Mini’s no miser

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - USED CAR -

NEW

THE new-age BMW-bred Mini ar­rived at the peak of the retro­car fad, when mak­ers were look­ing to the past for in­spi­ra­tion. VW reprised the Bee­tle, Chrysler cre­ated the PT Cruiser and Prowler hot rod, and BMW built a Mini.

All were pop­u­lar for a time but only Mini seemed to snare the en­dur­ing imag­i­na­tion of buy­ers. BMW has built Mini with suf­fi­cient vari­ants to broaden its ap­peal from a cute, sim­ple small hatch.

Park a clas­sic Mini along­side a new-age ex­am­ple and you see a world of dif­fer­ence. How­ever, BMW cap­tured the look and feel of the orig­i­nal bet­ter than the other mak­ers.

The four-door Coun­try­man wagon, launched in 2011, promised buy­ers the nos­tal­gic Mini look in a much more prac­ti­cal mod­ern pack­age.

Built in Aus­tria, it was a longer wheel­base vari­ant with a higher ride height and enough cabin space for four.

Build­ing from that ba­sic theme, the Coun­try­man range added nu­mer­ous op­tions to tempt a broad range of buy­ers.

The petrol en­gines, 1.6-litre fours, came in nat­u­rally as­pi­rated and turbo form. There were two turbo diesel op­tions, a 1.6 and a 2.0-litre. There were also front and all-wheel drive ver­sions, the lat­ter best suited to loose sur­faces and snow.

As with the orig­i­nal, BMW’s Mini was nippy on the road and great fun if you were so in­clined.

The base 1.6-litre was a rel­a­tively mod­est per­former, with the turbo adding zip. The diesels pre­sented an at­trac­tive blend of meaty torque and miserly fuel con­sump­tion.

NOW

Buy­ing a BMW-built car re­quires a huge leap of faith. They have a mas­sive show­room ap­peal and come with the prom­ise of a thrilling drive ex­pe­ri­ence but long-term they can be ex­pen­sive.

As the kilo­me­tres climb, look for oil leaks around the en­gine. Tim­ing cov­ers, rocker cov­ers and oil fil­ter hous­ings tend to leak over time.

Look also for coolant leaks, as the plas­tic com­po­nents in the cool­ing sys­tem tend to break down long term. An­cil­lary drive belt pul­leys can cause trou­ble even­tu­ally.

There are re­ports of prob­lems with turbo tim­ing chains, so lis­ten in­tently when driv­ing a turbo be­fore pur­chase. If you think you hear a rat­tle from the en­gine in­ves­ti­gate more closely, or walk away.

Try to test-drive from cold if pos­si­ble as the rat­tle is usu­ally heard more read­ily be­fore the en­gine warms up. It’s worth the ef­fort — should the chain jump, the da­m­age will be se­vere, as will the cost of re­pairs..

The Coun­try­man was re­called in 2012 for a faulty coolant pump for the tur­bocharger on the petrol vari­ant. The worst-case sce­nario is the tur­bocharger could over­heat, caus­ing a fire.

An­other re­call in 2013 re­lated to the diesels and checked on mois­ture get­ting into the con­nec­tors for the elec­tric power steer­ing, also a fire risk.

Check with a Mini dealer to en­sure the re­call work has been car­ried-out.

OWN­ERS SAY

Barry Dob­son I’ve had a se­ries of is­sues with my Cooper S Coun­try­man ALL4. First, the clutch was faulty from day one and seems it needs to be re­placed reg­u­larly. Next it sud­denly de­cel­er­ated three times on the high­way and had to be towed home. There have been nu­mer­ous elec­tri­cal prob­lems and the air­con­di­tioner leaked all over the floor. Alice Pool My Mini has done 60,000km and I love the way it drives but I’m not so happy with the cost of run­ning it. I’ve had to re­place one set of tyres and I’m now about the re­place the sec­ond set. I’ve also had to re­place the wa­ter pump. Rick Allen I’ve en­joyed driv­ing my Mini but not the cost of the re­pairs I’ve had to make, in par­tic­u­lar on the electrics. It is also leak­ing and burn­ing oil. Not for me an­other Mini. Robert Billings I felt like a celebrity af­ter buy­ing my Mini, kids would run up and hug it, but be­yond its un­de­ni­able cute­ness it’s a money-eat­ing ma­chine. Elec­tri­cal is­sues, oil is­sues among myr­iad oth­ers. Not happy.

SMITHY SAYS

Looks cute, drives great. Longterm own­er­ship is ques­tion­able. Nice car but con­cerns over DSG war­rant a cau­tious ap­proach.

Pay $13,500-$34,000

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