2018 Mini Cooper Countryman All4

Big Mini makes you smile



  • 박재승 (james@koreatimes.net) --
  • 19 Apr 2018

By James Park


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   It would probably be safe to say a Pug is not the most representative of canine pulchritude. Even an owner of one would readily nod in agreement with this fairly objective observation.

 

   Still, a Pug is one of the most popular breed of dogs because of its teasing playfulness, laid-back attitude, eagerness to please and that smile-inducing Rodney-Dangerfield-like charm.

   Similarly, no one would drool after a Mini like one might for a Lamborghini Miura or even a 63 Corvette Stingray. But a Mini still has heaps of appeal thanks to its charmingly pugnacious (couldn’t resist) demeanour, go-kart like agility and enough power to run with the big dogs.

   Of course, the original Mini Cooper is a tiny thing four average-size persons can carry around for fun. Today’s BMW-owned Mini keeps getting bigger to keep pace with the ever increasing butt-size of an average North American customer.

   Such state of affairs, dovetailing with the inexplicable fascination with utility vehicles, has led to the inevitable introduction of the somewhat oxymoronic Mini Countryman – the biggest Mini one can buy.

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   Yes, the simple fact of Countryman’s existence may cause some automobile enthusiasts to foam at the mouths. This will not keep BMW from selling as many units to keep up with the demand. It is what it is.

   The Countryman is a nifty little vehicle and one of the first to jump into the increasingly popular sub-compact utility segment. This market is getting more crowded with such players as the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, Ford Ecosport, Hyundai Kona, etc. jumping in.

   These diminutive utilities arguably fit nicely into the urban environment where roads are narrower and parking spaces smaller. In Canada, most of these vehicles also come with either standard or optional AWD, which helps to ease the minds of consumers during long winter and inclement weather.

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   Among the segment leaders, the Countryman stands out with distinctive styling and premium feel. Having gone through a small face-lift, the new model looks more mature and less bug-eyed. It also has grown a little longer to give more legroom to rear passengers.

   Even as the biggest Mini, the Countryman still fits in nicely with the smaller crowd within the segment. It is relatively nimble, powerful and shows poise at the handling limits.

   The Countryman comes in three gasoline flavours. A plug-in hybrid model is also available. The Cooper S and Cooper JCW (John Cooper Works) both utilize turbocharged two-litre four cylinders developing 189 and 228 horsepower, respectively. The base Cooper model gets the 1.5 litre THREE cylinder turbo motor good for competitive 134 horses and healthy 162 lb-ft of twist.

   Personally, the turbo three seems to be adequate. Cooper S has more than enough power and the JCW is bit of an over-kill.

   A three-cylinder automobile engine is still a rarity at this time, but more and more manufacturers are looking to downsize their engines in efforts to improve fuel economy.

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   The Cooper Countryman test-vehicle with eight-speed automatic transmission and AWD weighs in at around 1,610 kg (3,530 lb), which does not put too much strain on the engine. Not unlike the Triumph’s three-cylinder motorcycles, the Cooper Countryman emits throaty burble that is not unpleasing to the ears. 

   The car scoots off the line with gusto, especially in Sport. Even in Mid (normal) mode, the car does not seem to lack usable power. A nod to the tree-huggers, Eco mode should be mostly left alone.

   Not so agreeable is the eight-speed tranny. It up-shifts quite eagerly to save fuel, but shows bit of hesitancy when down-shifting. The shifter has manual mode but no paddle-shifters to make things a little easier.

   The Cooper Countryman’s official 0 to 100 kph time of almost ten seconds is not impressive. But in the driver’s seat, it feels faster than that.

   The car shines even more in the handling department. The big Mini has lost some of its agility compared to the model it replaces, but it still is a nimble vehicle. The suspension setup strikes a nice balance between comfortable ride and controlled body-roll through fast corners. Perhaps on the firm side, but it is never jarring.

   The AWD system ordinarily sends torque to the front wheels. The car doesn’t really need the added weight of the AWD but for the manufacturers, it is hard to ignore customer demand – right or wrong.

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Just because it is owned by BMW, Mini wants to be considered a premium brand. The base Cooper, minus taxes and other relevant fees, starts from under 30,000 dollars. This is bit misleading because one probably would feel the need to order a bunch of extra-cost option packages.

   The test-vehicle starts from $29,290 but adding six different packages, as well as stand-alone options as 18-inch alloys, Harman-Kardon audio, special paint and stripes and what-not push the price count up to $40,180. One can probably acquire a satisfactorily equipped car for somewhere in the mid-thirties.

   All in all, though, the Cooper Countryman is a relatively powerful and practical urban utility vehicle that is fun to drive and stands out with funky styling. It deserves a closer look. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)

 

2018 Mini Cooper Countryman All 4

Price: $29,290

As tested: $40,180

Engine: 1.5 litre turbo three

Power: 134 hp/162 lb-ft

Transmission: 8 spd auto

Drive: AWD

Fuel: 10.3 litres per 100km (city), 7.9 litres (highway)

Best: distinct design, engine sound

Worst: value, could be more fuel efficient

Competition: Mazda CX-3, Fiat 500X, Hyundai Kona

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