Ah the 60’s. a time of enduring classics, sexual freedom and Woodstock. It has been said that if you remember the 60’s, you weren’t really there, but plenty of evidence remains today to elicit a misty-eyed response from all but the Gen-Y-bothers. Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton were fashion’s face of the 60’s. They both regularly modelled Mary Quant’s famous creation, the Miniskirt. The Miniskirt, a design icon, was named by Quant after here favourite car, the Morris Mini. Who would have thought the Mini would still be every bit as fashionable , every bit as trend setting and every bit as desirable more than 50 years later? Twiggy, The Shrimp, and Quant are remembered fondly by some, but only the car is admired universally and praised by all to this very day.
Through more owners than a banana republic, Mini endured. It may look unchanged from that car which first rolled off the line in 1959, but the model being produced by BMW has only the merest hint of family resemblance, especially when you park them side by side.
So, what about the new Countryman? Isn’t it pretty? Finally an SUV (sort of) that isn’t pig ugly. You can have 4 or 2 wheel drive and unlike the original you can have deliciously cold air conditioning and because it is so quiet, the dulcet tones of Bach, Beethoven and Kylie can be fully appreciated. Were you to be driving in the original car you’d have been lucky to get a heater let alone a stereo that can make your ears bleed.
The Countryman is deceptively big. It’s not SUV big, just big for a Mini. The big fat wheels make the low roof look even lower. It wouldn’t look out of place in your nephew’s toy box. The 4 doors give good access to all 4 seats and unlike the 3 door, the boot has room for your “2 bags”, some shopping and a slender but tasteful briefcase. I think the 21st century did well not to stick bits of lumber on the sides though, I think that would have been pushing the boat out just a touch too far.
The inside is simply littered with gizmos. There is a simplified BMW I-drive type system. It isn’t perfect by any means. Every time you get in, it bongs its silly head off. It asks you to confirm that you won’t be a wally and use the system while moving. I doubt you could even if you wanted to. You won’t get any further information until you press “confirm”. It’s rather too German in my view, and just a little bit clunky. The Ipod interface needs a special cable to work although there seemed to be audio streaming but only limited function via bluetooth. The Apple cable plugged in to the USB port gave full function, but no sound. The user guide was no help at all.
The air cond was refreshingly low-tech. No auto function, just turn the dial to the fan speed you want and the other dial to the amount of cold, easy peesy. The interior design has a neat modular, plug in look to it. The switch gear has a similar retro look to it. I love it, but I can understand that some might not agree. It’s a matter of taste really isn’t it.
Not the regular two bags, but tons of room.
I expected the drive to be a bit limp. After all the Mini has had way too much pudding and apart from the extra weight, has some extra doors. Many thought the extra doors would ruin the Mini, but no, it instead has found yet another niche to fill. Mini dominates the niche it created for itself so would the strict parent risk errant behaviour in its youngest child? I needn’t have worried. In fact this Cooper S model handled as well as the 3 door. We threw her around some quite tight corners on the Grand Pacific Drive but she didn’t complain. She did scramble for grip when entering a 15kph hairpin with a bit too much enthusiasm, but never was there a hint of untidiness.
The acceleration is mighty snappy considering its just a little (BMW / Peugeot) turbo 4, and the gear changes are beautifully smooth and light. After a bit of practice, you would swear it was changing the gears for you. We can hardly talk about handling and not mention the steering. Like most cars these days, it’s electric but has loads of feel to let you know what it’s doing. The original Mini designer, Sir Alec Issigonis, would have been chuffed to have had these touches.
Sounds alright doesn’t it? Mini is a classy, well designed and beautifully executed motor car. Sure it’s a bit more expensive than your common or garden variety super-mini, but that would be because it is unashamedly aimed at the discerning buyer who can’t bear the thought of being seen dead in something made in Korea. The best thing is its fabulous resale value so it’s snaps all round for a brand as popular now as it was in 1960.
The back seats:note the individual buckets.
Neat, sweet and Petite.
Below are some snaps of our trip along the Grand Pacific Drive which, as you know, or doubtless would know if you read my column regularly, is my favourite bit of New South Wales.
View from the road across the Pacific
This funny little pub clinging to the cliff
The little pub, abandoned and unloved. Must have a great view!
I’m dying for a view like this
The road varies from bush to beach to rain forest.
Straight with curves!
The awesome Mini Countryman
A spot of windy forest road.
Really fabulous drive in such a beautiful location.
The Mini Panoramic roof with sliding section open. Note the ships waiting to get into The Gong.
Perched above the Seacliff Bridge
The Seacliff Bridge winding lazily below
Looking back over the Seacliff Bridge to the lookout from where the earlier pics were taken.
Looking back across the Seacliff Bridge
|engine||power||torque||fuel cons L/100k||trans||turbo||co2||price as tested|
|1.6L||135kw||240nm||6.6comb||6spd man||twin scroll||154gms||$52,000*|
*on road base cooper S countryman with no extras