The second generation of the Mini Countryman, which was launched in SA in March, is a far cry from the ungainly model it replaces.
The new model has a more agreeable visage that makes it identifiable as a member of the Mini family. The new platform has made the vehicle more agile.
While the Cooper S was our pick of the range at the time, that may have changed somewhat following my brief stint at the wheel of the soon-to-be-launched Countryman D.
The Countryman D is the diesel variant of the model and sits between the Cooper and Cooper S models in the model hierarchy. It is powered by the company’s tried and trusted 2.0l turbodiesel that also does duty in the BMW X1 sDrive20d variant, which the Countryman shares a platform with.
In the Countryman the engine makes 110kW and 330Nm, the latter figure making it the second-highest torque model in the range after the John Cooper Works (JCW) version.
We had the six-speed automatic variant on test (a manual version is standard but the automatic suits the character of the engine much better) and it proved rather impressive.
Turbo lag felt negligible as the model gets off the line with little hesitation. The gearbox is smooth and felt quite adept even under kick-down overtaking manoeuvres in which that torque figure truly comes onto its own.
Refinement was also particularly notable with little of the engine clutter filtering into the cabin. It was more prudent to see how economical the engine is, as most buyers will want to take it on a longer trip to the countryside or the coast.
Alas, our brief time with the vehicle did not allow us to venture further than the confines of the urban environment, but the model was fairly frugal in those environs. We managed a decent 5.5l/100km during our short spell, which was a bit off the 4.7l/100km claimed figure.
Had we managed to spend a bit more time with the vehicle a much lower figure could have been realised.
Aside from the D badge on the rump and the typical diesel clatter when standing close to the vehicle, there are no other discernible differences to the Cooper and Cooper S models.
Pricing is also quite keen, starting from R457,000 for the manual and R475,000 for the automatic tested here.
It is now easily the sweet spot in the range and should appeal to adventure-type buyers who prefer driving long distances out of the urban jungle.
I reckon it will be my Countryman of choice should I be looking for a versatile and efficient Mini derivative.