2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman Sports – drives as good as it looks

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Exterior
Say no more fam! You’ll know instantly that it is a Mini; the straight shoulders, the bubble roof, the round headlights and the protruding rear tail lamps, all are classic Mini traits. But the Countryman is a more stretched out of something familiar, which people do find it quite attractive and more importantly recognisable. I did manage to park this side by side with the old car and this is far larger in comparison.

As tested, the Mini Cooper S Countryman Sports you see in the pictures is finished in Chilli Red, contrasted by black roof and mirror caps, while with other hues, this can be contrasted with white. The roof rails and side sills are finish in Silver, which can accommodate a roof rack, a roof box or a bicycle rack.

Interior
Of course, the large size means that there’s plenty of room inside; I could still fondly remember how noisy, bumpy and warm it was in the old car, a stark contrast to the bigger and newer Countryman, which is much cosier, quieter, yet retains the classic Mini styling cues.

The dashboard oozes with character, and it is something that is very refreshing to look at; for a modern vehicle, the Mini still retain the classic analogue dials, but with a modern twist, where you’ll find a small LCD screen which relays current driving information.

Multimedia
Touchscreens are getting bigger, and the 8.8-inch Touchscreen MINI Connected Navigation Plus is quite a large, but being encased around the interactive LED ring on the centre stack does make it look quite small, but relays a simplistic, yet effective user interface (UI) design featuring mostly monochromatic 2D graphics colour coded assigned to many of its features.

It comes with a split-screen function, Mini Connected XL for mobile phones, second USB port and the Mini Touch Controller below. This controller provides intuitive eyes off operation, which the driver or the passenger can use to navigate and interact with the Mini Connected interface.

Drivetrain
Power comes from a 2.0-litre Mini TwinPower Turbo (and no, it’s not twin turbocharged) engine that makes 192 hp and 280Nm of torque from 1,350-4,600 rpm. The all-aluminium B48 engine features an undersquare design featuring a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection, variable valve lift (Valvetronic) and variable valve timing (Double VANOS). The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol mill is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which sends power to the front wheels only.

Driving
The thing about driving Minis is the unique experience that this brand can offer; it’s special in a sense that when you look out the windscreen and the side windows is that there’s nothing hindering your view, however you have this feeling of being cocooned, a lot like sitting in a pillbox.

Ride quality is pretty good, you won’t hear plastics knocking or rubbing on to each other, with minimal wind and road noise intruding into the cabin space. However you’ll feel things when going over speed breakers or blemished surface, which is due to the run-flat Pirelli tyres and the sport suspension fitted. It’s not that harsh though and it’s bearable for daily use.

Performance
It is pretty quick, especially during initial acceleration, however, the 1.5-tonne kerb weight is a little hard to hide, and it will require some persuasion for it to reach its top speed. You could use the paddle shifters to go down or up a gear or two and pretty fun to do with plenty of gears to do it, just that you can’t touch the rev limiter on every gear, so might as well leave it in full auto and let it do its thing. The gear ratios are spread evenly which makes full use to the 280Nm torque output.

The thing is, the Countryman isn’t a car for you to drag against on straight line, but rather it is one you enjoy driving through the bends. It handles with vigour that is rare among other full-size hatchbacks and only matched in the warm hatch territory.

Conclusion
The Mini Cooper S Countryman Sports is a practical and worth as much as it looks and drives. It’s a BMW product and one thing is for certain is that there were efforts taken that it doesn’t obviously look and feel as if it’s under the parent company, right down to the buttons and dials which you’ll probably never find in many of the BMW badged cars similarly to Rolls Royce, but you’ll know in the back of your head that there’s definitely German inputs present in the engineering.

Can I live with it? Yes. It does everything a modern premium family hatch does and it’s got plenty of character. And come to think of it, it’s a lot like Hard Rock Hotel on four wheels. Price? RM240,888.

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