MORE MAXI, LESS MINI

The new Coun­try­man has grown, but it’s also more ex­pen­sive. Can it jus­tify this growth spurt?

Car (South Africa) - - DRIVE - MINI COUN­TRY­MAN COOPER S ALL4 STEPTRONIC PRICE: ETA:

THEY grow up so quickly, don’t they? One day, they’re small, three-door hatch­backs, real hand­fuls, full of zip and zest … and next thing, they’re all grown up with five-doors, raised ride heights and all-wheel drive.

The prob­lem with grow­ing up is that it’s not al­ways a good thing. The jour­ney into adult­hood is of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by the slow shrink­ing of that play­ful in­ner­child per­sona re­spon­si­ble for much of the ir­rev­er­ence and freespir­ited fun we en­joy as adults.

The Mini is the per­fect case in point. While the cur­rent hatch is un­doubt­edly a more re­fined and so­phis­ti­cated ve­hi­cle than the tear-about that was the first gen­er­a­tion new Mini, much of those ini­tial point-and-squirt, go-kart-like qual­i­ties have been dis­carded. Yes, the 2017 Mini hatch is a bet­ter car, but it won’t make you smile like the 2001 ver­sion did.

The up­side of a grow­ing ma­tu­rity, on the other hand, is an abil­ity to deal with life’s com­plex­i­ties and ac­com­mo­date the chal­lenges and bag­gage that adult­hood serves up. And by that I mean ac­tual bag­gage. When you’re big and have a fam­ily of your own, you need a car with space to fit all the kit with which th­ese small hu­mans come. And that’s some­thing the first Coun­try­man of­fered over its sib­lings when it was launched in 2010.

A pop­u­lar seller – 550 000 were sold around the world – the first-gen­er­a­tion Coun­try­man wasn’t with­out its faults, though. Its per­ceived build qual­ity didn’t quite jus­tify the pre­mium price tag, and spec lev­els were un­der­whelm­ing given said ask­ing price. Does this new-gen­er­a­tion Coun­try­man, then, of­fer qual­i­ties more bal­anced and, dare I say, adult in its of­fer­ing?

Well, it’s cer­tainly more grownup. The new model is 200 mm

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