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
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.