Monday, December 11, 2017

MINI Countryman!!!

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Mini Cooper Countryman S JCW 4WD 
  • ENGINE: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 
  • TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic  
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 228 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm/258 lb.-ft. @ 1,450-4,500 rpm 
  • WHEELBASE: 105.1 in. 
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 169.8 x 71.7 x 61.3 in. 
  • TIRES: P225/50R18 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 17.6/47.6 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)
  • ECONOMY: 21 mpg test 
  • FUEL TANK: 9.5 gal. 
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,508 lbs. #/HP: 15.4 
  • TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended 
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape
  • STICKER: $26,600 (base) 
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Mini Countryman fits nicely in with the competition, offers good power, “go-kart” handling, and reasonable interior room.

            There was a time when Minis were truly mini, when a full-size adult would find it cramped. I still respect those brave souls who drove Minis in the Monte Carlo Rally.
            But Minis have grown of late, and the Countryman is touted as “the biggest, most adventurous MINI yet.” 
            I will attest to its size. While it’s no BMW 7-Series, the Countryman is a comfortable size with room up front for two adults and room in the rear for two more with minimal discomfort. There’s even a decent trunk, with an underfloor feature that’s just right if you don’t want your grocery bags spilling all over. 
            The Countryman stays faithful to the original concept of Alec Issigonis with the wheels shoved out to the corners of the car’s footprint. This creates minimal front and rear overhangs and contributes to the car’s legendary “go-kart” handling. Yes, the handling is sure-footed, but it’s also quite firm, much like a go-kart that has no suspension. The Countryman’s ride isn’t gut-wrenching, but it is firm.
            Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that puts out 228 horsepower in John Cooper Works trim. (Incidentally, the only JCW identification is a small badge at the bottom of the wheel. One would think they'd want to promote that more.) Acceleration is brisk, and the Countryman is capable of keeping up wth anything else on the road. Three engines are available for the Countryman, including a plug-in hybrid. Power reaches the wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. You can use either the paddles behind the wheel or the shifter itself when in manual mode, and the Countryman thrives on the use of the manual. 
            I like what they have done with the interior. While I haven’t driven a MINI in a couple of years, I have constantly carped about the poorly designed dash and instrument panel. Now, there’s a large round speedometer that sits in front of the driver with a small tachometer appended to the left. Bar graph lights serve as fuel and water gauges. An information panel is inset into the speedometer.
            A small heads up display pops up from the top of the dash - similar to that you’ll see on some Mazdas -  when you fire up the car. The HUD is much clearer, than the poorly marked analog speedometer. 
            There’s still a large round centrally mounted thing that houses the infotainment screen with the normal assortment of options. The round screen allows for more buttons to be added to the central area. HVAC controls are located below this screen with three knobs to control the two zones.
            Below the HVAC controls are toggle switches to control additional functions, with a unique start/stop paddle in the center. All are “protected” by “roll bars” to avoid second-collision injuries. Aft of the shifter is a master control knob that works the audio and other infotainment functions. 
            A pair of cupholders is located too close to the center stack to obviate the use of tall cups or glasses. The doors have room in them for taller cups, though.
            Interior storage consists of a small arm rest/console with a small cubby underneath.
            Rear seats, which slide a bit, offer good legroom. The rear seats are flat, while the fronts offer good side support. The rear seat backs fold easily using a strap at the base of the back. Cargo capacity versus the overall size of the Countryman is excellent. 
            Minis, from Day One, have been fun cars. One of my favorite fun features about the Countryman is the “Mini” logo light that illuminates the ground by the driver’s door when you push the “unlock” button on the fob after dark.
            The MINI Countryman adds size to the MINI line, and that is always a good thing. Performance is typically MINI, and typically fun.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate 

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