Our cars: Mini Countryman - October
Week ending October 28
Driven this week: 117 miles
To find out how user-friendly a car's sat-nav is, try using it under pressure. A time limit of, say, 20 seconds – or the combined sound of a crying baby, a toddler repeating the same question about a million times and your mother simultaneously attempting to hold a conversation with you.
I'm sorry to say the sat-nav in my Mini doesn't pass this test with me: the joystick control knob just isn't intuitive enough, either for selecting route parameters and spelling words from the rotary selection wheel. While a push-button selector might seems a bit old-fashioned by comparison, it's a lot simpler to use when you’re brain is fried. For those how know how to stay cool amid chaos, then, the Mini's system may not be a problem.
Week ending October 21
Driven this week: 108
Sporty cars tend to come with a firm ride, but I’m beginning to think my Cooper S Countryman goes a step too far. Even my own enjoyment is tempered by the continuous thumping over every lump and bump – and I’m not making it up when I say that the baby cries every time I go over a speed bump at anything more than 5mph, and my barely articulate toddler pipes up to say how ‘bumpy’ the car is.
The car’s sporty suspension is largely to blame but it’s also the fault of the rock-hard run-flat tyres, which are all that are available on four-wheel-drive Cooper S cars like mine.
If I were to order the car again I’d definitely forsake the four-wheel-drive capability – and probably a little driving enjoyment – for a softer ride that make journeys round town a little less upsetting for the family.
Week ending October 14
Driven this week: 193
The Countryman's automatic central locking will no doubt be a reassuring feature if I'm stuck on a quiet back road or come across a suspicious character while waiting at traffic lights.
However, day-to-day it's driving me nuts at the moment. Whether my toddler is about to have an 'accident', the baby has dropped his dummy or I need to urgently grab something from the from the boot, I frequently have to leap out of the driver's seat and open one of the other doors in an instant, only to be thwarted by the central locking and be unable to open it.
I then have to reach into the cabin to switch off the central locking, and start again. Call me a slow learner but in the heat of the moment I find it hard to remember to stop, look for the unlock button among the Countryman's row of little toggle switches and press it before I get out of the car - by which time the accident is usually imminent.
I suppose I'll get it in the end, and the safety bonus is worth the current annoyance.
Week ending October 7
Miles driven this week 97 miles
The devil’s in the detail, and that’s certainly the case with the Countryman’s flat boot floor – or, rather, access to the area underneath. For some reason the indents where you insert your hand to lift the floor are at each end of it rather than in the middle.
That might not sound like a big problem but it always winds me up when I’m already struggling with my kids, because instead of instinctively reaching easily in front of me to lift the boot floor I have to step or awkwardly lean to one side because my arms aren’t long enough to reach otherwise.
A handle or strap in the middle would make it so much more user-friendly in an instant.