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Countryman: bigger, better but still a Mini

May 10,2017
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Mini Countryman is aimed at families. [BMW KOREA]
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BMW’s Mini series is highly regarded for its style.

The Mini has appealed mostly to style-sensitive drivers, particularly younger ones who are single. Or, it was bought as a second car for middle-aged consumers who want to tout their trendiness once in a while.

The new Mini Countryman, an all-wheel drive crossover vehicle that is one of the best-selling models for the Mini, however, is aiming to appeal to an older audience that includes families. Mini Countryman has sold 540,000 units worldwide since its launch in 2011.

The Mini launched in Korea in 2015 and sold 8,632 cars in 2016. The company pledged double-digit growth this year and annual sales of 10,000 cars by 2018.

The Korea JoongAng Daily got behind the wheel last month to drive the crossover vehicle both on ordinary roads and off-road courses. The test-drive course included a 50-kilometer (31-mile) round trip from the BMW Korea driving center in Yeongjong Island, Incheon. Drivers also tested the vehicle on an off-road course set up inside the driving center.

To start, the Mini has gotten bigger.

In fact, it’s 199 millimeters (7.8 inches) longer. The width and height expanded 33 millimeters and 13 millimeters respectively. The new target consumers are families and male drivers in their 40s and 50s who enjoy off-road adventures, the company said.

The driver’s seat, which for many Mini models was situated too low, making it hard to see, has been raised 90 millimeters compared to the Clubman model.

Equipped with a four-cylinder turbo engine, the car has a maximum horsepower of 150 and maximum torque of 33.7 kilogram-meter (22.7 pound-feet). It takes 8.8 seconds to go from zero to 100 kilometers an hour. The higher SD trim boasts 190 horsepower and takes 7.4 seconds to reach 100.

The driving has definitely gotten smoother, as the company as gotten away from its well-known “go-kart” feeling. To some fans, this might be a letdown. The steering wheel also felt softer than the previous version.

However, when the car surpassed the 100 kilometers an hour, it got a bit noisy inside and the car body shook a little. When going over a road bump, the passenger in the back seat had to be careful about not bumping her head on the ceiling.

Driven on an off-road course inside the driving center at Yeongjong Island, the car impressed its passengers most when it traveled over a 35-degree slanted road with only one side of the tire on the hill and two tires on a flat surface. It was a rainy day and it literally felt like the car would tip over at any second. However, thanks to its enhanced all-wheel-drive, the car safely completed the course.

The car’s inevitable charm came from its interior circular design.

The LED-light-ringed circular touch display in the center console was convenient. The gear shift and additional control buttons were all circular. However, to give it a more serious look, the circular headlights that helped make the Mini fashionable are now rectangular.

Its combined fuel efficiency is 13.6 kilometers per liter of diesel fuel. Prices start at 43.4 million won ($38,000).


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]