Today I headed down to MINI of Peabody for their “MINI Rocks The Rivals” day – a chance to drive the new MINI Countryman, and other cars that MINI USA consider to be “rivals”; I had the chance to drive a Nissan Juke! It makes even the Countryman’s headlights look good!
The Nissan Juke interior is very cheap plastic, it doesn’t look very good at all, and it’s awful to drive – steering was so disconnected, and the CVT transmission gave a very strange acceleration experience, though I suppose it’s possible to get used to it. Of course, it’s hard to call this a “rival” when it costs thousands less! Maybe that’s why MINI USA are offering a $1,000 discount to everyone that participates in the test drive.
After the Juke, I skipped the Toyota RAV 4 and VW Tiguan, and got in to a Countryman – an ALL4, but in the not-so-great semi-red color … I still don’t like those headlights, and it struck me today how huge and plain the rear hatch is – definitely needs some more badging, or decals. Inside the finish is way better than the Juke – but I still had trouble with the stereo controls. Better position for the volume knob now, but those two knobs right next to each other, doing very different things, is confusing. Turn one to adjust volume, but turn the other to adjust bass/treble/etc:
Of course the Countryman drove much better than the Juke, and offered great connectivity to the road with good steering and a responsive engine. Unfortunately, I’m not comparing the Countryman to that, but to my Q5! Rear visibility when I reversed in to parking was very poor (no backup camera option from MINI either), and while the stereo sounded good, it didn’t sound great.
On the other hand, the ride is much better on our potholed roads than my GP, pretty close to the Q5 ride; reasonably quiet interior too.
In conclusion I think the Countryman is a great car at it’s price – but I’d have some trouble switching from something that cost half as much again!