Engine: 1.6 litres, four cylinders, turbocharged
Top speed: 140mph
Power: 215bph at 6100rpm
Fuel/CO2: 38.2mpg, 167g/km
Recently I drove a standard Mini Cooper hatchback from Wales to the northernmost tip of Denmark without stopping. Drive any car 1100 miles in a day and I guarantee you’ll arrive with strong feelings about it. And I did. I thought it was brilliant: completely unsuited to that particular task thanks to its stiff ride, limited performance and tiny fuel tank but a car that, much like the original, charmed its way into my heat and made me forgive its many shortcomings.
I am quite confident I could drive the Mini Countryman Cooper JCW twice around the world without it eliciting a similar feeling. Taller and, absurdly, more expensive than a Volvo V70 estate, calling this car a Mini is to call Miff Romney a Democrat.
It combines the two things I dislike most about today’s Mini: the Countryman body and the John Cooper Works package which, to plagiarise WO Bentley’s words about Birkin’s supercharged cars, serves only to pervert its design and corrupt its performance.
And yet this Countryman was beffer than I’d expected. It’s not fast, despite a 208bhp engine, and its handling is merely able rather than actively engaging, but that talent present in every other Countryman or JCW I’ve driven to date an almost infinite capacity to annoy has gone. In fact if you forget the price it’s quite pleasant, thanks largely to Mini’s decision to ease off the ridiculous spring rates it usually fits to JCW cars. The reason is the Countryman JCW with its all-wheel-drive hardware is intended more as an allseason all-rounder than a back-road blaster.
But it’s not nearly enough to gain a recommendation on pages such as these. The brilliance of the standard Mini is that it provides the style and image wanted by the fashionistas backed by the driving dynamics to lend the package credibility and combines the two at an affordable price. I guess you can argue the toss about the looks of the Countryman, though I think it looks preffy awful, but so far as the rest is concerned, it offers far too liffle for far too much.
Matters of Moment, November 1954
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