Friday, May 5, 2017

Bucket Seat: MINI Countryman Cooper S

A few weeks ago I attended the launch of the all new Mini Countryman, while the car did impress me during the launch, the real test is when you're behind the wheel of it for a week and over the past seven I got to do just that with the Cooper S variant. The Mini Countryman goes against the name of the company, while it looks like a Mini, drives like a Mini and is named a Mini, its not It's actually quite a big vehicle, in fact it's about the same size and your normal small SUV. While everything about the car still remains niche and quirky to appeal to the Mini driver, this happens to be one of the most practical Mini's yet.


While this is an all new model from the previous one, the exterior styling hasn't changed that much. It looks very similar to the old one but with a few tweaks to help you differentiate from the two. The front headlights on the new Countryman are more bolder and squared off and the rear lights have been slightly enlarged, similar to that of the Mini Hatch. There are bolder accents all around with the car being more buff than previously and the car being overall bigger, both in length and width, not to mention the ride height being increased ever so slightly. Like all Mini's, the car does look fantastic and does generate a lot of attention no matter how you spec it. There seems to be this unwritten love affair with pedestrian's and Mini's where I often find many just glaring at the car as I drive past. The interior of the car also hasn't changed that much but is notably more stylish with better quality materials and finishes, not to mention the new Mini Connect and iDrive system with touch sensitive jog shuttle controller, which is basically from BMW but more about that later.

The car exudes style and like every Mini out there, it can be created to suit any individual. There's tons of options, colour tones, decals, rims, stitching and other extras to make your Mini unique to you. The one I had, while looking pretty straight forward was spec'd pretty well if you ask me. Being the sporty derivative from the two engine options offered, it was kitted out in all black, with a dark grey rim but the interior was this lush white/ creme which I just loved but was scared shitless that I might stain with something or the other, fortunately I didn't. 


Seeing that the Countryman is quite large, comfort wasn't an issue at all with it, whether you're behind the wheel or a passenger, either in the front or back. There was ample room for four adults. The seats are great with the front passengers being offered the optional extra seating heating for those cold winter months. Ride quality is perfect, as per normal they've taken a leaf out of BMW's booklet with the perfect weight distribution, which helps the cars ride quality remain the same on almost any surface. Being an SUV the car did also offer plenty of storage room and came with the storage pack from Mini which gives you extra space below the boot floor as well as a mat to avoid scraping the bump when loading luggage or you could use it to sit on.  The new Countryman also offers roof racks now as well. 


With MINI opting for TwinPower Turbo engines across it's line, the Cooper S has the more powerful 2 liter, 4 cylinder option which is my favorite engine from the two for obvious reasons. Even though it's basically the same engine from the BMW 320i, it is tweaked for the Mini to provide optimal performance. The engine pushes out 141kW with a max torque of 280Nm and for city driving thats more than adequate. I just love the way they tune the exhaust on these Mini's though. It lets out that deep hum which just gets you excited every time you turn it on. It' makes you feel like a race driver. Speak of which, the Countryman does have a sport mode which essentially turns the car into a Go-Kart, a much bigger one but it's such a thrill to experience. It's hard for me to explain to people why I like driving Mini's, I always tell them there's only so much I can tell you in words before you experience it for yourself. 


While BMW did always share technology with Mini, the Countryman probably borrows a lot more now than usual. The car in terms of tech packs has almost everything the BMW offers in their cars which is great. The Mini iDrive interface is much more user friendly than before and offers a great deal of detail information with regards to the vehicle status. The Bluetooth Audio streaming is easy to connect and can be done now while the car is moving. Mini office allows you to view and read emails or messages that come through to your phone and can be accessed via the touch screen infotainment display. Like other Mini's the car did come with a heads-up display which rises from the dashboard, I always felt this was extremely cool but what I noticed in previous models with it, you had to look at it from a certain angle to view the info, now you can adjust the projection to your preference which is awesome!


A major put off from the Mini is always the price tag, people always seemed to be turned away when the price is mentioned but what they don't realise is while it is a Mini, one can't really compare it to other cars in the market purely because what it has to offer. There is no other car that would give you the same driver experience, nor the quality finishes that that this car has to offer, not to mention the extras. Show me a car in this segment that has a Harman Kardon sound system as an extra? While the car is quirky and fun, it also has a niche to it that people only realised once seated in it. The various options and specs you can change and style your Mini is endless and it's that uniqueness to create a car that is to your perfection is one of the key selling elements to the car. While this may sound unnecessary, people fail to realise that you sometimes you spend majority of your day in your car so why not get something you'll enjoy being in?


 2.0 litre, Twin Turbo 4 cylinder
 Gear Box
 8 speed automatic with paddle shift
 Top Speed
 9.6  seconds
 R 490,000*

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