When I first got allocated this Mini Cooper JCW Countryman (as a company car), I was apprehensive.
Although I'm a big fan of the Mini brand, the Countryman is an oddball shape. Compared to the Mini hatch, the proportions looked bloated, and dare I say it, ugly. But the JCW version looks so tough that I've came to love its aggressive body kit, blacked-out headlights and machined 19-inch alloys.
The faux diffuser on the rear bumper also helps it look much more cohesive. The red decals are a bit much, the one on the bonnet resembling a devil's pitchfork. Fitting perhaps?
The real highlight of this car is the engine. While 160kW isn't huge by current hot-hatch standards, the JCW's brashness has really won me over.
I rarely use the sport button as the engine always seems to be in 'blaring exhaust mode' (one colleague did mistake it for a diesel though). Just squeeze the throttle and the whole car comes alive, and launches itself down the road.
All-wheel drive has made slippery winter roads a breeze. And perhaps due to its SUV origins, the ride is surprisingly supple.
The interior is dramatic in typical Mini fashion. Details like the aircraft-style handbrake and toggle switches are pointless, but add to the fun. Ambient lighting can make the interior light up any colour of the rainbow, a fun party trick for new passengers.
The R60 Countryman was released in 2011 and you can tell. There is no rear-view camera (only sensors), and the infotainment is outdated. Bluetooth audio streaming needs to be re-connected regularly; very annoying.
And forget trying to charge your phone and play music at the same time. Voice activated phone calls worked a treat, though. Missing are any driver assist technologies (AEB, blind-spot warning et cetera). Luckily, the fat tyres and all-wheel drive traction keep it on the right track!
I thought the fuel consumption for a 1.6-litre turbo would be better, to be honest. It started off around 14L/100km, and after 4000km it's reduced to around 9L/100km. I don't do much freeway driving so that could be a factor, but stop-start would be helpful.
The worst part is the fuel light taking over the digital speedo display once distance to empty dips below 100km. You then have to constantly clear the message off the screen, or rely on the central (and hard-to-read) speedo.
Sadly after three months with the JCW, I have to hand it back to work so they can sell it. Overall I have loved my time with this bad-ass bruiser.
If I was paying with my own money, I definitely would've optioned the sunroof and heated seats, annoyingly absent on my example. Then again I probably wouldn't have paid the $60K RRP. Especially now details of the newly released F60 JCW Countryman have been released!