Palpable tension

Tension hangs heavy in the air as teams prepare for round 2 of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy in Barcelona this weekend following the dramatic events of the opening round.

Events on the Yas Marina track and in the stewards’ room conspired to hand a maiden World RX victory to Kevin Hansen in the Team Hansen MJP Peugeot 208.

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That was after two of the leading protagonists – older brother Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud in the Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 – had a high-speed coming together in Q3. Timmy’s Peugeot suffered event-ending damage while Bakkerud was disqualified for his part in the incident.

Timmy’s mechanics have worked tirelessly in the time since Abu Dhabi to have the No.21 Peugeot re-built, including repairs to the chassis and reconstructing sections of the roll cage in readiness for Barcelona and the Circuit de Catalunya.

There is spice to the battle between Norway’s Bakkerud and the Hansens, as witnessed in the pre-event press conference in Abu Dhabi. That carried over to the race track and is likely to continue this weekend.

The 1.135km rallycross layout at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona includes turns 11-15 of the Formula One track and comprises a 60-40% split of tarmac and gravel.

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So, the leaderboard entering the Spanish round, has Kevin at the top of the pile with 30 points, Niclas Gronholm, the provisional race winner in Abu Dhabi prior to a three-second penalty in the final, second on 26. The Finn drove strongly all weekend in his GRX Taneco Hyundai i20 including a semi-final win en route to the final.

Kevin clinched the Euro RX Supercar title at Barcelona in 2016 so knows his way around the circuit.

Team STARD Ford Fiesta driver Janis Baumanis and Timo Scheider in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza are locked together on 20 points and likely to be among the challengers this time out.

Germany’s Scheider was the top qualifier in 2017 eventually finishing second to Mattias Ekstrom in the final. Barcelona was also the scene of Scheider’s World RX debut in 2015.

Hungary’s Krisztian Szabo, made an impressive World RX debut in Abu Dhabi, in his EKS Sport Audi, with fourth place. He lies fifth in the championship.

Liam Doran took his Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 to a first World RX podium in Abu Dhabi, and is likely to be a contender again. The Briton prepared for the second round of World RX with victory in a Group B Retro Rallycross Championship race at Lydden Hill on Easter Monday.

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The 19-car field will also feature cycling royalty in the shape of Sir Chris Hoy. The six-time Olympic gold medallist will pilot the Xite Racing-prepared Ford Fiesta.

Following a recent test at Pembrey in Wales, Hoy, who has competed in the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016, and European Le Mans and British GT racing, is relishing the latest motorsport challenge.

“I want do the best job I can, make the most of the opportunity and have as much fun as I can and just soak up the experience,” he says.

Oliver Bennett will combine mentoring duties for Hoy with racing the Xite Racing Mini Cooper, repaired after a roll in Abu Dhabi.

GC Kompetition’s Guerlain Chicherit and Anton Marklund narrowly missed the final at Yas Marina Circuit and will look to go make amends while the GCK Academy duo Cyril Raymond of France and Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder will take learnings from their maiden World RX outings in the Renault Clios.

ESmotorsport – Labas GAS’s Rokas Baciuska, will look to build on the semi-final placing of his World RX debut in Abu Dhabi. Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov, partnering Gronholm in the GRX Taneco squad in the Hyundai i20, has a Barcelona podium on his CV from 2016 and is expected to run at the sharp end.

Hungary’s Tamas Karai will be at the wheel of the Karai Motorsport Audi A1 while Frenchman Herve Knapick competes in a Citroen DS3.

Also joining the line-up in a second Team STARD Ford Fiesta is the former works WRC driver and European Championship competitor Jani Paasonen, of Finland.

This weekend also sees the start of the RX2 International Series and the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600 the training ground for the next generation of World RX stars.

Barcelona is start of a busy few weeks for World RX. After Spain, there is one weekend’s break before Spa-Francochamps makes its debut in hosting the World RX of Benelux on May 11-12 with Silverstone’s SpeedMachine Festival to follow on the weekend of May 25-26.

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MINI Clubman updated

The 5-seater MINI Clubman has been given a few tweaks including a revised front design with a new radiator grille, LED headlights with Matrix function for the high beam, LED rear lights as standard and a sports suspension among them.

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The latest updates in the range of MINI Connected digital services are added to the modern interpretation of the classic shooting brake concept of four side doors and five seats along with a luggage compartment behind the two split doors at the rear.

