All4 one not Mini's one for all
The bulked-up five-door has the makings of a truly great car, but it's still too early in its history to recommend its purchase, says Campbell Spray
Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00
Over the past few weeks I have been foolishly watching a science fiction series called Outcasts on BBC 1. It was foolish because I should have given up after the first of the eight episodes as it was desperately short on science, good fiction, acting and proper plot development.
Despite having actors like Hermione Norris and Liam Cunningham and being set on a distant star where the last remnants of humanity are trying to survive, it was piffle of the first order, with laughable dialogue.
And although the thousands of settlers on the outcasts' planet had travelled for five years across space on massive transporters, it seemed they hadn't managed to build a single car or bicycle among them since their arrival 10 years previously.
Perhaps like in the excellent Minority Report, which really explored the next steps in technology, the series should have linked up with a car company and had some good buggies to explore the hostile planet. But it didn't, so no wonder the outcasts didn't travel well and the series set on the ironically titled Carpathia was axed.
Of course, I should have taken the hatchet to my viewing schedules at an early stage, but the optimist ever lurks around the house.
Whatever about Carpathia, Planet BMW and its Mini moon are very desirable places to be at the moment if its worldwide success last year is anything to go by. With that in mind, last week we were testing the Mini Countryman again -- but this time it had the all-wheel drive, called All4, which makes for a much more exciting overall proposition.
This bulked-up five-door Mini has the makings of a truly great car in literally lifting the car from its go-kart-like heritage into another dimension. But it is still too early in its development to recommend its purchase.
The gearbox, drivetrain and suspension are not fluid enough and the whole experience is too jerky, which is not helped by the cluttered pedal area. The comfort, safety and economy are great, with a good load area, but it is beyond time that the Mini's fascia had a real makeover.
The useless dinner-plate speedometer might hark back to the Issigonis original, but it means zilch to 90 per cent of the car's target market.
You can be a pioneer with the All4 Mini Countryman Cooper Diesel for €28,890, or go as far as the twin turbo-charged and very fast petrol Cooper S version with automatic gearbox for another €10,000 -- and that's all before all those very desirable Mini accessories eat away at the rest of your wallet.
Development always takes time and the BMW 5-Series has only really come into its own now as a car of world renown. Turning the Mini into a full-sized car with a bit -- and I stress the "bit" -- of off-roading ability was always going to be a huge job and it is still very early in the cycle. That it still has much of the fun and glamour of the brand is a tribute to its designers. It's a real head-turner and one day will be brilliant to own.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Reality, many over-priced, second-hand cars are still languishing on showroom forecourts. I made a note of certain cars this time last year and they are still there at local dealers. This is madness. It's a bit like clothes you haven't worn for a year. Have a total clear-out! When I rule my own star there will be a set price, and no such thing as delivery charges. Beam me up, Scotty.