Ask what your Coun­try can do for you BOX, BOX, BOX! Mini eas­ily dealt with af­ter­math of fur­nish­ing a new house from scratch

En­right gets paired with a car he’d love to hate

Wheels (Australia) - - Our Garage - ANDY EN­RIGHT

A LIT­TLE of what you don’t fancy does you good. At least, that’s my take on the Mini Coun­try­man that’s now sit­ting in my garage. Let’s not mince words here. It’s a vis­ually chal­lenged thing, isn’t it? The ex­te­rior took a cou­ple of weeks to get used to but the in­te­rior, well, it’s brown. Ex­trav­a­gantly, over­whelm­ingly slurry pit brown. I tried to find the up­sides as I was handed the keys to a car that would be my daily for the next three months, but couldn’t look be­yond that brown in­te­rior. And yet, af­ter a month with the car, I find my­self rather mad­den­ingly lik­ing it. Call it automotive Stock­holm Syn­drome.

On the face of it, the Cooper SD All4 Coun­try­man ought to ap­peal. It has a zingy 140kw diesel that gen­er­ates 400Nm and can punt the big-boned BMW X1 in a fancy dress to 100km/h in 7.4 sec­onds. It’s eco­nom­i­cal, it’s prac­ti­cal, the all-wheel drive will be good for trips to the snow, and there are a whole host of elec­tronic gew­gaws to play with. The first thing I clearly have yet to master are its in­di­ca­tors. I can see what Mini has tried to do here. Tap for a three-blink lane change or fully press the stalk to keep it on. Trou­ble is, the dis­tance be­tween the two set­tings seems to be about a mi­cron, and chang­ing lanes won’t can­cel it. This cre­ates a ham-fisted dis­play of left, right, left, right, and a sub­se­quent bar­rage of swear­ing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix, Mini.

The ride qual­ity is firmer than it re­ally needs to be, but the flip­side of this is that it’s a hoot to hus­tle about. Un­der­steer is well tele­graphed and a sharp lift of the throt­tle sends the back swing­ing round just enough to feel en­gag­ing. The sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem is smart/slow enough to re­alise that you’re counter-steer­ing and lets you play along which, when you think about it, is quite re­mark­able for a diesel demi-suv.

I’ve been de­ter­mined to test its off-road chops, which has thus far in­volved driv­ing straight up the wall-like hillside at the end of my road, bounc­ing over the top and re-join­ing

the black­top. It’s a heck of a short­cut, but I’m go­ing to cur­tail it be­fore I’m re­ported by res­i­dents for bring­ing down the tone of the neigh­bour­hood. It’s just good to spray a bit of mud up the side of the Coun­try­man to make it look a lit­tle less mil­que­toast/sub­ur­ban.

To the Mini’s list price of $51,500, this one’s sad­dled with $1900 worth of Ch­ester Leather up­hol­stery, a $600 Bri­tish Oak il­lu­mi­nated dash­board fas­cia, a $200 leather steer­ing wheel, a $300 lug­gage com­part­ment net, and the $2400 Mul­ti­me­dia Pro pack­age, which adds a nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem with 8.8inch mon­i­tor, a head-up dis­play, and a 12-speaker Har­man Kar­don stereo. That lot tots its price up to $56,900, which would eas­ily net you Wheels’ cur­rent Car of the Year, a Mazda CX-9 in AWD Tour­ing trim. That’s quite a ve­hi­cle, so you’ve re­ally got to buy into Mini’s spe­cial sauce if you’re to see value in the Coun­try­man.

Still, de­spite ini­tial mi­nor griev­ances, the Coun­try­man’s ir­re­press­ible per­son­al­ity is win­ning me over. I can han­dle its quirks such as hav­ing ex­pen­sive leather up­hol­stery with no seat heat­ing. I can put up with the hare­brained in­di­ca­tors and iras­ci­ble ride qual­ity. The brown in­te­rior? That might take a bit longer.

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