MINI BE­COMES BIT OF A MAXI

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Drive Way - Peter Barn­well

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.

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