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New generation of Mini lovers

Created on 30/07/2017 @ 07:19

Test Drive by Graham Breeze

If you are old enough to remember the arrival of the original Mini you probably detest the new-look Countryman but a new generation of buyers is snapping up the latest model.

The iconic Mini brand captured the hearts of millions but there was always a hint of controversy when a Countryman version was introduced. After all that wasn't what the Mini was all about
Fuel rationing after the Suez crisis prompted the arrival of small cars such as Morris Mini Minor and Austin Seven in 1959. It was 1961 before it became Austin Mini and 1969 before Mini became a stand-alone brand - the very year I bought my first vehicle, a second-hand Mini Van.

Mini broke the motoring mould with a transverse-engine, front wheel drive layout and incredibly compact dimensions. It revolutionised the small car market and became the best-selling British car in history. 

We simply loved the Mini brand, but all good things come to an end and by 2000 the affair was over and production stopped. That was until BMW relaunched in 2001 with larger dimensions and a controversial pallet of personalisation options.

It may not have met with universal approval from original Mini lovers but the new model has attracted a generation of new buyers with BMW chasing a leading place in the SUV sector where Nissan Qashqai and SEAT Ateca rule the roost.

The line-up of petrol and diesel engines is shared with the rest of the Mini range, and most models of the Countryman are available with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. Now there's even a plug-in hybrid version available and all- electric on the horizon .

As someone who drove Mini as a company car for many years I was a sceptic until I got behind the wheel of the Countryman but have to say I was quickly won over. The new model is obviously bigger but it's also a lot more expensive. 

The F60 Cooper D All4 Countryman on test was priced at £26,655 but a raft of extras pushed that up to £35,740 - slightly more than the £85 I parted with back in 1969.

Those extras included the media pack with navigation and Connected, Bluetooth, 18 inch alloys, leather steering wheel, heated seats, automatic air conditioning, LED foglights, a larger fuel tank, run flat tyures, electric door mirrors, powered boot lid, chrom interiorand sun protection glass.

You also have to pay extra for roof lining, picnic bench and the sliding rear seat bench.

One of the neatest features is the protective padded covering which drops down when you use the boot – perfect for stopping those annoying scratches caused by cases or the golf bag.

The Countryman really is a practical family car with all the benefits of BMW quality inside a stunning cabin where things really have moved up a significant notch.

All cars apart from the hybrid come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with the option of adding an auto box for extra cost - the hybrid is auto as standard.

 In addition Mini's All4 four-wheel drive is available as an option across the range, although it's standard on the high-performance JCW model and the hybrid.

Wider tracking helps improve handling and the All4 is as sure-footed as any Mini I have driven with a choice of driving modes ensuring an option to suit all needs. The ride was a bit harder than expected but motorway cruising proved a real joy.

This Countryman could well be the most controversial model to wear the famous badge but it's finding a whole new group of enthusiastic followers

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