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Added 15th February, 2010
, updated 3rd March, 2017
The Countryman is a MINI - but not as many will know it. But then if it was, this Countryman wouldn't be able to continually keep existing MINI people loyal when they out-grew their city runabouts and shopping rockets. Nor would 80% of its sales tempt in buyers new to the brand. Customers liking the vibrant SUV-inspired Crossover concept, but wanting it with a little more tarmac sparkle.
This larger, more sophisticated second generation Countryman model has achieved both these things, though arguably at the cost of British style and charisma. Still, now cleaner under the bonnet and smarter inside and out, it's as suited to the urban jungle as a Land Rover is to the Amazon, a car created for the times we live in. And a Country you could be proud of.
In recent years, MINI has re-invented its Clubman model as a Focus-sized family hatchback. And it makes a fun and practical choice in volume Cooper D diesel guise. Jonathan Crouch looks at the revised version.
So what's happened to the MINI 3-Door hatch? Fresh technology, smarter connectivity, standard-fit front and rear LED lights across the range and an advanced dual-clutch automatic gearbox are amongst the highlight changes made to this revised model. That said, despite changing so much under the skin, it feels very much a case of as you were, MINI perhaps a little cautious of alienating either existing owners or potential new customers with something radical.
Don't let that make you think we're underwhelmed by this MINI. It's still a great hatch and the latest changes give it some legs to continue the success story. The prices look very reasonable at the moment, but to get the best from this car, you'll probably want to throw a few of those high-end options at it, so budget accordingly and take that into account when you're calculating your cost of ownership numbers. The MINI might have grown up but it doesn't look as if it's lost its sense of fun.
Third time round, BMW's modern era MINI turned out to be a much more sophisticated thing. This three-door Hatch version is slightly more practical than its R56-series predecessor and feels considerably better built. It's far more efficient too, with the bulk of the range using a punchier range of eager three cylinder engines. And its more sophisticated underpinnings are better suited to longer journeys. In short, this car came of age in third generation form. But does it make sense as a used buy?
It's pretty hard to take exception to MINI's MK3 model Convertible. It delivers surprising space for passengers and luggage, a stylish roadway demeanour and a customisable fabric roof. This revised version has been usefully updated with fresh technology, smarter connectivity and an advanced dual-clutch automatic gearbox. As before, buyers can pick petrol, diesel and performance versions.
The styling of this revised MK3 model doesn't look all that different, but close inspection will reveal the addition of standard-fit LED front and rear lights, plus there's now extra scope for all-important personalisation. When the folded fabric roof is down, it forms a wrap-around collar around the back seats, rather than disappearing completely. It encroaches slightly into the boot area but despite this, the luggage capacity is these days a reasonably acceptable 215-litres with the roof closed and 160-litres with it folded down. The roof is customisable and retracts in 18 seconds.
Here is a MINI - but not as you might know it. But then, if it was conventionally sized, this Countryman wouldn't be able to keep existing MINI people loyal when they out-grew their city runabouts and shopping rockets. Nor would it tempt in buyers new to the brand. Customers liking the vibrant SUV-inspired Crossover concept, but wanting it with a little more tarmac sparkle.
This Countryman has done both these things, though at the cost of British style and build. It's as suited to the urban jungle as a Land Rover is to the Amazon. It's a car created for the times we live in. And a Country you could be proud of.
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