joi, 30 iunie 2011

Mini Countryman Cooper D All4 (2011)

Build quality is a term beloved of automotive journalists. The problem is it's a broad term, easily applied to everything from the thunk of a German door shutting to the flimsiness of a French front wing. There you go - I've gone and done it again. Fallen into the usual stereotyping of nationalities' automotive products.
Which brings me to my Mini Countryman which, despite the Mini customers' love of Union Jacks, is built in Austria. The German BMW genes show through strongly in the car, which feels decidedly German, or at the very least bordering on it.
For a car that starts at £16,000 the Countryman is a strikingly well designed and bolted together product. If you start poking around the cabin you will find weaker, cheaper bits here and there, but the overall impression and perception is high grade. The seats wouldn't look out of place in a £50k car.
Everything works, nothing squeaks, nothing rattles and nothing gives you cause to doubt that's the way it will remain. Outside it's much the same story. The slabs of wheelarch plastics beloved of Mini designers are always a weak point. My rear wheelarch has already popped slightly out of place and after a few years this material fades, needing liberal applications of Back-to-black to retard the ageing process.
I know this because I've already owned my own Mini Cooper S for a few years. More noticeable on our Countryman are the larger panel gaps around the bonnet and headlights, but these seem to be a necessity of the ambitious design rather than any build fault.

Going back to my initial stereotypes, I have to admit to being rather impressed with the interior materials and finish on similarly sized Peugeots and Renaults recently. But oh those flimsy plastic front wings! The French could still learn a thing or two from the Germans, it seems.

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