MINI Countryman review
The MINI Countryman is the biggest car for sale in the MINI line-up. That makes it something of a contradiction to the original Mini ethos, but it has used the retro appeal of the classic car to attract SUV buyers wanting an upmarket family car with some clever packaging.
Like the MINI Hatch and Clubman estate, the Countryman is bigger and more expensive than before. It’s also more spacious inside, now proving to be a truly practical family car, while interior quality has taken a significant step up.
It drives well, too – sacrificing some of the enjoyment of smaller MINIs for a more grown-up and refined experience on the road. With the Countryman now available with petrol and plug-in hybrid powertrains, it’s easier than ever to recommend.
Thanks to its somewhat inflated dimensions, the MINI Countryman is a car that enthusiasts of the original Mini love to hate, but buyers can’t get enough of them. It may be a little at odds with the spirit of the company, but the first generation sold well all its life, and this Mk2 version continues to be popular as the crossover boom intensifies.
Launched in 2017 and refreshed again in 2020, the Countryman line-up includes a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant as well as petrol options, but the diesel has been axed in the light of fading consumer interest. However, as well as offering an alternative powertrain choice and the additional space of a larger body, the MINI Countryman price tags have also risen inexorably over the years. They now start from around £25,000 for the basic Cooper, rising to a substantial £38,000 for the high performance John Cooper Works (JCW).
This price range means the MINI Countryman goes up against a variety of rivals in the premium small SUV class. There’s the Audi Q2 or slightly larger Q3, the Mercedes GLA and Volvo XC40, while cars like the VW T-Roc and Mazda CX-30 offer something different for a little less outlay.
As with the rest of the MINI range, the Countryman comes in Cooper and Cooper S versions, with two- and four-wheel-drive variants available. These are joined by the Cooper S E PHEV plug-in hybrid, and the range-topping JCW which packs a seriously powerful punch with its 302bhp engine.
The Cooper, Cooper S and PHEV come in Classic, Exclusive and Sport packages that bundle desirable kit together. Classic spec is effectively the standard trim level; Sport and Exclusive packs are the same price but the former gives you sports seats and racy detailing, while the later includes leather upholstery and a more refined ambience. Special edition models come and go from the price list, with the top-of-the-range JCW offering a spec all of its own.
The Cooper features a 134bhp 1.5 three-cylinder turbo petrol that’s found across the BMW and MINI line-ups, while the Cooper S now has a 176bhp turbo four-cylinder unit.
All front-wheel-drive cars come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with an optional seven- speed dual-clutch automatic. However, if you opt for an all-wheel-drive Countryman with Sport or Exclusive trim, an eight-speed torque converter automatic is fitted by default.
For the ultimate in efficiency, the PHEV offers a zero-emissions driving range of around 31 miles on electric power, although of course you’re only going to reap the benefits by plugging the battery in to recharge as often as possible.
The MINI Countryman joined the MINI range in 2010, and it was quite an important car in the company’s history. As well as being the first ever MINI SUV, it was also the brand’s inaugural five-door model and its first car to be offered with all-wheel drive. Across both generations, the MINI Countryman recipe has remained very consistent: the characteristic rounded MINI looks have been retained inside and out, and the SUV handles quite nicely given its size and ride height. A variety of engine options were available, too, though only the second-gen models were offered with a hybrid powertrain.
MINI Countryman history
The Mk2 MINI Countryman arrived in 2017, and picked up where its predecessor left off. The characteristic rounded design inside and out was familiar to owners of the outgoing car, as was the decent practicality and sporty handling. In some areas, the two generations of MINI Countryman do differ: unlike the Mk1, the Mk2 could be specified with petrol-electric plug-in hybrid power, and the diesel engines available at launch would be dropped entirely on later models.
The Mk1 MINI Countryman was the brand’s first foray into SUVs, and it was by and large a good inaugural attempt. The cabin was roomy, high quality and came decently equipped even on entry level models, and the car rode and handled nicely, too. Buyers could specify from a variety of engine options, ranging from frugal diesels to punchy petrols, and most models could be equipped with automatic gearboxes and all-wheel drive. Read our full Mk1 MINI Countryman buyer’s guide here…
For an alternative review of the MINI Countryman, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk…
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