Expert Reviews

First Drive: 2014 Mini Countryman

Monday 01 August 2016

First Drive: 2014 Mini Countryman

Having already been refreshed last year, the Countryman could never expect miracles for 2014. PA checks out the state of play.

If you’re getting a faint sense of déjà vu, it’s because the Countryman was only
given a few tweaks last year. It’s much the same story once again, with Mini
bolting on a few goodies that were up to now unavailable on this car.

You’ll find lighter alloy wheels, for better ride quality and performance, and a
slightly revised front end – although you might need to put the old and the new
side by side to notice the differences. The clues are in the light clusters.

Looks & Image

The Countryman has come in for a pounding over its very un-mini looks, but these
days Mini is a brand rather than a specific car, so the executives are sticking
to their guns as far as aesthetics are concerned. Arguably the Countryman has
some of the best proportions of any current Mini, and while it hardly looks
cute, it does look stylish and upmarket.

Space & Practicality

This is also the most practical Mini, with space for four adults to stretch out
a bit into unexpected legroom. The seats are quite short under the thigh, but
there are Isofix child seat mounts and a decent glove box to add practicality to
the interior.

Don’t put too much stock in Mini’s marketing regarding the boot, though, because
while it’s bigger than the hatchback Mini’s, it’s still a long stone’s throw
short of the class leaders. When it comes to pushchairs and carrycots you might
have to get creative.

Behind the Wheel

The lighter wheels on this model inevitably make it easier for the suspension to
react and make bumps just a tiny bit smoother, although without a back-to-back
test there’s no perceptible increase in responsiveness at the accelerator pedal.

There’s something strange afoot with the steering, though, which has a strange
and disconcertingly elastic resistance around the straight-ahead. It dissolves
into nicely direct, accurate and consistent inputs once you push through the
initial muddiness.

It’s a nice thing to drive, striking a good balance between body control and
comfort, and with the diesel engine up ahead of you there’s an inherently
relaxed character that suits the overall package.

Value for Money

As a family car the Countryman is pretty questionable value, simply because the
boot is too small for the price. The options packs get expensive, too, so if
you’re plumbing the depths of the accessories lists then keep an eye on the
bottom line.

It’s only fair to say, though, that for some buyers only a Mini will do. Those
drivers will find a likeable all-rounder with strong residual values that make
finance pretty affordable.

Who would buy one ?

A family looking for a second car to run the kids around town without too much luggage in tow will like this car very much. It feels a cut above the more utilitarian options out there and can be customised to taste. That last reason is why Mini expects lots of new parents to switch from a Mini hatch to a Countryman.

But given that hundreds of thousands of Countrymans (Countrymen?) have found homes across the globe so far, it’s safe to say that whoever wants one will probably just go ahead and buy one.

This car summed up in a single word: Confident

If this car was a…: furniture store it would be Ikea: not to everyone’s tastes but so popular it’s more or less immune to criticism.

Facts at a Glance

Mini Countryman Cooper D, from £19,370 (Cooper SD pictured)
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel unit producing 110bhp and 199lb/ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 115mph, 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds
Economy: 64.2mpg combined
Emissions: 115g/km of CO2

Expert Reviews

First drive: Audi SQ5

Wednesday 26 July 2017

First drive: Range Rover Velar

Monday 24 July 2017