Doesn’t it look depressed? The headlights look like the lonely, dejected eyes of a St Bernard, while the grille looks like the mouth of a politician who’s just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Honestly, I don’t know what the Countryman JCW’s issue is. After spending a day with the Countryman, in and around the Gerotek test facility, I couldn’t find a single fault that could justify a scowl of that nature.
Perhaps it has a problem with the outlandish styling upgrades made to its body, but, if that was the case, it’s all on its own. A Mini, or a John Cooper Works Mini to be precise, is supposed to look naughty.
The exterior upgrades include an aerodynamic kit, John Cooper Works logos on the radiator grille and tailgate, front fog lamps and a selection of seven striking exterior colours that work very well in combination with the dazzling 18-inch alloys. If you wish to make more of an impact, you can order a contrasting roof colour and/or sport stripes in white, black or red.
Mini has made a few special upgrades to the cockpit as well. You get sports seats and steering wheel, piano-black interior trim, JCW door sills and bespoke dark speedometer and rev counter dials.
These upgrades add up to a car that not only looks special, but feels so as well. Suffice to say that you’ll definitely get noticed in one of these cars and other road users won’t be mistaking it for one of the lesser models in the Countryman range.
Luckily the engine can cash the cheques the body so willingly hands out.
Behind that sneer lies a four-cylinder petrol engine with twin-scroll turbocharger technology, thanks to the friendly folk at BMW. From a displacement of 1 598cc, Mini has managed to eke out 160kW and 280Nm (300Nm on overboost) of torque.
At full tilt, the Countryman JCW can accelerate to 100km/h in seven seconds flat and will only stop accelerating once it gets to 225km/h, an impressive feat considering that there’s nothing miniature about the Mini Countryman.
A dash of practicality is also included in the mix. The Countryman is 4 133mm long, 1 789mm wide and 1 549mm tall. The rear can be specified with either a seat bench for three passengers at no extra cost to the customer, or two individual seats. With the bench in place the back seats can be folded down to increase boot capacity from 350 to 1 170 litres.
The JCW GP you can read about on page 2 in this issue may be the fastest Mini ever made, but the Countryman can lay claim to not only being properly fast, but practical as well. Drive it carefully and you might even be able to get close to Mini’s claimed fuel consumption figure of 7.4 litres/100km.
The Countryman is also the first John Cooper Works model to feature all-wheel-drive, or All4 in Mini speak, as standard. This system ensures that the driver is never left wanting in terms of grip, as it can transfer power seamlessly between the front and rear axles. To prove this, Mini allowed us to drive on a skidpad with all the electronic nannies (of which there are a few) switched off. The Countryman stuck to the road like a Chappie clings to the bottom of a school desk. You’d have to try really hard to unsettle this Mini.
The standard six-speed manual retails for R428 000, while a six-speed Steptronic transmission will cost an extra R13 100.