There is a choice of two engines with output ranging from 100 kW to 141 kW. The model range will be supplemented at a later stage with the new edition of the sporty MINI John Cooper Works Clubman, which will come standard with the all-wheel drive system ALL4.

The luggage compartment can be extended from 360 litres to 1 250 litres according to needs.

The radiator grille is now bordered by a slim frame produced from a single piece. The air inlet is separated into six black, horizontal struts, which can be optionally upgraded to a chrome version. Specific features in the front section of the MINI Cooper S Clubman are the hexagonal grid pattern instead of the horizontal struts and the individual chrome strut in the air inlet as well as the latter’s chrome-plated emblem with a red ‘S’ at the centre.

The standard halogen headlamps now have an enlarged reflector and a black shield on the inside. The daytime driving light is integrated in the parking lights in the lower section of the front apron. The optional LED headlamps likewise feature a new design. The modified styling includes LED modules for low and high beam, which generate enhanced brightness, and a shield that is also finished in black.

The adaptive LED headlamps with Matrix function for the high beam are available as a new option. They offer a turning light function, which can be recognised by an inlay inside the headlamp and automatically adapt their brightness to the situation on the road. In urban traffic and when visibility is limited due to the weather conditions, the side area of the road is illuminated more intensely by adding the dimmed turning light. When driving on motorways it is possible to selectively increase the range of the high beam.

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Three new colour variants are available to choose from in terms of body finishes. The new MINI Clubman is now available in Indian Summer Red metallic, British Racing Green metallic or MINI Yours Enigmatic Black metallic. As an alternative to body colour, the roof and exterior mirror caps can also be finished in black, white or silver.

Depending on the model variant, the new MINI Clubman is fitted as standard with light alloy wheels that are either 16-inch or 17-inch in size. As an option, light alloy wheels are available in the sizes 18-inch and 19-inch.

The engine portfolio for the new MINI Clubman includes one 3-cylinder and one 4-cylinder petrol engine, each of which features the latest generation of MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology. A 7-speed Steptronic transmission with double clutch is standard on the MINI Cooper Clubman and the MINI Cooper S Clubman.

At its market launch, the new MINI Clubman will be available in two model variants:

MINI Cooper Clubman: 100 kW, 0 – 100 km/h in 9,2 seconds, top speed: 205 km/h, fuel consumption combined: 5,4 – 5,3 litres/100 km, CO2 emissions combined: 122 – 120 g/km.

MINI Cooper S Clubman: 141 kW, 0 – 100 km/h in 7,2 seconds, top speed: 228 km/h, fuel consumption combined: 5,6 – 5,5 litres/100 km, CO2 emissions combined: 127 – 125 g/km.

The standard range of equipment of the new MINI Clubman includes an audio system with six speakers and a USB socket. This enables the use of audio streaming via a Bluetooth connection. The standard operating system includes a 6,5-inch colour screen in the central instrument and the MINI Controller on the centre console.

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The optional equipment item Connected Navigation makes a range of additional infotainment functions available in the new MINI Clubman, as well as providing a convenient route guidance system. The MINI navigation system offers a map display with various perspectives on the 6,5-inch colour screen.

The key components of the optional equipment feature Connected Navigation Plus are an 8,8-inch colour screen – which also enables split-screen display – and the MINI Touch Controller. This option also comprises wireless charging for compatible mobile phones and a second USB socket.

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60 years young

MINI joins the ‘Big Boys Club’ this year and, 60 years after the first one was launched, celebrates the milestone with a special edition package in British Racing Green.

To mark the anniversary, the automobile manufacturer presents a design model that highlights both its British origins and the agile MINI character.

The special edition will be available in South Africa from June 2019 onwards as a MINI 3 Door and MINI 5 Door, each with two engine variants.

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Sports car designer John Cooper was an especially strong believer in the compact four-seater’s race track potential. In collaboration with Alec Issigonis, the creator of the classic Mini, he developed ideas for variants of the small car with a more powerful engine, thereby laying the foundations for an exceptional career on racing circuits and rally tracks, culminating in three outright victories at the Monte Carlo Rally in the 1960s.

The design model’s 60 Years logo appears not just on the left-hand bonnet stripe but also on the side scuttles of the turn indicators and on the door sill finishers at the driver and front passenger doors. Inside the car it can also be seen on the model-specific interior trim finishers, front headrests and steering wheel.

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The standard equipment of the edition vehicles includes a sports leather steering wheel along with sports seats in the leather finish MINI Yours Leather Lounge 60 Years and the exclusive colour Dark Maroon.

