Mini’s no miser
THE new-age BMW-bred Mini arrived at the peak of the retrocar fad, when makers were looking to the past for inspiration. VW reprised the Beetle, Chrysler created the PT Cruiser and Prowler hot rod, and BMW built a Mini.
All were popular for a time but only Mini seemed to snare the enduring imagination of buyers. BMW has built Mini with sufficient variants to broaden its appeal from a cute, simple small hatch.
Park a classic Mini alongside a new-age example and you see a world of difference. However, BMW captured the look and feel of the original better than the other makers.
The four-door Countryman wagon, launched in 2011, promised buyers the nostalgic Mini look in a much more practical modern package.
Built in Austria, it was a longer wheelbase variant with a higher ride height and enough cabin space for four.
Building from that basic theme, the Countryman range added numerous options to tempt a broad range of buyers.
The petrol engines, 1.6-litre fours, came in naturally aspirated and turbo form. There were two turbo diesel options, a 1.6 and a 2.0-litre. There were also front and all-wheel drive versions, the latter best suited to loose surfaces and snow.
As with the original, BMW’s Mini was nippy on the road and great fun if you were so inclined.
The base 1.6-litre was a relatively modest performer, with the turbo adding zip. The diesels presented an attractive blend of meaty torque and miserly fuel consumption.
Buying a BMW-built car requires a huge leap of faith. They have a massive showroom appeal and come with the promise of a thrilling drive experience but long-term they can be expensive.
As the kilometres climb, look for oil leaks around the engine. Timing covers, rocker covers and oil filter housings tend to leak over time.
Look also for coolant leaks, as the plastic components in the cooling system tend to break down long term. Ancillary drive belt pulleys can cause trouble eventually.
There are reports of problems with turbo timing chains, so listen intently when driving a turbo before purchase. If you think you hear a rattle from the engine investigate more closely, or walk away.
Try to test-drive from cold if possible as the rattle is usually heard more readily before the engine warms up. It’s worth the effort — should the chain jump, the damage will be severe, as will the cost of repairs..
The Countryman was recalled in 2012 for a faulty coolant pump for the turbocharger on the petrol variant. The worst-case scenario is the turbocharger could overheat, causing a fire.
Another recall in 2013 related to the diesels and checked on moisture getting into the connectors for the electric power steering, also a fire risk.
Check with a Mini dealer to ensure the recall work has been carried-out.
Barry Dobson I’ve had a series of issues with my Cooper S Countryman ALL4. First, the clutch was faulty from day one and seems it needs to be replaced regularly. Next it suddenly decelerated three times on the highway and had to be towed home. There have been numerous electrical problems and the airconditioner leaked all over the floor. Alice Pool My Mini has done 60,000km and I love the way it drives but I’m not so happy with the cost of running it. I’ve had to replace one set of tyres and I’m now about the replace the second set. I’ve also had to replace the water pump. Rick Allen I’ve enjoyed driving my Mini but not the cost of the repairs I’ve had to make, in particular on the electrics. It is also leaking and burning oil. Not for me another Mini. Robert Billings I felt like a celebrity after buying my Mini, kids would run up and hug it, but beyond its undeniable cuteness it’s a money-eating machine. Electrical issues, oil issues among myriad others. Not happy.
Looks cute, drives great. Longterm ownership is questionable. Nice car but concerns over DSG warrant a cautious approach.