Kia Sportage 2011 review
It wasn't so long ago that we used to draw straws to see who'd have to drive the next Kia . These...
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With the introduction of the Countryman, Mini is no longer the one-model wonder of BMW's stable.
There's more to come than just its take on soft-roaders to keep DINKS and well-funded trendy folk in the fold when they need to make a lifestyle vehicle change.
The car we're in is the front-wheel drive Cooper S six-speed auto, which provides wagon space and ample pep without the AWD set-up to get it dirty, or bogged.
The Cooper S Countryman starts on the pricelist at just a tickle under $50,000 but the options and extras list is easily capable of bumping up the pricetag.
Our test car was a Chilli edition, which carries a $53,150 pricetag before $3055 is added for the six-speed auto.
The test car is awash with features, starting with the choice of four or no-cost-options five-seat rear bench (which removes the gimmicky centre-rail), front and rear fog lights, remote control central locking, bi-xenon headlights, roof rails and a sports leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls.
There's also single-zone climate control, multi-coloured ambient lighting, a 3.5mm auxiliary and USB connection to six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth phone link, cloth upholstery, trip computer, the six-speaker sound system, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights and cloth-trimmed sports seats.
The as-tested price was $62,542 - including 18in black alloy wheels (for $1170), about $1000 worth of striping and chrome bits, the double glass sunroof (which has front and rear vent function, but only the front slides aft) that adds $2587 and the satnav system (with Visual Boost graphics upgrade) contributes $2470 to the bottom line.
The Countryman gets the latest incarnation of the 1.6-litre turbo four that Mini and BMW share with Citroen and Peugeot.
The little turbo powerplant is flexible and punches hard when asked, thanks to a twin-scroll turbo teamed with direct injection and variable valve systems.
Power and torque is the same as the rest of the Cooper S models - 135kW at 5500rpm and 240Nm of torque from 1600 through to 5000rpm, with an extra 20Nm on offer for a short burst when full-throttle demands it.
The six-speed auto is 0.3 of a second slower than the manual for overall performance - 0-100km/h takes 7.9 seconds; fuel use in the auto is 7.5l/100km, almost a litre per 100km more than the manual.
The Countryman sits 154mm taller, 106mm wider, 128mm more in the wheelbase (part of an extra 381mm in overall length) than the traditional Mini hatches, with a bull-nose look and wider stance suggesting this is a Mini with maxi intentions.
In terms of rougher-road work, there's only an extra 19mm of clearance - 149mm for the Countryman over the hatch's 130mm - so regardless of how many wheels are driven, there's not much chance of spending much time far from sealed roads.
The cabin - in the test car's case a four-seat configuration with the centre rail - has reasonable space for its overall size, more than ample for two adults and two kids, or four average-sized adults.You'll need the cargo area at its lower-capacity level for fully-grown occupants, but I - now bearing the title apparently of Carsguide's burliest road-tester - can sit behind my own driving position without serious discomfort.
Bootspace isn't invaded by a spare tyre of any type and can be tailored a little using the rear seat to boost luggage space from 350 to 440 litres, or with all rear seats folded the capacity rises to 1170 litres.
The little SUV gets a full list of safety features - dual front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with corner brake control and electronic brakeforce distribution, switchable stability and traction control and a tyre pressure monitoring system for the hard-riding runflats.
Even with the higher ride height and slightly elevated clearance, the Countryman still carries attributes that mark it as a Mini.
The steering is sharp as you'd expect, tipping the wagon into corners with gusto thanks to the punchy little powerplant.
The 1.6 works well in most situations with the six-speed auto, but to keep the little wagon singing the sport mode on the automatic (and the Sport mode button that sharpens up throttle and steering a little) helps improve the response a little.
The engine also returns decent fuel use figures despite some enthusiastic throttle use - the ADR claim is 7.5 litres per 100km for the auto and the trip computer showed 10.8l/100km at the end of our time in the car.
With a 47-litre tank, three litres fewer than it's smaller, lighter sibling, the 620km range (using the ADR figure) isn't ground-breaking.
The steering can be effected a little by camber, kickback and torque steer but generally that didn't detract too much from the drive.
The cornering capability is considerable - well above what you'd expect for anything purporting to even flirt with the SUV segment.
But the ride pay-off is too firm for some, with the rigidity of the runflat tyres on the 18in wheels not dealing with smaller bumps as well as would be ideal.
The cloth-trimmed seats are not hugely comfortable but do offer decent levels of lateral support.
Buyers are paying for the Mini brand image and in isolation it's a decent little hauler with plenty of performance and a cheeky edge, but you could get a Kia Sportage and a Holden Cruze for the same amount of change.
|Cooper||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$9,700 – 14,630||2011 Mini Countryman 2011 Cooper Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper Chilli||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$12,200 – 17,600||2011 Mini Countryman 2011 Cooper Chilli Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper D||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$11,500 – 16,830||2011 Mini Countryman 2011 Cooper D Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper D All4||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$14,500 – 20,460||2011 Mini Countryman 2011 Cooper D All4 Pricing and Specs|