trip, with the mix of motorway and twisty, country A-roads.

Even if I drove more enthusiastically on the twisty country roads than I should, I still arrived with the range showing 100 miles. But the big test was if I could make it home again?

I was more careful on the way home, deploying the Green Mode for low-speed sections of the A-road route, with the retarded throttle setting and display encouraging me save those extra drops of unleaded. On the dual carriageway, I found the easiest way to stay smooth with this car was by deploying the cruise control. I ended up making it home with 302 miles covered or 34mpg and even with the fuel reserve showing, the range was saying I had another 26 miles left.

With over 3,000 miles on the clock now, it will be interesting to see if the economy improves as this engine loosens up more.

What a gem of an engine this Cooper has, its 1.5-litre Twinpower turbo petrol three-cylinder sounds sporty, is impressively smooth and has punchy performance that belies its size. It’s certainly made an impact on my wife, who, having now driven it, reckons its smoother and almost as quick as our Cooper S Countryman.

The change from autumn to full-on winter made me appreciate some of the Cooper’s kit such as those LED headlights (£820) that have so far lit up the darkest mornings and the built-in head-up display (£450), which not only show the speed in your eye line – if you have the navigation system on, it shows the directions too.

The cabin is also thankfully quick to heat up – although I do miss the Clubman’s heated seats. Those leather parts of the cloth seats can be very cold in the mornings!

Also, with all the road grime at this time of year, I’ve found myself using the front windscreen washers and wipers a lot and the jets seem to be set annoyingly low, usually equalling a smudgy screen! But these are minor faults, as every drive in this Cooper seems to put a smile on my face.

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