A Mini in name, et al.
When companies start making noise about how their latest-generation car is larger than the previous-generation model, motoring hacks tend to tune out. Of course it’s gotten bigger: Pedestrian safety regulations demand that bonnets be of a certain height and a certain shape, for example. Side-impact protection takes up valuable room, too. And you wouldn’t want to leave salespeople having to carefully explain why the boot is smaller on the new car, do you?
But when Mini told the world that its second-generation Mini Countryman crossover was truly bigger, they meant it. It measures 4.3-metres in length now, 200mm longer than before, giving it proper space for both people and things, and allows the design of the Countryman to look far more resolved than it used to. They’ve certainly taken an evolutionary approach for the second iteration of the Countryman name, with some of the cabin foibles of the old car being addressed well coming into the new generation.
Prices for the Countryman have risen over the previous-generation car, but a more generous list of safety and convenience kit, as well as refined and more economical drivetrains, means that the (relatively) modest price-hike is more than justified. Available as a Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S, and Cooper SD All4, there truly is a Countryman for everyone, even the buyer who might’ve been looking at a top-spec Mazda CX-3 or Hyundai Kona, or other funky premium crossovers like the Audi Q2 or BMW X1.
We take a look at the stylish and contemporary Mini Countryman.
“It’s more of a crossover than ever, with the design to match.” — TopGear
Built on the same underpinnings as the BMW X1, the new Countryman has grown considerably, and picked up a few tricks insofar as packaging is concerned. The greatly increased length of the Mini Countryman means that the design looks less boxy and disproportionate than the old car, looking far more crossover in its appeal, as opposed to the hatchback-on-stilts effect of the outgoing model. The face of the Countryman continues to be a bit of a sore spot though, but at least it looks less “depressed,” as a “pokey British motoring show” once suggested.
Where we’ve previously said that the old car looked like a Mini that had suffered an anaphylactic shock, the newer car’s dimensions suggest that it’s swollen further still, and yet it hasn’t. There’s a restrained, more mature look to the new Countryman, with Mini’s designers having smoothed out some of the overt design quirks of the old car. One of the less noticeable changes has been the repositioning of the wheels, sitting further into the corners than the old car, imbuing the new Countryman with more classically-Mini proportions.
Look closely and you’ll see that there’s been an interesting use of creases and surface play, further enhancing the Countryman’s pseudo-SUV appeal, which in profile, looks more like a classic SUV that some crossovers in this day and age. Regardless, you can no longer say that the Countryman is a hard car to love visually, which will probably see sales soar.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Do you need the Cooper SD’s all-wheel drive?” — CarAdvice
The Mini Countryman is offered with a variety of engines, which begin with the entry-level Cooper and its 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol mill. 100kW and 220Nm is available to your right foot, which doesn’t seem like much, a point further compounded by the 9.6-second 0-100km/h time. A six-speed automatic sends power to the front wheels in this variant.
Next level up will see you in a Cooper D, which swaps out the tri-cylinder mill in the Cooper in favour of a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Naturally there’s more grunt on offer here, with the 110kW power figure being eclipsed by the 330Nm on offer from just 1,750rpm. 8.8-seconds is all the Cooper D needs to hit 100km/h, with the front wheels putting power to the road, aided by an eight-speed automatic.
Genuine sporting ability can be enjoyed with the Cooper S, which offers more power and less weight than the rather portly diesel. The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol here makes 141kW and 280Nm, using an eight-speed sports automatic transmission to transmit power to the front wheels. Naturally, the centre sprint is settled in just 7.4-seconds.
All-wheel drive is available only on the top-flight Cooper SD All4, which gets a 2.0-litre turbodiesel that puts out 140kW and a monumental 400Nm, with power going to all four wheels via a similar sports-automatic 8-cog unit, like the Cooper S. Despite the considerable torque advantage, the Cooper SD still hit 100km/h from rest in 7.4-seconds.
“There’s a newfound maturity to the cabin. Nicer materials, less in-your-face dials, and a genuine sense of premium.” — CarsGuide
The cabin of the Countryman, like the exterior, continues that theme of pared-back maturity, offering an interior that is far more premium, far more upmarket, and far more tactile than the outgoing car. Where the outgoing model featured design touches and little easter eggs around the car simply for the sake of style and not necessarily quality or usability, the new Countryman’s interior puts ergonomics hand-in-hand with aesthetics, making for a very pleasing ambiance.
