It's one of the most environmentally friendly cars you can buy. Keith Adams takes a trip to the Nürburgring to prove that being green doesn't mean you can't still have fun

The green motoring revolution has been gaining momentum – but social responsibility is all well and good, if it's as exciting as watching paint dry then it turns driving into a chore. And yet it doesn't need to be. To test the theory that you can't have fun while saving money and the planet, we've been issued a unique challenge – drive to the Nürburgring, do some hot laps and come home. Oh, and do it all for under £100.

The Nürburgring Nordschlieffe is the greatest toll road on earth – a 14-mile ribbon of tarmac that wends its way through the Eifel Mountains in Germany – offering a driving challenge that scares and exhilarates in equal measure. It's also only 260 miles from Dover.

We've decided that in order to meet the challenge, we need something small, diesel powered and fun in the twisties. The recently re-engineered Mini Cooper D fits the brief perfectly – it's designed to go well at the Nürburgring, as well as delivering an easy 50mpg in real life conditions (while putting out a saintly, and Toyota Prius-matching 104 g/km of CO2 emissions).

Recently revised, the Mini range now features an integrated stop/start system, which cuts the engine in standing traffic – ideal for the inevitable hold-ups on the way down to Dover. We couldn't lose.

We go for the hardcore option – buy an off-peak day-return on the Eurotunnel for £44, and aim to do a couple of laps of the 'Ring before heading home – a day trip to remember. We'll not be using special economy driving tactics on the way down – and once on track, our Mini will be tested to its limits. After all, you don't go to the 'Ring just to pootle and admire the scenery.

With a large chunk of our budget gone just getting across the channel, the need to put aside £22 for our two-lap 'Ring ticket, things start to look tight. As we disembark at Calais, tank brimmed, it would have been easy to slot into the long-striding sixth gear and waft along at 55mph. But that wasn't the spirit of the challenge...

Instead, we dial-in 75-80mph to match the traffic and head east. The impressive thing about the Cooper D is that although supposedly mini-sized, it's remarkably composed on the motorway. You rarely see more than 2,500rpm on the tacho, wind noise is well contained, the car is planted, and as the miles roll by, the supportive seats do their best to help fend off tiredness.

To keep the miles down, avoid the Autobahn – the Nürburgring is centrally located in one of Germany's most beautiful regions, and sticking to the three-lane blacktop means you see the Eifel Mountains at a distance but you don't actually experience them. Besides, we want to challenge our Cooper D, which so far, had stubbornly refused to use much in the way of fuel – the trip computer read-out remains reassuringly north of 60mpg. Into the hills and the Mini continues to win us over – the steering is so direct you feel hard-wired in, and as the corners get tighter your confidence actually grows. You point; steer; laugh...

The 60-mile odyssey into the mountains finishes all-too quickly – and we arrive at the Nürburgring gates alert, wired, and ready for more. Before we join the track, a quick £16.62 fill-up has us grinning – that's a seriously impressive 58.9mpg. And we've not exactly been hanging around.

On the track itself, the Cooper D acquits itself extremely well. We might be surrounded by some of the fastest cars money can buy driven by committed wheelmen, but in the corners – and there are plenty of them – it's assured, grippy and we're definitely holding our own. Being a diesel, it's best to stick in the higher gears and use torque rather than revs to pull you out of the exits, but once acclimatised to this, the speed soon comes. And before we know it, our two laps come to an end.

Rather than basking in the memory of our 11-minute-something lap, we're looking forward to the drive home. And as we head back we wonder just how much our fuel consumption will have been dented. It isn't until Calais four hours later that we find out. A quick splash '*' dash costs us £17.32 – and there's enough to get home and do a week's commuting. We did blow our budget though – by 9p.

The Mini Cooper D proved that you can have fun and go green – it sipped juice, was fun when it mattered, and played grown-up on the motorways. In fact, judged by this performance the future's bright, the future's green – and fun is on the agenda.

How we lapped the ring for £100











Ticket (2 laps)








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