MINI a diesel

delight

MINI Countryman, front
MINI Countryman, side
MINI Countryman, rear
MINI Countryman, rear
MINI Countryman, interior

DIESEL engines rarely sound sweet like petrols do, or rival them in the performance stakes.

But the latest MINI Cooper Countryman has all that sorted.

In fact, I would go as far as to say this is the best small car diesel engine on the market.

The 2.0-litre engine is borrowed from the BMW 1 and 3 series and it's smooth, refined and quiet, yet has enough sweet sound to keep things interesting for the driver.

It starts to pull hard from just 1,300 revs - just a little above tickover - and the urge just gets stronger and stronger, making it a delight to drive.

Acceleration is brilliant from rest and in the gears, with a slick changing six speed manual making sure there's always a right ratio.

Pushing it along some B roads I know well, the acceleration between corners was was brilliant in third or fourth and the roadholding and handling matched it perfectly.

Many models in this larger MINI SUV range, which was launched earlier this year, are available with ALL4 four wheel drive (4WD) and this car was one of them.

ALL4 works automatically, bringing the rear wheels into action when the front start to lose grip, but the roads were dry in the time I had it, and I don't think the 4WD came into play at all.

The steering feels just right, weighty and perfect at speed and seems fitting for the car's extra bulk over the one it replaced.

It handles very much the same as the delightful hatchback, with marvellous panache and safety - very much as you might expect.

But as with the previous Countryman - and other similar cars with raised suspension - it has a problem. You can't have your cake and eat it.

To keep its sporting appeal, the suspension is fairly firm. This reduces roll in the corners, adding to the levels of grip and fun.

Howsoever, it is too stiff when travelling in a straight line, leaving an unsettled and at times uncomfortable ride, with a sideways rocking motion over some surfaces that is not pleasant.

I would rather have a higher level of comfort from softer springs, and a greater amount of anti-roll built-in, which should achieve the same handling result.

The interior layout is lovely and even basic Coopers come reasonably well equipped.

Including alloys, stability control, alarm, cruise, AM/FM radio, loads of airbags, sat nav and manual air con.

But this is at this exalted price, things like a DAB stereo, climate control and parking sensors should be standard - as they are in cars costing half the price.

Audi Q2

FAST FACTS

Price: £26,630

Mechanical:150bhp, 1,995cc, 4 cylinder diesel engine driving all four wheels via a 6 speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 127mph

0-62mph:8.5 seconds

Combined MPG:58

Insurance Group: 21

C02 emissions: 127g/km

Bik rating:25%

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