MINI BECOMES BIT OF A MAXI
NEVER warmed to the Mini Countryman and can't nail the reason why.
Perhaps it's too big for a Mini, too puffed up, plain ugly.
Whatever, it’s not on our wishlist but drive it we did recently: the Cooper S auto front wheel drive version with a few options.
It comes in at $45 grand plus on roads, which is a fair old ask for a small SUV-style vehicle, albeit pitched by Mini as a ‘premium’ model.
They revised Countryman earlier this year with the test vehicle gaining more kit and a more powerful 1.6-litre petrol turbo four cylinder. It’s the very excellent PSA/BMW engine in this case with 140kW/240Nm hooked up to the front wheels via a six speed conventional auto transmission.
In this guise, the Countryman is capable of sipping premium unleaded at a claimed 7.8-litres/100km. The diesel Countryman gets down to nearly half that.
So, they gave Countryman more performance this time around, more refinement, more tech and more spec.
The model tested scores a decent navigation system, 6.5-inch info screen, an upholstery upgrade to leather, better interior fascia materials, round LED daytime driving lights and heated exterior mirrors.
There’s a lot more too, including the impressive optional service offer for 70,000km that costs only $850 and a three year unlimited kilometre warranty.
It’s a five door, fiveseater wagon with rear tailgate and reasonable luggage space.
Style-wise, they pushed a Mini out in all directions to make Countryman and it looks a bit like a fish at the front. That’s offset by some deft add-ons like roof rails and the green colour is a stand out.
The inside is excellent in every way; looks, style and function.
A Sport button sharpens up the driving reflexes but fails to make an impact on troublesome torque steer effect that kicks the front wheels off line under hard acceleration; especially over bumps.
But with all that power in a smallish vehicle, the Countryman gets moving rapidly, with the slick auto box aiding and abetting.
Sounds good too, blatting away through a twin outlet exhaust.
The ride is a good compromise with plenty of feel through the wheel and the ability to smooth out rough roads without jiggling too much. On the freeway the Countryman whizzes along at the limit with no stress.
Verdict: Yep, our opinion is validated here. The new five-door hatch with a threecylinder petrol 1.5 is a better proposition at less money. But, current Mini owners generally like the Countryman, especially those with families. Goes to show.
Mini's Cooper S Countryman drives, looks and sounds good.