Last month, we ended our update with a mention of some engine stumbling and stalling, and unfortunately that proved to be not just a one-time incident.
Soon after, art director Matt Tierney drove the Countryman out to the west side of the state for our Automobile of the Year/All-Stars competition at Gingerman Raceway. The next morning, the Mini refused to start. It ended up leaving Gingerman on a flatbed. The dealership replaced the thermostat, which had a broken housing that was allowing the coolant to leak out and was causing the cold start issues. The car is now running fine when cold.
Word of fixes for some of the other issues we’ve had with the Countryman came from -- where else? -- the internet. After we posted our last update on Facebook, a friend of associate web editor Donny Nordlicht, and an enthusiastic owner of an early-build Countryman, responded with encouraging news with regards to the peeling chrome trim issue and the persistent rattles. He claimed that the chrome trim was a problem on early-build cars but that it has now been fixed. Mini HQ confirms that they had a supplier problem on early-build cars, and that updated moldings are now available for replacement under warranty.
As for the rattles, he was talking about some noise when the sunroof is open, but our car doesn’t have a sunroof. Which is almost too bad because we’d love hear about anything that might quell the interior racket. Unfortunately, it seems to be more a case of hard plastic pieces rubbing against each other than it is anything that could be tightened up or fixed. Still, it’s gotten to the point that, when we’re driving over bad roads, people on the other end of our Bluetooth phone conversations have been asking about the noise.
A workaround for another issue was suggested by Phil Floraday. Some drivers have complained about how easy it is to stall the car when pulling away from a stop. Floraday says, “I end up putting the car in sport mode most of the time, as it seems to make for smoother takeoffs. Usually, Mini throttles are too touchy with sport mode engaged, but the Countryman seems to need it.” Copy editor Rusty Blackwell, for one, welcomes the suggestion. “As others have already mentioned, this car’s hill-holder function is way too aggressive. It has caused me to stall multiple times, including when pulling away from parking spots on flat ground. It feels as if it always engages -- not just when you’re stopped on a hill -- and it’s reluctant to release. In order to compensate I find myself riding the clutch far more than feels right.”
Already, our switch last month to standard all-season tires, from the original run-flats, has blunted much -- if not quite all -- of the criticism of the Mini’s harsh ride. (And, so far, we haven’t had to use the tire repair kit we now carry on board.) Perhaps now things will settle down and the Mini’s positive qualities will reassert themselves.