We take a week to review & Road Test the MINI Countryman Cooper D All4 – MINI’s take on a butch, crossover MINI. Does the Countryman work, or is it just cynical marketing?
We’re not very good at making the most of what we create in Britain. We are pretty good at coming up with ideas and product, we’re just not always exactly the dog’s danglers when it comes to making great products in to great businesses.
What we need is someone organised and efficient to take our creativity and make it in to a world-beating product. What we need – I’m afraid to say – is a German. This, if we can ignore a couple of minor fracas in the 20th century, is the perfect basis for a world-beating business.
Because the Germans are we British with a sense of humour removed and a dose of efficiency stuffed in as a replacement. In most other things – things like drinking beer, breeding monarchs and bagging sun loungers – we’re remarkably similar. Which might explain why the Germans have become so very good at taking British icons and making them in to world-beating products.
Take Rolls Royce. Actually, when BMW did take Rolls Royce it was because no one else was willing to. Once the pride of the UK car industry, Rolls Royce had got stuck in its own Groundhog day of ancient product and declining markets. Much like Mini.
What BMW has done with both brands since is turn them in to world-beaters that personify all that is best about British cars. Especially British cars made by Germans. They are beautifully engineered, superbly built, cool as hell and so on the Zeitgeist it’s a bloody marvel.
Yes, the MINI is perhaps a bit too cutesy and a bit too ubiquitous, a car where form often wins over function. But if that’s the worst we can come up with I don’t think BMW will be losing sleep. We could also argue that the franchise is being milked to death with endless special editions and models.
But it’s not as if the whole special edition, make-as-many-models-as-you-can business plan is exactly new. It’s just the last time it was done the product was less robust, and certainly less well built.
What do you mean, I hear you youngsters cry? A Mini’s a Mini. There was only one. Oh no there wasn’t. Not by a very long way.
Apart from the Austin Mini and the Morris Mini (the pedant in me has to say it was really the Austin Seven and the Morris Mini Minor) we also had stuff like the Riley Elf and the Wolseley Hornet – titivated Minis with a different badge.
There was also the Mini Traveller, the Mini Countryman and the Mini Clubman. And we mustn’t forget the Mini Moke, the Mini Van and the Mini Pick-up. And that’s before we throw in the Mini Cooper and the Mini Cooper S and the coach built stuff like the Mini de Villes. By comparison, BMW are a bunch of amateurs at milking a concept for all it’s worth.
But now comes the tricky second album; the Austin 1100 for the 21st century; the ‘Family’ Mini.
Welcome to the the new MINI Countryman.
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