Uncle Steve Writes – Part 2 of 4 – MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4

In the second part of his tetralogy, Uncle Steve tells us all about the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 – is this the longest car name in the world? Maybe, but it’s also the name of the car purchased by the fiancé of Uncle Steve.

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Back in October last year, we were looking for a car to replace Amy’s Leon FR TDI. Given recent winters we wanted something that would enable us to get out and about if the bad weather returned, but also something that was fun to drive and reasonably economical. Following a visit to several dealerships the MINI found its way straight to the top of my list given the attentiveness I received from the MINI dealership we visited. In fact, given the poor performance of the other dealerships, had they simply waved hello they’d probably have still been top of my list, this was the woeful customer service delivered by SEAT, VW and Audi and all on the same day!

Anyway, we wanted something sorted quickly and so when we visited Cooper MINI Durham we were pleased when the offered a variety of models that were in stock within the Cooper group and available within about a week. Now I negotiated hard and we achieved a substantial discount that I have been unable to match using any of the online brokers, so I’m of the opinion that we got a very good deal. The spec list reads:

  • MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4
  • Crystal silver metallic paint
  • Pepper pack
  • Chrome line interior
  • Chrome line exterior
  • Chrome mirror caps
  • Full Bluetooth with USB & arm rest
  • Sun protection glass

The Dealer Principle suggested several of these as must-haves and although I am normally sceptical of dealer suggestions, there’s nothing on there that’s expensive and some of the cheaper items such as chrome exterior really finish the car off. In fact the cars we’ve seen without the chrome exterior make us really glad we went with it, so yet again another point in MINI’s favour; dealers who know their product!

So the vehicle was delivered within about a week and we’ve put about 6000 miles on it since. So what’s the review?

The car was excellent during the winter period, although we didn’t get as much snow as in previous years it was effortless to drive, where others were getting stuck and wheel-spinning, we drove serenely by. The ALL4 system really is excellent and far cleverer than was initially reported by the major motoring press. The system is so easy to use and requires no fancy settings to operate, although should the going get really tough it does have 2 settings that are available to help get you going in deep snow or on loose ground. The system is pretty unnoticeable except for when setting off from a standstill, you can very definitely feel the 4 wheel system taking up the power in the clutch and it takes a little getting used to – giving it a bit more throttle than you would in a 2 wheel drive car resolves the issue.

Now this MINI is no mini, it’s like BMW took a MINI, fed it a diet of steroids and protein and then unleashed it upon the world, side by side with a MINI hatchback it is huge by comparison. However, it actually really works, the quirky styling along with the practicality makes it a great choice and this is reflected in the number of them that can be seen on the roads now.

With 5 doors rather than the 3 of the standard hatchback it will appeal to families, there’s plenty of room in the rear for adult legs and the boot is generously sized; it’s a capable alternative to the likes of the VW Golf and other similar hatchbacks. The boot space can be increased by sliding the rear bench seat forward and backwards, again providing flexibility, should one be carrying adults then the bench will be all the way back to give them lots of leg room. But should one have young children then the seat will be all the way forwards to give plenty of boot space for pushchairs etc.

In terms of economy it’s averaged approximately 43mpg since new which is pretty good for a car with a 4 wheel drive system, the 1.6 diesel engine is never going to set the world alight but it’s still fun and engaging to drive even with just 112bhp and it’s also relatively cheap to tax at just £100 per year.

The MINI brand has really captured my attention, the styling quirks, which I initially mocked, such as the large centre speedo, have actually really grown on me. The handling is excellent, as one would expect from a MINI and I love what the brand stands for. The customisation that’s available is fantastic but can lead to headaches when trying to determine what spec to go for and when insuring (listing all the factory fit options can take a long time!)

It’s not all been plain sailing, the car has had a few rattles, although hopefully these are now resolved following a recent trip back to the dealership. The car also had an issue with the seal around one of the doors not sealing properly and letting a substantial amount of water in.  Again this has been resolved without any mucking around and the dealership have been good enough to supply a variety of other MINI models as courtesy cars (reviews on these to come!)

As a convert to the MINI branding, the purchase of this Countryman for my fiancé has now led me to purchasing a standard hatchback MINI, a Cooper SD – stay tuned for my upcoming review!

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