The MINI Countryman was launched back in 2010, a ‘big’ MINI with the style of a crossover. The idea was to package the fun of a MINI in a larger and more versatile shape, with SUV-inspired styling.
Seven years on and MINI Countryman Mark 2 has recently arrived in Ireland. It’s the biggest MINI yet, having expanded in length and width. Visually the new Countryman looks a lot better than the car it replaces. It’s grown up, and looks leaner and more purposeful than before. MINI’s extensive menu of customisation options is of course a feature.
Inside, the Countryman is probably not like any other crossover you’ve sat in because the MINI DNA still runs strong through this one. It’s a bit like stepping into a nightclub – all glossy surfaces, coloured lights and cheesy graphics. If you’re not having fun in here there is just something wrong.
The quality of the interior is all very good, and even the seat fabric looks like it could belong to a posh designer sofa. The interior is less cluttered but it can still be described as ‘busy’. There’s a lot going on here and it can be difficult to find your way around if you’re not used to the MINI way of doing things. Infotainment is provided via the ‘MINI Visual Boost Radio’ with 6.5” colour display and controlled by a rotary controller on the centre console.
New MINI Countryman is roomier inside than the outgoing model. The wheelbase has been extended and there is now an extra 5 centimetres of legroom, which does make a difference. Headroom is good all round and the rear would be comfortable for two, three at a squeeze. The boot volume is up to 450 litres.
Petrol and diesel engines are available. The MINI Cooper Countryman has a 1.5-litre three cylinder petrol engine with 136hp, while the MINI Cooper D Countryman with a 2.0-litre 150hp diesel engine is the best for economy returning up to 64mpg with emissions of 113g/km. There are two more performance based models: the Cooper SD (190hp) and the Cooper S (192hp). Manual and automatic gearboxes are available, as well as the option of MINI’s ‘ALL4’ all wheel drive system. A plug-in hybrid is due to arrive later in the year.
On the road, the Countryman is remarkably good fun, for a tall, slightly overweight MINI crossover. There is loads of grip and it feels glued to the road at all times, which allows for some very spirited driving. The steering has a weighty and elastic feel that adds to the thrills behind the wheel. It’s a sporty car but there is little compromise in terms of comfort, and it’s refined too for long haul trips on the motorway.
But thankfully not so well-insulated as to drown out the delightful noise of the 2.0-litre turbo petrol 192hp powering my Cooper S model. It burbles into life when you press the ignition switch and then rumbles thereafter not too dissimilar to a V8 (!) at low speeds around town. It’s quite disarming coming from a ‘family’ car, especially one that people tend to find more cute than menacing, at least to look at. It’s also very quick and very responsive, with 0-100kmh achieved in 7.2 seconds on the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 with 8-speed Steptronic transmission. It’s an absolute delight to drive but it is thirsty, so not the economical choice, but definitely the most fun.
It’s also very expensive, even before you hit the options list. While the range starts at €33,580, the Cooper S Countryman comes in at a hefty €38,850 or €43,400 with four wheel drive. My test car with options came in at over €53,000. Gulp.
Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, MINI Connected services, navigation and Bluetooth connectivity on Cooper and Cooper D models. MINI Cooper S and Cooper SD Countryman models add 17-inch alloy wheels and cloth/leather upholstery.
The new MINI Countryman is an improvement all round on the previous model and feels like it has finally grown into its crossover skin. With pricing starting from €33,580, the Countryman is firmly in the ‘small, premium crossover’ set. There are cheaper and more spacious crossovers available, but few with the character and driver appeal of the Countryman. The entry Cooper and Cooper D make most sense for the Irish market in terms of pricing and running costs, but the Cooper S really is special.
Model tested: MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 Auto
Price: €43,400 (€53,602 as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
0-100km/h: 7.2 seconds
CO2 emissions: 159g/km
Motor tax: €570 per year
If you are looking for an upmarket crossover, you might also like this review of the Volkswagen Tiguan.