‘Blue Monday’ it’s called, but this year Mini managed to bring on some sparkle and cheer to the most depressing day of the year with the UK Media launch of the exciting New Mini Countryman.
Jonathan Humphrey went on a rather dull January day to a large country house in Buckinghamshire to drive the New Mini Cooper S All4 Countryman.
After today I wonder if all the previous iterations of Mini in all shapes and sizes has just been a practice for this King of Minis. If ‘top-trumps’ were for real, this car would instantly be in my set A crossover with all the pizzazz, style and fun as expected from Mini is now available in a brilliant more versatile SUV styled creation.
Okay, let’s just forget about Mini meaning small, it has now become a German automotive word; it now means a portfolio of well built, successful cars of various sizes – that just happened to be a lot smaller once upon a time.
On first presentation the sheer size of this new Mini is a surprise then, you just think why not, then you start to look closer. The extra height and the bolder attractive ‘county’ look, I particularly liked the shapes created on the front and rear haunches and the wider arches.
And of course, the glamorously executed exterior then takes you to the exciting new interior. It has the feeling of entering a trendy nightclub or bar, subtle lighting, coloured neon style lights, they all combine to make this a spectacular visual experience, it’s just offers more to look at than most cars, at night it is a treat.
Mini interiors seem only to get better. I must admit I was never a huge fan of the first edition, the more retro styled models, back when BMW first started on this journey. However this combination of contemporary finishes, soft touch materials, cool infographics, subtle illumination – is just more illuminating.
This is a full five seater MINI, an SUV with versatility and sensible luggage space, being now 20cm longer it also now results in increased leg room, front and back. Minis have always been one of those cars I could never quite get settled in. The new Countryman is now so capacious it’s more comfortable than ever. With the infinitely adjustable heated front seats and extra headroom, I am sure it would easily accommodate over six-foot individuals without rubbing shoulders.
At the launch, we got the chance to drive the car on and off the road, initially on a seriously muddy trail. Off-road the car was surprisingly good on the very slippery route and the Countryman would prove stylishly ideal for getting out of the car park at any country event, Carfest or Goodwood, this summer.
So what’s it like on the road? The larger five-door Mini has always been a more than an acceptable driver. The extra height in the new Countryman and the slightly higher command driving position make it even better. On the local roads, on the motorway, fast A-roads and the back lanes around Taplow. The 192 hp ALL4 Version of the Countryman is equipped with a newly optimised all-wheel drive system, overall, as on any of the 5-door models with a longer wheel base, the ride is surprisingly refined.
I particularly enjoyed the 8-speed Steptronic transmission in the ALL4 and that would be my choice. Acceleration was pretty brisk for a crossover with a 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and a top-speed of 138mph. Perhaps it has lost some of the go-kart Mini feel, but you wouldn’t buy this car for that anyway. The combined fuel consumption comes in at 44.1 mpg with emissions of 146gkm CO2.
As with all Minis, options can get expensive, but now Mini offers more standard equipment than ever before; this includes the Mini satellite navigation system, Bluetooth, cruise control and other safety systems. The attractive Pepper, Chilli or Sport packs are the must haves to customise and make it ‘your Mini’.
Oh, I nearly forgot there have been some other useful features added to the Countryman. These include a ‘hands-free’ electric tailgate, the type which works by waving your foot under the bumper and a rather clever fold-down picnic bench which easily unfurls from under the boot floor; it allows you to sit in the hatchback of the car for a short pit-stop or to put on your ‘Hunters’.
This new exciting addition to the range is available now, with the first deliveries on the 11th February. Somehow, I don’t see this one becoming a hard sell for the German company, immediately I am a fan and would be converted. Some additional exciting news for MINI is the announcement of their first ever plug-in hybrid model, the Countryman SE it will be joining the range in June and if extra performance is needed the JCW model is on the way.
Car reviewed: MINI Cooper S COUNTRYMAN ALL4 Automatic – On the road £28,025, price as tested TBC 0-62mph 7.2 secs Top speed 138mph Fuel Economy combined 44.1mpg CO2 emissions 150-146g/km Engine 1998cc 4-cylinder in-line Petrol Max Power 192hp@13500-4600rpm Torque 280Nm@1350-4600rpm Transmission 8-speed Auto
The MINI Look in a big, bold package
Comfortable and roomy
Mini - fun, fun, fun
Can be pricey
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