It’s not all work and no play though, as the Countryman does still retain some quirky fun to it, like the big red switch that starts the car, placed in the centre of the control stack. It even pulsates with red lighting, which is kinda fun.
There’s still an iDrive-like system housed in the middle of the dash, and it’s still framed by an LED light ring that changes colour depending on the mode and setting and whatever. Vertical air vents frame that, while driver and passengers will enjoy the use of plusher materials throughout. There’s increased head- and leg-room on board, as well as a larger boot, some 100L larger than the old model. Huge improvements all around.
Behind the Wheel
“Dynamically-speaking, the Countryman is a little ripper.” — CarAdvice
Though the Countryman’s newfound girth might not suggest it’s still a Mini to drive, but it is. In this segment where plenty of options offer fun, giggle-inducing driving experiences, it’s truly remarkable that the Countryman manages to set itself apart and offer a truly unique sensation behind the wheel.
Thanks to those wheels shoved up in the corners, the big Countryman feels a lot like it’s smaller hatch siblings, darting through bends and soaking up B-roads like the go-kart every Mini aspires to be. On higher end S and SD models you even get an understeer-mitigation system that makes it a proper laugh, belying the fact that this is at its core, a family-sized SUV.
There’s alot of fun to be had in the front-wheel drive variants that it’s hard to justify getting the all-wheel drive Cooper SD. Unless you’re going to be calling on that extra grip alot, there’s really no need to pay for the premium. Spending that money on the adaptive dampers you can get on the Cooper S would be far wiser, and it’ll allow you to opt for larger alloy wheels without hurting the ride comfort too much.
Ride comfort is, actually, rather impressive on the Countryman. It isn’t as firm or as jiggly as the old car, but still pretty firm compared to some rivals, though that does give it great stability on the motorway. Wind noise is rather well suppressed, but tyre noise does creep in a bit, especially on the larger wheels.
Safety & Technology
“There’s still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.” — CarsGuide
Mini still leans on parent-company BMW for its infotainment system, and that’s no bad thing. An easy-to-learn rotary selector, framed by shortcut buttons means that it’s a doddle to use on the move, though the standard-fit 6.5-inch screen is pretty naff. Spend a bit and you get a widescreen 8.8-inch display with mesmerisingly-sharp graphics, though again, this is a cost option. But at least a reversing camera and satellite navigation are bundled in as standard.
Intelligent cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and an autonomous parking system, are all offered as standard. Cooper S and above models get LED headlights too, great for those who travel on unlit roads quite a bit. Five airbags are available on all models, which garner the Countryman a 4-star ANCAP safety rating.
With greater space, greater tech, and improved engines, the Mini Countryman is set to be quite a winner on our market. With typically Mini looks and the driving experience to match, the Countryman is definitely the Mini to appeal to the family buyer, who wants the fun factor of the Mini hatch but has to cart the family around too.
Family cars demand a well-rounded approach, and while the outgoing car missed the mark to a degree, the new car addresses bugbears that dragged the old car down, allowing the more positive aspects to shine through. Add that to the undeniably-Mini styling and the cachet that comes with it, and you won’t be all that surprised if you start seeing more and more Countryman crossovers clogging up suburbia.
The model to go for, in our opinion, is certainly either the Cooper S or Cooper D, depending on your demands. The oiler is definitely the better fit if you travel a lot, as you’re bound to appreciate the fuel savings. But for the Mini Countryman that’s destined for town, stick with the petrol offerings, and you’ll do just fine.
CarsGuide — 7.9/10 — “Bigger is better for Mini's Countryman. More space, more technology and with a more mature styling treatment, the Countryman finally offers the right ingredients to appear on family shopping lists.”
CarAdvice — 8.0/10 — “The Mini Countryman crossover is more convincing than before, offering a cool alternative to the Audi Q2 or high-grade Mazda CX-3.”
AutoExpress — 4.0/5.0 — “Make up your own mind about the looks, but the new Mini Countryman is improved in every other area.”
WhatCar? — 3.0/5.0 — “The Mini Countryman is roomier than its predecessor, but there are still far better options out there.”
TopGear — 7.0/10 — “Mini’s crossover is now in the family-sized heartland. That makes it heavy, and dulls performance. Usual customisation bonanza.”