Winter is finally here. So far, though, it's been more cold than snow. With the cold temperatures, we've been paying more attention than usual to the Mini's climate control system. That means drivers have been complaining not just about the oddball switches, but also about the ability to fine-tune a comfortable temperature and fan speed. Says senior online editor Phil Floraday: "The fan seems to have on and off settings instead of a reasonable range of speeds, and the temperature selection seems to be broil or freeze." Apparently, we should have sprung for the optional automatic climate control.
What little precipitation we have seen has shown the Countryman's all-wheel-drive system and the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60 snow tires in a good light. "The car's performance in snow and slush is excellent," writes associate web editor Jake Holmes. "I can already tell this will be a formidable steed come the depths of winter." Deputy editor Joe DeMatio agrees: "The all-wheel-drive Mini is extremely surefooted on snow-covered gravel roads and is capable of transforming itself into a highly entertaining and confidence-inspiring rally vehicle. I actively sought out snow-covered pavement, and getting up my brother's long, steep, unpaved, snow-covered muddy driveway was a cinch."
As drivers in the snowbelt know, winter isn't just the season for cold temperatures and snow and ice, it's also schmutz-on-the-windshield season. "I used quite a bit of windshield washer fluid and when I went to refill it I found the hood easy to unlatch and open and I was pleased that it has struts to keep it up," said DeMatio. "I also never tire of seeing how the hood has cutouts that go over the big headlights. I find that to be incredibly cute and charming."
The month ended with the Mini calling for its first service. (Like BMWs, Minis don't follow a set service schedule; instead, the onboard computer diagnostics let you know when it's time for service, based on the car's mileage and use patterns.)
In addition to the expected oil and filter change, our Countryman had its peeling chrome trim fixed. Brand new moldings replaced the original ones that caused the trim's shiny film to fall off. We'll see how that holds up.
Another problem affecting early-build cars like ours (those built before July 1, 2011) is surging or hesitation under acceleration, between 3000 and 4000 rpm. We have observed that on a few occasions. A software update is now available to address that issue. With that done, we're hoping that the Countryman can enjoy smoother sailing through the second half of its year here without a need for any further fixes.