Mini goes maxi
Blending the attributes of the original with the practicality and technology of the new, the Mini Countryman Cooper S is fun to drive
The 2018 Mini Countryman Cooper S is a clear indication of how big the Mini has actually turned out to be. Measuring 4.3m in length, the car, in comparison to the original, which was born as Austin Mini, and as Morris Mini, under the aegis of British Motor Corporation in 1959, has grown in almost every direction. Except for the badge that says Mini, the car, by no stretch of imagination is as small and compact as the original.
The styling may maintain the ‘connect’ with the original Mini that resulted from Sir Alec Issigonis’ efforts to build a compact front-wheel car that would help tide over the Suez oil crises of 1956. But the Mini Countryman Copper S of today is taller, wider, longer and technologically much more complex. The bulbous frontal appearance of the car with that familiar grille and seemingly low stance is in-line with the way the original Mini looked.
The big head lamps seem to speak about how much the humble little car has grown. The rest of the form, especially the sides, clearly speaks about how bulkier the present model looks. The rounded rear, like the front, keeps the ‘connect’ with the original alive.
Weighing a good 1.5-tonnes, the Mini Countryman Cooper S feels luxurious inside. Over the model it replaces, the current generation has a distinct upmarket feel to it. This is largely because of a big improvement in material quality. Soft touch trim parts are found in abundance; especially on the dashboard. The chrome elements add a nice touch to the retro theme.
Where the original Mini has a large speedo at the dash centre, this car flaunts a big round digital interface. The speedo is behind the multi-functional and modern-looking steering wheel. The interface offers some very exciting features like ambient LED lighting that can change colour to match your mood.
The front seats are comfy and have a good amount of space. The rear seat is more comfortable than that of the earlier model, there’s more legroom on offer. Though the rear seat may feel a bit low, it is now much more usable. The backrest can be manually adjusted using a small pull cord, and makes for an amount of flexibility. Storage space, at 450-litres, is fair. The Mini Countryman Cooper S uses a space-saver spare wheel, which is located under the floor.
Based on the UKL2 front-wheel drive platform that is also used by the BMW X1, the Countryman Cooper S feels agile. It stays firmly planted and negotiates twists and turns much like the earlier Minis. Reminding of a go-kart almost, the car in no way feels big or unwieldy. The steering weighs up nicely, and adds to the pleasure of pushing the car on a winding mountain road.
The transversely located 192bhp, 2-litre twin-turbo petrol engine pulls strongly from close to 1800rpm. Routing power to the front wheels unlike in the European markets where the Countryman Cooper S is offered in an all-wheel drive form, the car exerts a strong mid-range pull. Making for a good power to weight ratio, and a form that could cheat the wind rather efficiently, the car delivers an exciting performance. Corners are tackled well too.
The turbocharged performance of the Countryman Cooper S coupled with its strong dynamic abilities makes for great fun driving on a twisty stretch of a mountain road or a straight empty stretch.
Clocking 0 to 100kmph in under eight seconds, the six-speed gearbox does a good job. When driving aggressively it responds a bit slowly.
The ride has a stiff edge to it at low speeds. With increase in speed, the stiff edge gives way to a fairly pliant ride. There are, however, instances when less-than-ideal surfaces can make the ride a bit tiring. The brakes have a good, progressive feel to them, and exert a strong bite.
Much nicer to be in, and to drive, the new Countryman Cooper S improves in many key areas, one of which is space at the rear. Successfully blending the attributes of the original with the practicality and technology of the new, it is fun to drive.
Its starting price of Rs 34.90 lakh ex-showroom India puts the Mini in close company of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
Pros: Exclusivity of a Mini, space, performance and dynamics