You’ve got mail
It was just over a week ago when I got an Email from MINI SA. In the mail was an invite to the Media Launch for the new MINI COOPER COUNTRYMAN
We landed in Durban on the first friday of April, looking forward to the the MINI Countryman media launch and press conference. It was hosted by the BMW SA Communications manager Edward Makana, at the luxurious Beverly Hills Hotel in DBN. At the conference we learned about the History of the Countryman, new features, and all the add ons available for the MINI.
There’s a new MINI in town
Day two started with breakfast and around 9.am we left the hotel and just outside was a convoy of the new MINIs ready to be taken to task. We were given the choice to start with the MINI Countryman S or just the normal MINI Countryman. My Co-Driver MissPoshglam decided on a blue Countryman powered by the turbo petrol 1,5 litre 3 cylinder engine and later we would swap it for a black Countryman S. I was very impressed by how the car has grown in size, both in the inside and outside. You can instantly spot the changes, the headlights have that modern cool-kid look with its LED lights. The tail lights are bigger and have more life compared to the 1st born. I still would’ve preferred the exhaust in the middle for the Countryman S though. Ground clearance is as expected higher than that of a normal MINI, this makes it perfect for South African conditions- as you know our roads have a whole lot of potholes and humps, makes sense also if you want to just explore the country or drive on different terrains but still want to feel like you’re in a MINI.
As I got in I realised that you could easily fit three adults (my size) at the back with great comfort! I love how the steering wheel is made and how it feels, it allows for a easy grip that comes handy in winding and twisty roads. New features that should impress you are the touchscreen infotainment system. Usually you’d turn the Knob when using the navigator or other functions but the touchscreen really makes a great impression. Our MINI came with Harman Kadon speakers that ensured I was able to hear the songs playing even at high speeds on rough surfaces.
MINI Countryman Vs The Gravel Vs Tar Vs The bends of Clarence.
Talking about surfaces, The whole trip felt like being on an episode of that famous british car show with Edward being the producer. After driving on the tarmac for over 60km we were instructed to challenge the Countryman to a gravel test. So we hit the gravel in the middle of nowhere according to me, I just know we were somewhere in KZN.
It took me a while to determine what mode would be best suited for loose surfaces like gravel. I tried different modes butI finally settled for sport mode. The Countryman proved to have better grip on this mode , also the steering has more feel and feedback than in other modes, that means you’re less likely to turn more than what you’d intend to. The high profile tyres are well suited for such rough terrain and again I could still hear Poshglam’s favourite song play as she sung along to AKA’s “The world is yours”
The gravel test was going according to plan until the MINI in front of us launched a stone from it’s back tyre straight onto our windshield! A big ouch! Lesson learned here is 1. When driving in gravel keep your distance! and 2 make sure your insurance debit order doesn’t bounce, because that window chip isn’t a pretty sight and these modern windshields don’t come cheap either.
After playing dirty we decided to take a lunch stop and arrived at the Hartford house hotel situated in the Natal Midlands. At this point we were instructed to now swop and this meant we now got to take the MINI Countryman S to Clarens where we would put our heads down for day 2.
Day 3 Saw us leave the small town of Clarens and drive back to Gauteng . The convoy of the MINIs really brought a lot of excitement to the people of this small town, you could see as the they waved us goodbye as we were passing by. The Countryman really handles sharp bends so well, you can actually feel it hug the bends and you feel that you are one with the road as you drive, great feedback from steering wheel even under acceleration. The Countryman also comes with standard with cruise control function that will brake for you should the car in front make a sudden stop, it will also automatically resume acceleration once there’s nothing ahead.
Snack, Crackle and Pop!
The three cylinder turbo engine is dynamite, comes in a small package but it packs one heck of a punch and a whole lot more. One would think that the obvious favourite of the two would be the Countryman S, I mean 141Kw of power out of a 2.0 Litre engine makes it hard not to like I won’t lie. I still found that the three cylinder is more favourable for the average Joe. There’s a saying that goes: ‘the fun of the kill is in the chase’ I found myself having so much fun ‘chasing’ the kill with just 100 Kw at my disposal, also taking my word for it will cost you a mere R422,000. This doesn’t take away anything from the Countryman S though.
There is one other special thing that the Countryman S has that I loved and only a handful of people have noticed this about it, I’ll give you a clue: The Audi S3, Merc A45 AMG and the Golf 7 GTI are well known for it..
Yes you got it right. It’s that Vvrrrrphaaaa! Nothing sounds so magical to the ears than the Vrrr-Pha as you accelerate and change gears using the shift pedals, those pops and burps are nothing short of exciting!
Below is my guide on how to Vrrr Pha and leave the competition behind in 3 easy steps
- Open your windows slightly
- Switch the drive to Sport Mode. (at this point you can take on any GTI if you wish)
- Flick the gear into Sport Mode and Step on it.
Now listen to the car burp and pop during gear change, while waving goodbye to the competition on the rearview mirror.
After three days with the Countryman I can safely say that this is the car to take if you feel like taking the road less travelled, if you want to take a short right instead of left, when everyone heads for the beach the Countryman is one car to take so that you may add your own story.