Our cars: Mini Countryman - January 2012
Week ending January 27
Driven this week: 115 miles
You know, you don't have to find a country B-road to enjoy the benefits of the Countryman Cooper S's perky engine.
On my local roads in West London, whose surfaces, bends and likely obstacles I know better than the back of my hand, I can nip about at a fair lick (within legal limits, of course) with confidence, knowing the engine is quick and smooth enough to change my pace as the conditions require.
It's perhaps not as flexible as I'd like, so I have to stir the gears quite a lot, but that's all part of the fun and gives some of the hands-on fun that's usually the preserve of country driving.
Neat handling adds to the fun, and without the kids on board the firm ride completes the sporty feel when I'm in the mood.
Mini Countryman review
Week ending January 20
Driven this week: 164 miles
Having remembered with fondness the flip-down child-view mirror in the Citroen C3 Picasso long-term test car that I used to run, I bought a similar after-market product for the Countryman.
The Sunshine Kids 'See Me' mirror (£7.99 from Halfords) looked promising enough: in the pack shot you stick it on the windscreen above your normal rear-view mirror, and you can see the rear seats without having to move your head or take your eyes away from the road for more than a second.
In reality I quickly discovered that there isn't any space above the Countryman's windscreen. In fact, it seems that hardly any new cars offer this location as rear-view mirrors tend to be positioned as high as possible in the windscreen area to avoid obscuring your view of the road. If you stick it behind the car's rear-view mirror your view is obscured by the car's mirror, or limited to the child in the offside rear seat. I wanted to be able to check on both.
So it was back to Halfords for my mirror, and instead I'm just trying not to take my eyes off the road for more than a second when I sit up tall to use the car's rear-view mirror to check on the kids - not a massive problem and a much better view.
Week ending January 13
Driven this week: 101 miles
I've bought a forward-facing child seat for my youngest, because he exceeded 9kg several weeks ago and can no longer stand the view of the back seat.
It's a Maxi Cosi Priori seat, which should last us until he's four. It fits very well, as we knew it would – because we already have the same model for our toddler.
It's no more forgiving for anyone attempting to use the rear centre seat in the Countryman, however. I recently attempted to squeeze myself between my toddler's seat and my baby's old Group 0 seat and there wasn't a hope; only a skinny 11- or 12-year-old – tall enough or old enough not to need a booster seat – would stand a chance.
This means the Countryman's rear seat does nothing for my self-image: my bum most definitely does look big in it.
Week ending January 6
Driven this week 50 miles
Mini's engineers know a thing or two about quick responses - and that includes my Countryman's heated seats. If I pop them on full blast I've got a hot bot by the time I've got to the end if my road in the morning; in fact it quickly gets too hot so, with derrière freshly toasted, I can turn it off altogether.