Thu | Aug 24, 2017

The Mini Countryman Cooper S - a driver’s childhood dream

Published:Sunday | May 21, 2017 | 5:00 AMKareem Latouche
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The Mini brand, which started in the United Kingdom in 1959, has stood the test of time while watching many of its countrymates such as Miguent and Leyland drop out of the automotive race. Surprisingly, Mini has kept a loyal customer base by staying consistent with its design concepts, even though it has changed ownership multiple times since its inception.

The Countryman, which is currently owned by BMW, is the bigger brother to the Cooper. It has retained the traditional Mini silhouette despite adding larger dimensions that puts it in the bracket of a compact SUV.

The test unit was the S version of the Countryman, which comes with 192hp, produced by a double-intake turbo engine. The performance of the engine can be altered by a knob that encircles the gear lever.

Turning it to the left or right allows the driver to switch between the various driving modes such as sport, normal, and green for environment-friendly drivers. While driving from Kingston to St Mary, normal mode was sufficient. Although there was turbo lag, it didn't noticeably impede the vehicle's performance.

 

Turbo option

 

Keep in mind that when the turbo is activated, it comes on very strong. Consequently, the user will experience a little torque steer. This means that when pressing the floor-mounted accelerator, the steering must be gripped firmly and aggressive acceleration must be done preferably on smooth roads.

While driving through the various junctions, I had to activate Traction Control to assist with driving over the uneven road surface especially at high speeds. This also helped to decrease some of the body roll experienced.

For a more engaging experience, the leather-knob lever can be switched over to the left for Steptronic mode, which allows the driver to use the paddle shifters, or the lever to engage the eight-speed gearbox.

Compared to other paddle shifters these ones have very little travel and will require your fingers to be in a constant closed grip position to engage, which will presumably be uncomfortable for persons with large hands.

Regardless of the mode, the fun factor will not be reduced given that Minis are ideal for maneuverability.

Being mindful that this is the sport version, the ride is slightly firm, however, not as firm as the previous model.

In any case, the seats are very comfortable and have multiple options for adjustments that are comparable to German manufacturers BMW and Mercedes. As for the bolsters, especially on the back, it's definitely best suited for a medium-built person.

Additionally, one of the biggest selling points, is that the driver's seating preference can be programmed for two different positions by designated buttons to the right of the seat.

The personalisation doesn't stop there as the steering can also be adjusted for reach and angle. This will ensure that the driver is in the most comfortable and ideal driving position.

Furthermore, the A pillars are almost vertical, which gives great front visibility. Overall, there is no denying that the driver is situated in an ideal position for driving.

 

Interior

 

A Mini's interior is like no other; it's designed with child-like enthusiasm and an added flair for the theatrics. First, there are toggle switches everywhere, which give a sense of importance. It makes you feel like you are opening a secret weapon compartment in a spy movie, when you are merely starting the engine.

Then there is the analog speed dial in the gauge cluster with a digital screen embedded at the bottom.

Of course, the most obvious design element is the circular screen in the centre console. It's bordered by mood lights, that can change colours, which I'm sure will be a discussion topic for passengers.

With all this said, both its strengths and weaknesses combine to give a very engaging driving experience. Yes, there is computer assistance, but not to the point where a novice can drive it and look like a pro. For someone to truly appreciate this vehicle, he or she has to have some knowledge of how a vehicle should function.

What I like:

- Unique design of the interior

- A lot of fun to drive for persons who like to feel engaged in the driving experience

It has a wow factor to it

Gripes:

- Slight body roll

- Steering should be firmer when in sports mode

Specs

- Year model: 2017

- Cost of test model: $7,700,000

- Starting at $5,995,000

- Engine size: 1998

- Hp: 192

- Transmission: for example, CVT, 4 speed etc.: 8 Speed Steptronic

- FWD or AWD: FWD

- Competitors: Audi Q3, BMW X1, VW Tiguan, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

B. Key Features

- 18-inch Black runflat tires

- Panorama glass roof

- roof rails

- Interior and exterior mirror with anti-dazzle function

Test drive provided courtesy of ATL Automotive Group, 1-888-285-7378, sales@atlautomotive.com