In conjunction with the equipment package 60 Years Chili, the edition vehicles also feature such items as LED headlights, LED fog lamps, white turn indicators and LED rear lights in Union Jack design, the lighting package for the interior and also the MINI Driving Modes and the MINI Excitement Package complete with ambient lighting. There is also an on-board computer, automatic air conditioning, a rain sensor and a storage package on board.

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Two petrol engines with an output ranging from 100 kW to 141 kW provide the drive portfolio for the MINI 60 Years Edition.

Top racers confirmed

Eighteen of the world’s top rallycross drivers and nine different marques will be making the trip to Cape Town for the start of the Gumtree World Rallycross of South Africa at Killarney Raceway on November 24/25.

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Kids under 12 are free, and there is loads of off-track entertainment, such as the majestic Silver Falcons Air Show and the Monster Energy Rig.

Current World Champion Johan Kristoffersson, who drives a factory-developed Volkswagen Polo Supercar for Team PSRX Volkswagen, tops the entry list. The Swede currently tops the 2018 Championship Leaderboard, intent on defending his 2017 title.

Compatriots Robin Larsson of Olsbergs MSE, Mattias Ekström of EKS Audi Sport, Timmy Hansen of Team Peugeot Total and his brother Kevin of Team Peugeot-Hansen are also in the mix, ensuring Sweden maintains a strong presence on the Cape track.

French legend Sebastien Loeb of Team Peugeot Total is the world’s most successful rally driver and will be looking to add to the six podiums he took in 2017, but he will have stiff competition at Killarney from Latvian champion Janis Baumanis of Team Stard and the highly experienced Russian Timur Timerzyanov of the GRX Taneco Team. All three are currently neck-and-neck in this year’s top 10.

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Kristoffersson’s racing partner, Norwegian Petter Solberg will also be here, as will fellow countryman Andreas Bakkerud of EKS Audi Sport and the rising young Finn Niclas Grönholm of GRX Taneco Team.

Making up the rest of the pack are GC Kompetition drivers Guerlain Chicherit and Anton Marklund, ALL-INKL.COM Munnich 77 drivers Timo Schedier and Rene Munnich, Gregoire Demoustier of Sebastien Loeb Racing, Oliver Bennett of Oliver Bennett and Kevin Eriksson of Olsbergs MSE.

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On Thursday, November 22 the World Rallycross Parade makes its way from the back of the Table Bay Hotel to the Amphitheatre at the V&A Waterfront where drivers, including Kristoffersson, Loeb and Solberg, will be signing autographs at a special meet and greet.
Official Drivers Entry List
# Driver                           Nat   Car                                                     Competitor                  Nat
1 Johan Kristoffersson SWE VW Polo R PSRX                               Volkswagen Sweden SWE
4 Robin Larsson            SWE Ford Fiesta                                         Olsbergs MSE             SWE
5 Mattias Ekstrom         SWE Audi S1 EKS RX quattro                  EKS Audi Sport           SWE
6 Janis Baumanis          LAT Ford Fiesta                                          Team Stard                  AUT
7 Timur Timerzyanov RUS Hyundai i20 GRX                                Taneco Team               FIN
9 Sebastien Loeb           FRA Peugeot 208 WRX                               Team Peugeot Total  FRA
11 Petter Solberg          NOR VW Polo R PSRX                                 Volkswagen Sweden SWE
13 Andreas Bakkerud NOR Audi S1 EKS RX quattro                     EKS Audi Sport          SWE
21 Timmy Hansen       SWE Peugeot 208 WRX                                Team Peugeot Total  FRA
36 Guerlain Chicherit FRA Renault Megane RS                              GC Kompetition         FRA
42 Oliver Bennett        GBR Mini Cooper                                           Oliver Bennett          GBR
44 Timo Schedier         DEU Seat Ibiza                                              ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport                                                                                                                                  DEU
66 Gregoire Demoustier BEL Peugeot 208                                   Sebastien Loeb Racing FRA
68 Niclas Gronholm    FIN Hyundai i20 GRX                                 Taneco Team               FIN
71 Kevin Hansen         SWE Peugeot 208 WRX                              Team Peugeot-Hansen SWE
77 Rene Munnich         DEU Seat Ibiza                                             ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport                                                                                                                                  DEU
92 Anton Marklund  SWE Renault Megane RS                                        GC Kompetition FRA
96 Kevin Eriksson     SWE Ford Fiesta                                                Olsbergs MSE          SWE

Road Review – MINI Cooper 5-door

Life is an extremely interesting, strange and sometimes frightening entity but, at least, some things in it are meant to be good and some good things in life are just meant to be.

