Mini Countryman

WITH tin-top, convertible and lifestyle estate variants, there's more choice than ever when embarking on a Mini adventure. How about a family-friendly option? It might have taken a few years but it's finally here, in the shape of the Countryman.

WITH tin-top, convertible and lifestyle estate variants, there's more choice than ever when embarking on a Mini adventure. How about a family-friendly option? It might have taken a few years but it's finally here, in the shape of the Countryman.

You'd have thought that the situation would be bordering on saturation point by now what with the second generation car having been launched back in 2001, but you, the critics and the industry watchers would be wrong. Mini easily sold out its first year's allocation of the Countryman.

How big a deal exactly is this Countryman, then? In simple terms it's the brand's first four-door model and is sufficiently larger than the three-door hatch we all know and love to be viewed as an alternative to a compact family car.

With its accommodating rear seats - another first for a Mini - the Countryman can be configured with a three seat split-fold rear bench or a surprisingly more practical two-seat arrangement. The latter proves easier to flip and fold and, predictably, affords rear seat occupants the ability to spread out a little. A secondary panel can be flipped down to create a flat boot floor for ease of loading and to hide personal items out of sight.


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Front seat occupants fare just as well. The Countryman's cabin offers two adults plenty of room, plus a raised driving position thanks to the car's positioning as a more of a crossover than a traditional hatchback.

And you've got to hand it to Mini, as its designers have stayed faithful to the basic shape that's become so familiar over the years. The Countryman looks beefier than its longer established cousins, and despite the car's chunky stance all the key visual features remain.

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One thing has changed, though. To complement the Countryman's obvious lifestyle leanings BMW has added all-wheel drive to selected models - a first for a Mini.

The range runs from the entry-level One with its 98bhp petrol motor to the Cooper and 122bhp and to the Cooper S with 184bhp - all from a 1.6-litre petrol engine. The One D and Cooper D diesel boast 98 and 112bhp respectively.

If fuel consumption is an overriding concern, Mini's new diesel motor should appeal. Now a BMW-sourced 1.6-litre turbo unit, the engine offers improved economy and emissions performance over the similar engines fitted to past generation cars. In front-wheel drive form CO2 is only 115g/km while the all-wheel drive system results in a modest bump to 129g/km. Economy is 64.2mpg and 57.6mpg respectively.

Some things never change, though. Whatever engine you choose, the Countryman delivers the usual Mini experience. Despite its size, the car is just as chuckable as the rest of the range. With accurate steering, a slick manual gearshift and a firm but compliant ride, the car should please keen drivers - only this time families won't feel excluded.

Fun to drive and likely to be fun to own, the Countryman's initial sales success is proof that there remains plenty of potential in the Mini franchise. - IAIN DOOLEY

MINI COUNTRYMAN COOPER D ALL4 - from �19,875 otr

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