Climb every mountain, very slowly

Price: £11,390
Acceleration: 0-62mph 13.8sec
Maximum speed: 103mph
Average fuel consumption: 58.9mpg
Insurance group: 4E

When the sun is this hot, thoughts automatically turn to the beach. But instead of the obvious UK hotspots, such as the crowded resorts of Brighton and Bournemouth, it's worth checking out the Norfolk coast, which boasts some beautiful, clean and not-so-busy beaches, and the waterways of the Broads.

That's where I headed for a weekend to test-drive the latest Mini - the Mini One Diesel. I stayed in the picturesque market town of Burnham Market, a perfect base for exploring both beaches and Broads.

First the car: although there have been few causes for complaint since the new Mini came on the market, the one thing missing until now was a diesel engine. The petrol-engined versions have proved extremely popular, with more than 60,000 sold since the relaunch two years ago; and the Mini One D is also likely to be a roaring success.

Well, it won't be roaring at all, which is rather unusual for a diesel engine. Diesels are renowned for their fuel economy, but too often at the expense of dirt and noise. Yet while the Mini D is definitely easy on the wallet - doing nearly 60 miles to the gallon - emissions are low and it's as quiet as a dormouse. You could be forgiven for forgetting you are driving a diesel at all.

Yet while the Mini D has the same excellent road handling and steering as the petrol versions, it's not a happy climber, as it doesn't pack a punchy turbo-diesel engine. Driving around town and on the flat presents no problem for the 1.4-litre power unit. But attempt a steep hill and you will be forced to drop down through the six-speed manual gearbox to first gear far quicker than you might expect. That's why the flatlands of Norfolk are the perfect destination for the Mini D.

Cromer, famous for its crab, is a coastal delight, but in my view the best bit of Norfolk is the Broads, more than 200 miles of inland waterways. Our Mississippi paddle steamer was perfect for lying back and admiring the view of the windmills and thatched cottages that line the banks. We waved at fellow water-goers and sipped non-alcoholic cocktails (there was the Mini to drive back to the hotel, after all) - it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

While the Mini D has the same quality feel and finish as the petrol versions, there's no escaping the fact that the German manufacturer picked the slowest, least exciting model into which to put the Toyota - as opposed to a BMW - diesel engine. A Mini Cooper or Cooper S diesel would have given some real kick; the Mini One is a little tame for my tastes.

I had to think twice before overtaking tractors on the winding country roads; I didn't feel confident that it had enough power to get us past before another vehicle came roaring round the bend.

Drivers looking for performance will stick with the Cooper or Cooper S. But those who want a decent small diesel could do far worse than opt for the Mini D. Just point it in the direction of the beach and drive.

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