MINI achieves both of those and, while my own personal deepest desire may be for the heavy metal gut-ripping growl of a V8 Roush Mustang roaring its challenge to the world, MINI teases the motoring senses on a completely different level.

From its very first iteration the little car has had plenty of chutzpah, using the word in its modern form to mean extreme self-confidence or audacity.

More than that it had sense of mischief about it and my own early adult years are littered with fond memories of the ‘Blue Goblin’ owned by a good friend that we used to thrash around Cape Town or the loaner 1275 GT offered to me to hammer around the now defunct Brandkop race circuit in Bloemfontein.

Perhaps, strangely, I have never owned one – but that is another story entirely.

Scoot forward now to the latest revisions made to the MINI Cooper 5-door, which still has the same levels of chutzpah shown by its predecessor – albeit at a price tag that puts it well on the wrong side of the market for which it was originally intended.

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Made, marketed and sold by BMW, the German automaker likes to keep the two brands well separated and the MINI identified as British – so it has worked the Union Jack into the rear lights as a cute feature to go along with the MINI logo projected onto the ground at night when unlockign the car.

The recent update for the MINI 3 door, the MINI 5 door and the MINI Convertible includes fresh design accents, innovations in drive technology, additional customisation options and an expansion of the digital services available as part of MINI Connected.

The new features include LED headlights with Matrix function for the high beam, LED rear lights, new light alloy wheels, extended range of leather trim, interior surfaces and colour lines.

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On the technology side a 7-speed Steptronic transmission with double clutch is optionally available for the models MINI One, MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S – as fitted to my test car.

The new transmission is characterised by very fast gearshifts, enabling extremely sporty acceleration manoeuvres without torque interrupt. It is operated using a newly designed electronic gear selector lever – this certainly enhancing Sport mode when the mischief needs to be acknowledged and the head needs to hear the satisfying ‘whap-whap’ as it runds up and down the cogs.

All Steptronic transmissions allow use of the coasting function in Mid and Green mode as well as the latest generation of the auto start/stop function. Navigation and front camera data can now be incorporated in the control of the latter, so if fitted will allow situations to be identified in which it is better not to switch off the engine: for example when stopping briefly before making a turn or entering a roundabout, or if the traffic ahead has started moving again.

The MINI Cooper 5-door with 100 kW on tap, will do the 0 – 100 km/h dash in 8,2 seconds, top out around 207 km/h and keep fuel consumption around the 5,2 l/100 km mark.

However, those are just numbers that do nothing to convey the fun part of driving the world’s original point-and-squirt performer and, where others have failed with retro models, to fully encapsulate everything that was magic about the Issignonis design.

The 5-door covers all the bases as an urban commuter with just enough rear space for the kids or colleagues on a short trip to a meeting. There is just about enough luggage space to fit a set of golf clubs or bags for a minimal clothing weekend getaway.

So, it is practical and economical enough for its urban intentions – but it is on the open road where, allowed to roam freely, it re-ignites the joy of driving, the adrenalin rush of quick cornering and the sense of satisfaction that comes with being at one with the machine.

As far as looks are concerned, the newest version has a modified design for the circular headlights with a black panel insert on the standard ones and an entirely new one for the optional LED lights. The LED daytime driving light and the turn indicator light are generated by a ring which surrounds the entire contour of the headlight.

Likewise optionally available, the adaptive LED headlights automatically adjust their brightness to the situation on the road.

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The new MINI logo is a re-interpretation of the existing logo and now features a two-dimensional ‘flat design’.

The selection of optionally available light alloy wheels has been expanded, too. The 17-inch light alloy wheels in the design styles Roulette Spoke 2-tone and Propeller Spoke 2-tone are now available for all body variants of the new MINI. The 17-inch light alloy wheels in Rail Spoke 2-tone design have also been newly added to the program.

New features for the MINI 3 door and the MINI 5 door interior include the Chester leather trim in Malt Brown and a Colour Line now also available in Malt Brown.

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MINI Yours customised products can be selected, designed and ordered through a specially created online shop (www.yours-customised.mini). Here customers can choose between various colours, patterns, surface structures and icons, as well as contributing their own texts and adding a touch of personal style to the design.

As is the norm with most European manufacturers, there is a long list of optional packages that can be selected to tailor-make the final product to suit your personal tastes – at, of course, a price.

