Game, set and hatch

Watergate, Dieselgate, now Tailgate ... gate

ANDY ENRIGHT

IT STARTED innocuously enough. The key fob button for the Countrymanís motorised rear hatch had suffered a fit of pique and obstinately refused to function. If youíve been following my experience with Miniís plussize model, youíll know that the rear hatch has taken a dislike to me, acting all innocent and then lunging at the back of my head if given the opportunity. Iíve wised up to that particular stunt but the car has now adopted an even more dastardly tack.

Returning to the vehicle after locking it in a busy shopping-centre carpark, I gazed across the serried rows of vehicles to spot the Countryman with the rear hatch raised to the skies in a triumphant Ďscrew you!í salute.

I wondered how long it had been sitting there like that and was relieved to find my laptop and jacket had remained resolutely unstolen. A week later it did it again, this time fortunately in the secure office car park. By this point, Iíd taken care not to leave anything worth stealing in the vehicle, but itís far from ideal.

These electrical glitches have put me on my guard a little, but the Countrymanís infectious personality otherwise makes it an easy car to get along with. It just has an evil tailgate and thatís something I have to take as part of the package. Itís like my neighbourís kitten; a lovely little thing until it craps in your shoe.

But you just canít stay mad at it for too long.

The Countryman has also endeared itself to the tightwad in me. After vowing not to drive it everywhere in sport mode, fuel use on the last tank improved to 5.3L/100km which isnít at all bad for an all-wheel drive almost-SUV. I think Iíve even got Kirbyís Kia Picanto pipped as the most economical vehicle on the Wheels fleet. Itís almost as if weíre acting as the offset program for Ponchardís V8 Mustang but I reckon the good olí boy Ford would grate on you a long time before the Countryman.

Knowing that I can return the car after four months means that the downsides of Countryman ownership are easier to shrug off. If Iíd forked out $56K for one, Iíd probably be less sanguine about its peccadilloes. The most annoying thing is that I know Iíd still genuinely like the car. Against all my better judgment and diligently curated prejudices, Iím sold on the thing. Your mileage may vary.

MINI COUNTRYMAN COOPER SD ALL4

Date acquired: July 2017 tested: $56,900 month: 1521km @ 6.0L/100km Overall: 4151km @ 6.3L/100km ac Price as This m Overall

Speakers corner

Never mind the polar opposite of consumption between the Mini and Ponchís Mustang; thereís no contest when it comes to audio quality, the Miniís 10-speaker Harman Kardon set-up being the antithesis to the Mustangís Shaker system. The audio quality is great, but it could really do with a bit more grunt. All too frequently, I find that Iím at maximum volume and thereís zero distortion, fuzz or flutter from the speakers. The spec sheet says 360 watts but it feels as if the DSP amplifier could benefit from a few additional ponies.

VIEW TO A KILL

Like all BMW products, the Countryman has the idle-stop kill switch next to the starter.

Kudos