Bruce Fraser jetted down to Durban to sample the all-new Mini Countryman, a car that improves upon the successes of its predecessor
What is this car all about?
The Countryman slots into one of those new categories that seem to be created just about every other day – this time the Sports Active Vehicle (SAV) segment. It is also, apparently, a Crossover! Compared to the outgoing model, the Countryman has spent a bit of time in the gym and is now noticably bigger in just about every area. It’s targetting buyers who have outgrown a hatch and want a bit of individualism in their wheels of choice.
What’s under the hood?
There is a new generation of engines and transmissions. The Cooper comes mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic while the Cooper S is available with an eight-speed Steptronic. The 1499cc powerplant (Cooper) is good for 100kW and 220Nm while the 1998cc mill (Cooper S) pushes out 141kW and 280Nm. A new JCW version will be available in June; a diesel model in the third quarter of this year. A plug-in hybrid version will be launched in 2018.
Does is stand out from the crowd?
This new generation Countryman looks the part. Those bulked-up dimensions lend it more street cred while those uniquely Mini traits always gather admiring glances.
What’s noteworthy on the inside?
Step into the Countryman at night and you’ll notice more flashing lights than you’d find in a ’70s discotheque. The cabin offers various interior styles for your personalisation – from decorative door trims to kneepads and armrests. There are also a number features you can add so the vehicle is exactly as you want it.
Is it good to drive?
The Mini has certainly come a long way from those days where driving one would inevitably be compared to driving a go-kart. But although it’s now all grown-up it is still a blast to get behind the wheel of. Whether gunning it down the rural roads of KwaZulu-Natal or doing my best at a bit of drifting on some gravel sections, the Countryman – or any Mini for that matter – is guaranteed to put a smile on your dial. Oh, and it handles exceptionally well.
Who’s going to lose sleep about this car?
The Countryman comes up against some pretty stiff competition – the Volkswagen Tiguan, Audi Q2 and the stylish Mercedes-Benz GLA. An impressive lineup indeed! Mind you, for a left-field choice and a car that is guaranteed to keep you young at heart, the Countryman delivers. – Bruce Fraser
Fast Facts: Mini Cooper Countryman
Engine: 1499cc 3-cylinder petrol
Power: 100kW at 4400rpm
Torque: 220Nm at 1400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; 6-speed auto
0-100km/h: 9.6 seconds
Top speed: 200km/h
Fuel: 5.9l/100km (combined)
Price: R422 000 (manual); R440 000 (auto)
Fast Facts: Mini Cooper S Countryman
Engine: 1998cc 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 141kW at 5000rpm
Torque: 280Nm at 1350rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; 8-speed auto
0-100km/h: 7.5 seconds
Top speed: 224km/h
Fuel: 6.5l/100km (combined)
Price: R490 000 (manual); R509 500 (auto)