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Road Impressions – MINI John Cooper Works Countryman All4

It had been far too long ago since a John Cooper Works MINI had graced my test schedule, so the prospect of a latest generation offering was something I was looking forward to – a chance to reconnect with a nimble and feisty performer with more than just a hint of the mischievous.

That the car in question was a Countryman, brother to the more standard version tested not so long ago and described by me as “MINI gone Maxi” mattered little – it was the race face I was most interested in.

The second generation of the MINI Countryman is the biggest model in the entire range of the British brand and the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman comes with an output of 170 kW – the most powerful engine ever to be fitted in a MINI.

The car sprints from zero to 100 km/h in 6,5 seconds with both the standard 6-speed manual transmission and 8-speed Steptronic sports transmission. Combined fuel consumption is claimed at 7,4 l/100 km with CO2 emissions at 168 g/km, however we found the average consumption edged closer  to the 8,0 l/100 km.

The all-wheel drive system has a sports suspension with 18-inch John Cooper Works light alloy wheels and Brembo sports brake system, special body features to optimise aerodynamic properties and cooling air intake, and a model-specific cockpit with John Cooper Works sports seats.

Dimensionally and in terms of basic standard equipment, the JCW version is identical to the Countryman previously described, but it does come with a harmonised package of engine, suspension, aerodynamically optimised exterior.

The distinct vehicle character is given additional emphasis with model-specific standard features including LED headlamps, MINI Driving Modes, Park Distance Control, Comfort Access, Radio MINI Visual Boost, multifunction buttons on the steering wheel and cruise control with brake function.

Up front is a  2,0-litre petrol engine developed for John Cooper Works models with the new generation of the all-wheel drive system ALL4.

The 4-cylinder turbo-charged engine offers 170 kW, some 29 kW higher than that of the MINI Cooper S Clubman.

It does not have to be in ‘Sport’ mode to feel – or hear – the differences. It fires up with a suitably throaty roar and, even at low speeds, keeps this burbling boogie comfortably audible in the background, changing instantly to a full-bodied bellow when the throttle is pressed to the floor.

Always feeling as if it wanted to be someplace else, the throttle response is instant and even more impressive in ‘Sport’ mode, when the whole car seems to tighten up and the ‘Maxi’ previously discussed ceases to be a factor and it hunkers down to encourage being pressed to its limits.

With all four wheels being driven it was easy to carry more speed into corners and to accelerate out of them much more quickly without upsetting the car and the initial understeer tendency is easily adjusted with the accelerator.

The power steering provides good feedback and is extremely accurate, perhaps even a smidgen too sensitive at times.

I came away impressed with the overall stability of the car in all situations, the taller profile not really a factor at playtime.

In terms of the look, the front section has especially large side cooling air inlets instead of parking lights and fog lamps; model-specific side sills; wide rear apron with integrated, tapered dual tailpipes of the sports exhaust system; John Cooper Works rear spoiler; hexagonal radiator grille with honeycomb pattern and cross member in Chili Red; John Cooper Works logo on radiator grille, side scuttles and rear; body finish in Rebel Green, red contrasting finish for roof and mirror caps, sport stripes in red or black as options available exclusively for John Cooper Works models.

It has five and a luggage compartment volume of 360 litres. By folding down the rear backrest, optionally available in a 40 : 20 : 40 split, this can be expanded to 1 250 litres.

In terms of safety it has a weight and crash-optimised body structure and standard safety features include front and side air bags, side curtain air bags, ISOFIX child seat mountings at the rear and optionally also on the front passenger seat, tyre pressure display as well as Intelligent Emergency Call and collision warning with city braking function, LED headlamps with LED daytime running light, white turn indicators and LED rear lights as standard adaptive light distribution and turning light as an option.

All driver assistance systems offered for the new MINI Clubman also available for the John Cooper Works model including rain sensor with automatic driving light activation, Parking Assistant, rear view camera and Driving Assistant including camera-based active cruise control, collision and pedestrian warning with initial brake function, high beam assistant and road sign detection.

Standard comfort features including air-conditioning and Radio MINI Visual Boost with 6,5-inch colour screen, USB socket, AUX-IN socket and Bluetooth hands-free facility.

Options include 2-zone automatic air-conditioning, panorama glass roof, seat surfaces in Dinamica/leather, seat heating, MINI Excitement Package including LED ring for the central instrument, ambient lighting with adjustable colours and MINI logo projection from the exterior mirror on the driver’s side when opening and closing the door, heatable and folding exterior mirrors, interior and exterior mirrors with automatic dip function, heatable windscreen, Harmon Kardon hi-fi speaker system, alarm system including red LED status indicator in the fin antenna, MINI navigation system and Wired equipment package including navigation system Professional, operation via MINI Touch Controller and 8,8-inch colour screen with touch function.

