Ask what your Country can do for you

Enright gets paired with a car heíd love to hate

ANDY ENRIGHT

A LITTLE of what you donít fancy does you good. At least, thatís my take on the Mini Countryman thatís now sitting in my garage.

Letís not mince words here. Itís a visually challenged thing, isnít it? The exterior took a couple of weeks to get used to but the interior, well, itís brown. Extravagantly, overwhelmingly slurry pit brown. I tried to find the upsides as I was handed the keys to a car that would be my daily for the next three months, but couldnít look beyond that brown interior. And yet, after a month with the car, I find myself rather maddeningly liking it. Call it automotive Stockholm Syndrome.

On the face of it, the Cooper SD All4 Countryman ought to appeal. It has a zingy 140kW diesel that generates 400Nm and can punt the big-boned BMW X1 in a fancy dress to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds. Itís economical, itís practical, the all-wheel drive will be good for trips to the snow, and there are a whole host of electronic gewgaws to play with. The first thing I clearly have yet to master are its indicators. I can see what Mini has tried to do here. Tap for a three-blink lane change or fully press the stalk to keep it on. Trouble is, the distance between the two settings seems to be about a micron, and changing lanes wonít cancel it. This creates a ham-fisted display of left, right, left, right, and a subsequent barrage of swearing. If it ainít broke, donít fix, Mini.

The ride quality is firmer than it really needs to be, but the flipside of this is that itís a hoot to hustle about. Understeer is well telegraphed and a sharp lift of the throttle sends the back swinging round just enough to feel engaging. The stability control system is smart/slow enough to realise that youíre counter-steering and lets you play along which, when you think about it, is quite remarkable for a diesel demi-SUV.

Iíve been determined to test its off-road chops, which has thus far involved driving straight up the wall-like hillside at the end of my road, bouncing over the top and re-joining

Heads, you lose

Keyless go presents car manufacturers with all manner of quandaries as to what the car should do when the key is no longer detected inside it. One strategy I wasnít expecting from Mini was to close the Countrymanís electrically powered tailgate onto my head as I was unloading the car.

A quick-fire beep alerts you that something might be happening, and then itís boot latch to the back of your noggin time. Not an experience Iím keen to repeat.

the blacktop. Itís a heck of a shortcut, but Iím going to curtail it before Iím reported by residents for bringing down the tone of the neighbourhood. Itís just good to spray a bit of mud up the side of the Countryman to make it look a little less milquetoast/suburban.

To the Miniís list price of $51,500, this oneís saddled with $1900 worth of Chester Leather upholstery, a $600 British Oak illuminated dashboard fascia, a $200 leather steering wheel, a $300 luggage compartment net, and the $2400 Multimedia Pro package, which adds a navigation system with 8.8- inch monitor, a head-up display, and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo. That lot tots its price up to $56,900, which would easily net you Wheelsí current Car of the Year, a Mazda CX-9 in AWD Touring trim. Thatís quite a vehicle, so youíve really got to buy into Miniís special sauce if youíre to see value in the Countryman.

Still, despite initial minor grievances, the Countrymanís irrepressible personality is winning me over. I can handle its quirks such as having expensive leather upholstery with no seat heating. I can put up with the harebrained indicators and irascible ride quality. The brown interior? That might take a bit longer.

Parking violation

I tried the Countrymanís parallel self-parking system once and it didnít do too bad though. Leafing through manual, assistant can steer the vehicle over or onto kerbs. There is a manís a job. Iím not sure Iíll be using it again ough the manual it says ďthe parking risk of property damage.Ē Kerbed alloys would doubtless office, sticking to doing it the old-school way. result in some pretty serious derision here in the Wheels office so Iím steering well clear of parking assistant and 34 44 3 3 0 0 6 3 4 5 WEEK 4 Date acquired: July 2017 as tested: $56,900 month: 1295km @ 6.3L/100km Overall: 1295km @ 6.3L/100km a Price a This m Overal

MINI COUNTRYMAN COOPER SD ALL4 I PER COOP

BOX, BOX, BOX!

Mini easily dealt with aftermath of furnishing a new house from scratch