German auto giant BMW Group has emerged one of the most successful luxury car brands in India and now the company is getting ready to establish its presence in the premium hatch market with its range of MINI cars which it launched sometime back. Ammar Alvi takes its latest MINI Countryman on a test drive and comes back impressed. Here’s the verdict.
Designed in the 1960s as a city car, the MINI has come a long way since then. New variants have come, design evolved but the matter of the heart has remained the same. The MINI is the most popular and favoured premium hatch in the world; efficient, powerful and great to drive. So when I got the opportunity to test drive the latest MINI Countryman, I knew what was coming.
BMW, which took over MINI, has reinvented the brand; much to the disbelief of the purists, the MINI had grown in size. The Countryman has won accolades around the world, and now it’s time for Indians to respond to this new MINI. The large bug-eye headlamps and the large grille look smart, so does the front bumper with those big airdams, and then there are the clean lines and beautiful design symmetry. MINI claims this to be a pseudo SUV (there is an optional AWD pack), and at the back things are simple and the spoiler adds a touch of sportiness.
Inside you will find chunky but small steering wheel that houses controls for audio and trip comp, and the paddle shifters are closely placed for better access. The centre console is the highlight and the oversized analogue speedo is icing on the cake. The cabin is loaded with gizmos and you will find everything that you will see in a luxury car. It is a result of a top-class workmanship.
In the back, the extra legroom and the extra headroom are welcome additions. And on top of that, having your own doors to get in and out of the car is the best part. Flexibility is supreme with a 40-20-40 split folding rear seat and a 350-litre boot, which can be upped to a whopping 1,170 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
The engine is a 1.6-litre turbocharged that has the capability to take the car from 0-100 kmph in 7.9 seconds using 184 bhp of power. With a light throttle, the MINI shifts through the gears smoothly and the shifts are hardly noticeable. The suspension too is stiffly set and this translates the MINI being fun around bends and just perfect for city driving.
Recently, to escape the burden of higher excise duty on SUVs supplemented by a 25 per cent duty hike in the import of Completely Built-up Units (CBUs), MINI commenced the local assembly of Countryman model at the BMW plant near Chennai. The iconic brand’s crossover SUV petrol model introduced in April last year now has a more affordable sibling, the MINI One Countryman, which will be up for grabs at a far more affordable price tag of Rs 23.50 lakh (ex-showroom). However, the other petrol variants of the MINI Countryman—Cooper S Countryman and Cooper S Countryman High—will continue to be imported in India as CBUs along with all of MINI’s other hatchback (Cooper) models.
Also, adding to the Countryman range for the very first time are two diesel variants, which will also be locally produced at the plant near Chennai.
However, the Countryman Cooper S petrol, which is priced at Rs 34.2 lakh (ex-showroom), and Countryman Cooper S petrol High at Rs 37.5 lakh (ex-showroom) aren’t really affordable but they have all the works and the backing of a great brand. Nevertheless, don’t just go by the name MINI as there is nothing small about this car; it is a great buy and an iconic car which you will cherish for years!