MINI Cooper SD Countryman ALL4
By Patrick James
SO the big question is, when is a MINI more than MINI? Answer: when it’s the Cooper ALL4.
When BMW's first MINI took to the road it was a quantum leap from the tiny car first penned by Alec Issigonis at BMC back in the late 50s. Much bigger, but still a compact city car with both interior and boot space at a premium, not to mention a premium price.
This version is a much bigger car, longer and taller and with at least a boot space that will take more than a blanket and a pair of slippers.
It is still not huge at 350 litres, but a least you can get a couple of decent-sized overnight bags in there, or half-a-dozen shopping bags. A child's folding pushchair could still be something of a problem.
It is also still highly desirable and now offers all wheel drive capability, although the thought of taking it offroad would be far from the mindsets of many buyers.
But the technology would give the car better traction options in inclement weather rather than seeing it mudplugging in a forest. But as its BMW it should handle reasonably rough terrain.
It still does look like a MINI, but a beefed up version. Parked next to an older Focus the similarity in size is striking as this model is over four metres long and taller than the normal MINI.
It is never going to be a practical car, but with four bucket seats and plenty of head and legroom four occupants can enjoy even lengthy journeys in relative comfort.
If the exterior is striking, the inside is no less so. The dash is dominated by a speedo the size of a dinner plate and there are neat chrome touches throughout the cabin including the Cooper S branding on kickplates.
The rest of the instrumentation is clear and concise and the now familiar chrome rocker switches abound.
Despite its compact size, the interior has the plush feel you would expect from a car designed by BMW and all fixtures and fittings feel classy and well put together.
Other novel touches include a handbrake lever that resembles the thrust control on an aircraft, but is so well concealed I kept forgetting to disengage it.
The car offers a choice of petrol and two engines and the two-litre diesel mated to a six-speed manual gearbox in the tested model proved willing and economical. With low CO2 emissions, it could well also appeal to the business buyers with a low benefit in king tax rating of 20 per cent.
The 143bhp unit also has excellent torque meaning it overtakes effortlessly on motorways.
Acceleration is good with the car sprinting to 60mph from a standing start in just 9.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 121mph. Add to that claimed economy of nearly 60mpg and you have a cheap car to run if not to buy.
Although bigger, this MINI retains its smaller siblings' handling characteristics, although the ride can be unsettled on rougher roads.
They are well kitted out and very safe, but it all comes at an eye watering price for such a small car. That seems to matter little to the car buying public however with the car just a popular as it was when it made its first appearance five decades ago.
MINI Cooper SD Countryman ALL4
Mechanical: 143bhp, 1,995cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Combined mpg: 57.6
Insurance group: 20
CO2 emissions: 130g/km
BiK rating: 20%