The Oxymoron Dictionary – compiled by cynical old people who know that many things in our society contradict themselves – makes for interesting reading.
Sayings like “individual collections”, “primitive advancements”, “lost discoveries”, “current history”, “restored ruins”, “private exhibits”, “authentic models”, “extinct life” and “civil war” make total non-sense. Our national situation adds others, like “honourable MP”, “honest politician” and “government efficiency”.
The South African motoring world has just come up with another – the MINI Cooper Diesel. Never, after Sir Alec Issigonis designed the very first Austin Mini for the British Motor Company in 1959, did the idea of a diesel engine enter the minds of the designers, marketers or buyers of the little cars.
After all, the Mini was known for being small and light, with agile handling, which indirectly led to a proud racing and rallying heritage.
The thought of marrying the concept to a diesel engine, plus an automatic transmission, never occurred, even when recreational drug usage was rife in the late Sixties.
Diesel technology has come a long, long way over the last five decades, with oil-burning cars currently an option in most vehicle line-ups.
But somehow, the diesel-powered MINI never appeared on our shores.
But now it is here – the MINI Cooper D Countryman Automatic.
Of course, there is nothing mini about the MINI – the Countryman version is as large as any of its market competitors.
It is 4,3 metres long, 1,8 metres wide, 1,5 metres high, weighs in at 1 430 kg and has five doors.
It is powered by an in-line four-cylinder normally-aspirated diesel engine of 1 995cc, which renders 110 kW of power at 4 000 rpm and 330 Nm of torque between 1 750 rpm and 2 500 rpm.
This is relayed to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic Steptronic transmission. It sits on spoked 17-inch alloy wheels in 225/55 R17 tyres and has disc brakes all round.
Inside, it boasts absolutely everything that can click, bang or call Oprah direct.
The list is too long to reproduce here, but it includes carbon black cloth and leather covered seats, air conditioning, a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, a touch screen, a navigation system, and an electric handbrake.
Driving the vehicle proved rewarding – the acceleration is brisk, with the automatic transmission smooth and seamless, going up or down.
The handling was neutral, even during spirited cornering, with the plethora of safety aids including anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control, dynamic stability control, fading brake support, dynamic traction control electronic differention lock control and hill start assistance.
We will not even begin to pretend we know what all of the above stuff actually does, but the MINI certainly helps to prevent you flinging it into the flora.
Something we did not like was the vehicle’s lack of a spare wheel – run-flat tyres might be great if you never leave the city, but we tend to get nervous without a back-up system on long journeys.
The real point about diesel-powered cars is the fact that they generally produce low fuel consumption and the test car impressed with an overall usage figure of 6,4 l/100 km.
The MINI Cooper D Countryman Automatic will cost R475 000 – a figure that could rise dramatically if you start clicking boxes on the options list.
We think it is an economical, spacious, comfortable and practical, while not forgetting that it is a MINI, and therefore fun to drive.