Mini goes totally maxi with the new Countryman - its biggest car ever: It's a practical, casual small SUV, says RAY MASSEY
For a car that's traded on its small size, the new Mini Countryman is pretty maxi — in fact, it's the biggest Mini ever. It has plenty of 'welly' — and even a spot to put muddy footwear.
It embodies a country casual approach that makes it suitable for busy families, whether in town or out in the sticks. And it's perfect for a picnic.
Plus it's practical with clever kit, including variable mood lighting inside, while a vast circular touch-screen on the dashboard is the hub for the satnav and stereo.
Equipped for the outdoors: The second-generation Mini Countryman is perfect for a picnic
In effect it's a mini sports utility vehicle. It's 20cm longer than the first generation model (79,000 of which have sold since 2010), with a wheelbase that's 7.5cm lengthier.
That means more interior space and more legroom at the back.
I drove one around the 'Berkshire Riviera', near Cookham, and was impressed by its full five-seater versatility and perky performance.
It licks along the leafy highways and byways.
Rugged: The new Countryman is perfect for busy families, whether in town or out in the sticks
Stretched: The 2017 model is 20cm longer than the first generation model with a wheelbase that's 7.5cm lengthier
There's a fold-out picnic bench seat with a cushion which allows you to perch on the sill of the hatchback to put on your wellies.
The open boot even doubles as a rain shelter. And, if you have your hands full, you can open the tailgate automatically by waving your foot under the bumper.
With Mini's Oxford plant close to capacity, the Countryman is built to BMW's exacting standards in Born, Holland, by Dutch manufacturer Nedcar.
Mud plugger: Ray was impressed by the Countryman's full five-seater versatility and perky performance
Unique: The fold-out picnic bench seat with cushion which allows you to perch on the sill of the hatchback to put on your wellies
Interior: Features include variable mood lighting inside and a vast circular touch-screen on the dashboard serving as the hub for the satnav and stereo
The range starts at £22,000 for the Cooper version and rises to £29,565 for the all-wheel drive Cooper SD ALL4, with first deliveries from February 11.
There are four new engines —two petrol, two diesel. The petrol 1.5-litre Cooper tops 50 mpg, but takes nearly ten seconds to accelerate from rest to 62mph.
The two-litre petrol Cooper S achieves 62 mph in 7.5 seconds, and returns 45.6 mpg, while the Cooper SD diesel's statistics are 7.7 seconds and 61.4 mpg.
Peugeot claims to be the first car-maker in the world to launch a fully comprehensive car-buying service, from browsing to delivery.
It reckons its Order Online by Peugeot system, operating now in Britain, represents, 'the first time that every step in the buying process can be completed in one place online, in one sitting'.
The system allows customers either to pick up their car from a local dealership or have it delivered to their door. Details at: offers.peugeot. co.uk.fxsc.ru.
White was top car colour in 2016
White proved to be the nation's favourite car colour last year, accounting for a fifth (552,329 sales) of the total 2.6 million new vehicles.
At 20.5 per cent of the market, it narrowly pipped black (20.16 per cent), reports the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders.
But white's share fell 2.1 per cent on the previous year, with other popular colours being grey (17.3 per cent), blue (15.4 per cent), red (11.3 per cent) and silver (10.15 per cent).
Green (1 per cent), orange (0.7 per cent), brown (0.6 per cent) and yellow (0.6 per cent) followed.
Vauxhall has unveiled its smart new small family-oriented Crossland X is priced from about £15,000
The Crossland X eplaces the ageing Meriva and is a rival to Renault's Captur and the Peugeot 2008
Vauxhall has unveiled its smart new small family-oriented Crossland X (above).
It hits the road this summer, priced from about £15,000. Dubbed a crossover utility vehicle (or CUV), it replaces the ageing Meriva and is a rival to Renault's Captur and the Peugeot 2008.
Prime Minister Theresa May's broadside to Brussels about the consequences of punishing the UK for leaving the EU should be studied by Continental car-makers.
Why? The UK is the third largest market for Peugeot and Citroen, the fourth largest for BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
And Volkswagen — despite its emissions scandal — sells 527,000 cars a year in the UK.
Pay-as-you-go motoring for London
Keep a close eye on the London Assembly's plans to replace the Congestion Charge with a new pay-as-you-go road pricing system where rates are set according to when, where, and how far you drive.
The Authority has published a transport report, London's Stalling.
It says the charge — introduced in 2003 and now £11.50 per day if you enter central London between 7am and 6pm on weekdays — is failing to reduce jams.
A road-pricing scheme could extend across all Greater London, it says.
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