So you have been a loyal Mini Cooper driver for years, met the perfect life partner in Camps Bay and started a family. Time to change to more appropriate and dull transport then? Wrong, that is where the Mini Countryman comes in. Styling-wise it is pure Mini although it has traded some of the cute characteristics for more menacing looks – especially up font. “My” example is particularly tastefully decorated with black alloy wheels and the black roof contrasting with the ice-white body panels. This vehicle is not for shy people and draws a lot of attention. “Jealously makes you nasty” is very appropriate in this case as a local couple in Hermanus could not help muttering the words; “these rich Gautengers…” while walking past our parked Countryman in disgust.
Inside the Mini-themed styling continuous and gets a smile from every new occupant. In general the cabin is a very pleasant place to be, except that some of the switchgear on the centre console is hard to reach and locate when focusing on the road ahead. It is easy to find a comfortable driving position and the increased ride height aids all-round visibility. The Countryman adds a second row of seats that is more than the token gestures found in the Cooper. Rear leg and headroom is good although the boot space is limited at 184 litres. In my vehicle the second row consists of two individual seats with a sliding frame in between splitting the main cabin. This frame allows many aftermarket Mini accessories, like cup holders, to be fitted and moved around as needed. Although funky, this arrangement is a bit unpractical as it uses up a lot of space and limits the second row to two passengers only. The accessories also double as children’s toys as my little daughter has endless fun playing with the (unused) ashtray of all things!
The well-proven 1,6 turbopetrol unit delivering 135 kW and 240 Nm of torque is mated to a six-speed-automatic gearbox driving the front wheels only. Performance feels sporty although the automatic transmission would prefer cruising. Handling has always been Mini’s strong point and the Countryman does not disappoint in this area. Steering feedback is good, grip levels high and body roll kept to the minimum for the type of vehicle. The downside is a firm ride but totally acceptable given the other qualities.
Claimed fuel consumption is 8,9 litres/100 km but my unit returns closer to 10 litres/100 km at the moment. Combined with a small tank capacity of only 47 litres and an overactive low-fuel warning calibration, many owners will have to visit the fuel station before 400 km on a tank is reached.
Expect many interesting stories in the next 12 months as we figure out whether it is true that Mini drivers tend to get more out of life. As the company’s marketing slogan says: it is a Mini adventure!
Price: R 365 802
Engine: 1,6 litre, four, in-line, turbocharged
Power: 135 kW at 5 500 r/min
Torque: 240 Nm at 1 600 r/min
0 – 100 km/h: 8,7 s
Fuel consumption: 8,76 litres/100 km
We like: looks, good cabin space, handling, features
We don’t like: ergonomics, two rear seats only