Expert Reviews

First drive: Mini Countryman

Friday 20 January 2017

First drive: Mini Countryman
Summary

While the 2017 Mini Countryman might be similar in appearance to the outgoing model, it is in fact a completely new car. It sits on BMW’s ‘UKL’ platform, which underpins the BMW X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer, as well as the latest Mini Clubman.

Because of this, the Countryman has grown in size by a rather significant amount. It’s now 20cm longer – 7.5cm of which is between the wheels – and 3cm wider. This size gain is important, as it means the Countryman is now in the C-segment – the largest and most competitive sector in the UK car market.

Looks & Image

Mini is one of those brands that is attractive to everyone. It appeals far and wide. One of the main reasons for this is how well its cars drive – which Mini refers to as ‘maximum go-kart feel’. While the new Countryman is a rather large car – and certainly the biggest car Mini has ever made – this notion does translate rather well.

The thick steering wheel is precise and controlled in its action, and the fidgety nature of some of Mini’s smaller cars is removed thanks to the larger proportions of the Countryman.

We got behind the wheel of a Cooper S model, and found that the cabin was a pleasingly premium place to sit, featuring leather upholstery, backlit surfaces and door panels finished in suede.

Space & Practicality

Because of the extended wheelbase, there is now a generous amount of interior room – meaning the Countryman is in the same league as any other C-segment vehicle in terms of practicality.

Regardless of where you look, you’ll find more space than in the older car. Legroom has significantly improved in the back, and the boot’s load space has increased by 100 litres. Middle-seat passengers will find the cars increased width a welcome relief, too. Access to the back seats is made even easier thanks to larger rear doors, and a hands-free boot option can also be specified.

Behind the Wheel

We tested the 192bhp, 2.0-litre petrol engine in our car. This was mated to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic and All4 four-wheel drive, allowing the Countryman to sprint from 0-60mph in seven seconds. In reality, however, it doesn’t feel that fast at all.

Mini claims the Countryman can achieve a 44.1mpg economy figure, although we couldn’t manage much more than 30mpg – even with mixed use and with Green mode selected as much as possible.

A smaller, 1.5-litre, 136bhp engine is also available, which cuts the 0-60mph time by around 2-2.5 seconds depending on gearbox options, but also improves economy by roughly 10 per cent. Mini is also offering two 2.0-litre diesel engines, with 150bhp and 190bhp. The latter of which offers Cooper S levels of performance, but with a claimed economy figure of 61.4mpg. A go-faster Cooper JCW model will arrive later in 2017, as will a plug-in hybrid Cooper S E.

The Countryman is a pleasing car to drive on windy roads, and while it might be considerable larger than before, you don’t really notice its size too much while pressing on.

It has well-weighted and relatively communicative steering, and because it doesn’t fidget as much as the small models, it isn’t as tiring to drive. On the motorway, there is a fair amount of road noise, but for the most part it performs solidly.

Value for Money

The Countryman starts at £22,465 – which is fairly reasonable. That said, the automatic gearbox and All4 four-wheel-drive system both cost around £1,600, and with options the Countryman can become a rather pricey car.

In Cooper S trim, it isn’t exactly cheap to run, either – a claimed 44mpg isn’t amazing, and that will likely drop in real world driving conditions. However, if you opt for the more economical model, value for money shouldn’t be too bad. The Mini Connected infotainment system, satellite navigation and Mini Visual Boost Radio are fitted to all cars as standard.

Who would buy one ?

The Countryman will appeal to someone who wants a Mini, but one that is large enough to cart around all of the clobber associated with family living.

While the Countryman’s size gain puts it in a competitive market segment, it really holds its own and has plenty of badge appeal. It’s fun enough to drive to deserve to be considered a proper Mini, and the family-friendly size is an attractive bonus.

Facts at a Glance

Model: Mini Countryman Cooper S All4 Auto

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol (192bhp, 280Nm)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60mph in 7.0 seconds, 138mph top speed

Economy: 44.1mpg

Emissions: 150g/km

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