Road Impressions – MINI Cooper Countryman

The ‘Mini’ name hardly seems relevant applied to the new Countryman that is 20 centimetres longer and three centimetres wider than its – already biggish – predecessor. This is Mini gone Maxi!

To younger car buyers this is immaterial, as they did not have the pleasure of the acquaintance of the original Sir Alec Issignonis Mini or any of that heartstring tug to ‘the lekker old days’ born from a deep affection for that iconic creation.

The proliferation of Mini derivatives is testimony to its widespread appeal in markets around the world and the fact it does look different, does offer a funky and unique dashboard layout helps this appeal considerably considering the boring sameness of so many ‘popular’ brand cars against which it competes.

The new Mini Countryman is the biggest and most versatile model in the brand’s 57-year history. Having been completely newly developed, it now reflects considerable advancements in the areas of space, functionality, athletic flair and premium characteristics.

The bigger car results in increased space on the five seats as well as an increase in storage volume and luggage transport versatility.

The luggage compartment volume is 450 litres and can be extended as required to a total of 1 309 litres. This constitutes a maximum increase of 220 litres as compared to the predecessor model.

The car does have its heritage rooted in British history and the  Austin Seven Countryman had a highly versatile interior and the version with wood frame panelling – popularly known as a ‘Woody’ – attained cult status that it continues to enjoy to this day.

Easy to spot on the road, the latest generation of the Mini Countryman is defined by an extended ground clearance and raised seating position, further emphasised by the Mini ALL4 exterior look and high roof rails.

Inside, the increased size of the car is particularly evident in terms of rear seat legroom and the easier ingress and egress made possible by slightly large door openings compared to the outgoing model.

Both driver and front passenger benefit from extended head and shoulder space, while the adjustment range of the seats has also been enlarged.

The Mini Cooper Countryman is the base model in the range and is fitted with a 3-cylinder petrol engine with a capacity of 1 499 cc, producing 100 kW and 220 Nm and driving, in our case, through a 6-speed Steptronic transmission..

Depending on the engine, the reduction in fuel consumption from the new generation power plants amounts to as much as 1,4 l/100 kilometres according to BMW. Our test route took us a couple of hundred kilometres with mixed speed driving and the overall average achieved was 7,4 l/100 km.

While the Countryman is a big car, it still feels small car with plenty of that impish aura of mischief that made its forebears so dear to many hearts. It just feels designed to zip through gaps in the traffic, to handle like a go-kart and continue to flip the bird at conventialism.

The zippiness and its general road manners come from the tried-and-tested principle of a single-joint spring strut axle at the front and a multilink rear axle with a design that is optimised for weight and rigidity.

In addition to this, there is an electromechanical steering with Servotronic function, powerful brakes and Dynamic Stability Control DSC. 16-inch light alloy wheels come as standard with the new Mini Cooper Countryman.

The standard fittings include the Radio Mini Boost with four-line display in the central instrument and a Bluetooth hands-free telephone facility. Options include the Radio Mini Visual Boost with 6,5-inch colour display, the Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system, the Mini navigation system and the Mini navigation system Professional.

The standard collision warning with city braking function can be extended to include the Driving Assistant system with camera-based active cruise control, pedestrian warning with initial brake function, high beam assistant and road sign detection. In addition to this, Park Distance Control, rear view camera, Parking Assistant and Head-Up-Display are also optionally available.

At the heart of the connectivity in the Mini Countryman lies Mini Connected, the personal mobility assistant that includes individual mobility planning to enable punctual, stress-free arrival at appointments. And mobility does not start in the car: Mini Connected informs the driver of the optimum departure time based on calendar entries and current traffic data.

Address data and appointments saved by the driver previously on a smartphone via Mini Connected are automatically transferred to the car and do not have to be entered in the navigation system again.

Mini Connected can also save regularly visited places as favourite destinations and it detects frequently covered routes such as the daily run between home and work so as to be able to inform the driver in the event of unexpected traffic delays.

Despite the raised height of the Countryman, it feels well planted on the road even during speedy direction changes. Top speed is a shade more than 200 km/h and it will dash to 100 km/h in 9,8 seconds.

Pleasing and comfortable to drive the Maxi, err Mini, is evolutionary in the line – and we all know, you cannot argue with evolution.

(Note: image is of the Cooper S)