x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Mini has grown up

The new Mini Countryman is a more adult version of the iconic car

The Mini Cooper S Countryman.
The Mini Cooper S Countryman.

The last time I drove a Mini I was 18 and reckless.

Out to impress a girl, I picked her up in my dad's soft top and drove around the winding roads of the Dorset countryside like James Bond's envious little brother.

With the wind in my hair, and a frightened girl at my side, I was an overconfident boy of the country.

Last week, however, I finally graduated to adulthood and got to drive a Countryman, Mini's new, bigger and more mature 4x4 model.

To prove I had grown with the car, I put it through some adult tests.

First on my to-do list was the driving range, so I checked to see if my golf clubs could fit in the Countryman's boot, which is quite small for a car claiming to be a crossover 4x4. But the sticks fitted perfectly, minus the driver (not me), which had to be slung on the back seats.

The Countryman has just two seats in the back, which could be an issue if you have three kids. Or two kids and a dog.

I had no children or canines, but I did have two visitors from the UK who I tried to impress. For my second test, I put them in the back of the car to critique the space, look and finish.

The Countryman again received a pass; there is plenty of head room and all the seats look like those in a racing car. There is even a built-in case in the back for your sunglasses.

One of my visitors wanted to go shopping for a ring for his girlfriend and the Mini was the perfect fun car to ferry us around Dubai's many malls in search of the perfect diamond.

The car was performing well up to this point, but as the Countryman claims to be a 4x4, it had to be tested in rough terrain.

I took it to the beach for a successful run around, but realistically, the car is not going to be able to go dune bashing. The low chassis will probably get stuck on a lip of sand and stay there.

All in all the Countryman has all the cool, style and handling of the original model, but it is more likely to keep you safe on Sheikh Zayed Road. It's a Mini - but for the Middle East.

 

rjones@thenational.ae