Drive Mini Cooper Countryman Review

13 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Drive Mini Cooper Countryman Review отключены
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Looks cooler than your average compact SUV

Roomier and more practical than a regular Mini

Well-sorted ride and handling


High-end price

Unremarkable equipment level

Sluggish performance

Not especially roomy or practical

No spare tyre

Slick marketing means we all know what Mini stands for — fun, cheeky small cars and nothing else. So what, then, to make of the Countryman?

It is like no Mini before it. Not only is it considerably bigger than the regular Cooper hatch that has underpinned the brand since 2001, it is reaching all the way into compact soft-roader territory with a practical five-door body and all-wheel-drive availability.

It certainly looks like a Mini, albeit a puffed-up one. How does the rest of the package stand up?

Price and equipment

There are turbocharged petrol and diesel models but we tested the base Cooper, which kicks off from $37,700 plus on-road and dealer costs, or $40,050 in auto form.

That’s not cheap compared with other two-wheel-drive compact soft-roaders, and the standard serve of airconditioning, cruise control, trip computer, leather-clad multi-function steering wheel and CD audio system with MP3 compatibility isn’t lavish.

For an extra $5400 there’s the Chilli version, which adds Harman Kardon premium sound, sports seats, 17-inch alloys and other gear. But you’ll still have to pay extra for Bluetooth, which heads a massive options chart that includes sat-nav, panoramic roof and countless colour and trim possibilities.

Safety is solid, with six airbags, stability control and a five-star NCAP rating, but you’ll also have to fork out if you want parking sensors.

Under the bonnet

Most compact soft-roaders are powered by 2.0-litre engines or even 2.5-litre engines but the base Countryman makes do with a 90kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol unit.

There’s nothing wrong with the engine, which is willing, flexible and smooth.

The six-speed auto we sampled also does a good job of keeping the engine on the boil.

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However, it just doesn’t have the herbs for the job and you really need to work it hard in all but the most relaxed urban driving. In hilly, open-road going it is a slug; you can floor it but the soaring revs and volume aren’t accompanied by a similar increase in response.

Manual versions register impressive official fuel use of 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres but the best we could do in our auto was 8.8 litres. Unlike costlier versions, the base model misses out on an auto start-stop function and other technology to reduce fuel use.

How it drives

The Countryman isn’t as sharp as a regular Mini but it is a good drive with responsive steering, a balanced feel and plenty of grip. The polished action of major controls including steering, throttle and brakes adds to the enjoyment.

The ride falls on the sporting side of the ledger. It can be a bit bouncy over really choppy tarmac and tyre noise can be intrusive but most of the time surface niggles are handled with a flair unknown to other Minis.

Being front-drive, the Cooper lacks the traction reserves of its more expensive all-wheel-drive siblings but the good handling and ride add up to a capable, enjoyable package on dirt.

It’s well suited to urban driving, too, though average rear vision and a surprisingly wide 11.6-metre turning circle occasionally make life difficult.

Comfort and practicality

With its big centre speedo, toggle switches and high-quality cabin ambience, the Countryman could only be a Mini.

That sense of occasion flows into the rear, where two bucket seats are split by a console rail that stretches the length of the cabin, allowing the fitment of various storage units. You can have a regular three-seat bench as a no-cost option if you prefer.

The fancy console isn’t quite as good to use as it is to look at. The storage bins are fiddly and foul the handbrake in some positions and there isn’t much in the way of other stash space.

Still, the Countryman is a lot more practical than a regular Mini. There’s …-friendly legroom in the back with the sliding rear seat set to its rearmost position. In that layout, the boot is a smallish 350 litres but you can get up to 450 litres by sacrificing legroom.

It’s still not as practical as most compact soft-roaders. The rear bench is low, hard and lacks the width for three occupants, while 1170 litres of luggage space with the split-fold back seats dropped isn’t amazing (a Subaru Forester manages 1600 litres). There’s no spare tyre, either; just a can of sealant and a compressor.

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