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117 MOTORING ROAD TESTS BY NICK FLETCHER


OUR MOTORING COLUMN, BY THE EXPERIENCED AND AWARD WINNING MOTORING JOURNALIST NICK FLETCHER HELPS OUR READERS CHOOSE THE BEST OF THE LATEST CARS.


MINI COUNTRYMAN


HOW BIG CAN A MINI BE BEFORE IT IS NO LONGER MINI? LOOKS LIKE THE GERMAN OWNERS OF THE MINI BRAND FEEL THERE IS NO UPPER LIMIT, FOR THE LATEST MINI COUNTRYMAN IS EVEN LARGER THAN BEFORE AND CAN NOW BE REGARDED BY MANY AS A MID-SIZE FAMILY CAR. With famous brand image and build-quality, plus increased practicality, the new Countryman is certainly going to please existing customers and win over a lot of potential new buyers. Six Countryman variants are available, all with


the Cooper prefix, with different engine outputs spanning 136 hp to 228 hp, and there is also the option of a plug-in hybrid. All except the hybrid have a 6-speed manual gearbox though there is the option of an automatic, and all-wheel-drive. To Mini purists, the Countryman’s exterior styling may look


a little awkward but there will be no complaints about the larger interior space, which allows it to rival crossover models such as Audi Q2, Mazda CX-3, Peugeot 3008 and SEAT Ateca. Prices start at £22,695 for the model


This entry model is well-kitted with 16-inch alloys, 6.5


inch touchscreen, sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, air-con, cruise control, roof rails, auto lights and wipers and rear-view camera. Standard connected services on all models include compatibility with an iPhone via MINI’s Connected app. The larger cabin means four adults


WHILE THIS LARGER MINI IS HEAVIER THAN THE STAN-


featured, the entry level Countryman Cooper with the 1.5 litre 3-cylinder petrol engine and standard 6-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is 126 mph, the 0-60 mph time 9.6 seconds. Fuel economy is 51.4 mpg combined. While this larger Mini is heavier than the standard car and therefore is not quite as nimble, it is still nippy enough to add a fun factor to the driving. The steering is precise and reacts swiftly, giving good grip and composed handling. The ride is on the firm side, but acceptably so and overall, noise levels are low and the driving feel quite refined.


DARD CAR AND THEREFORE IS NOT QUITE AS NIMBLE, IT IS STILL NIPPY ENOUGH TO ADD A FUN FACTOR TO THE DRIVING


can travel in comfort, and five if the rear occupants are prepared to squash. The 40/20/40 rear seat fold configuration is useful for occupant and load variation and the boot space, up from 350 litres on the previous model to 450 litres on the latest, can extend to 1,390 litres with rear seats down. Interior materials have a quality look and feel and help make the cabin a pleasant place to be. This new Countryman will be a hit with loyal fans and will convert others.


While not as practical as some crossovers/compact SUVs, it has the bonus of a cool image and BMW-Mini build integrity.


NISSAN X-Trail N-Vision


THE SUV MARKET IS A CROWDED PLACE WITH ALL THE MAJOR MANUFACTURERS VYING FOR A SLICE OF BOOMING SALES BUT OFFICIAL STATISTICS SHOW THAT THE WORLD’S BEST-SELLING SUV IS THE NISSAN X-TRAIL. Since its launch sales have reached 3.7 million, with 766,000 sold last year alone. And Nissan is determined to keep that top spot because it has revised and upgraded the X-Trail with a new version set to enter UK showrooms. The X-Trail is available with five or seven seats, with two or


four wheel drive, and with manual or CVT auto gearboxes. There are petrol and diesel engines, so lots of combinations


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