Larger MINI Countryman grows family appeal
It may not look new, but MINI has made some big changes to the Countryman which is now the largest ever and more family friendly, says Andrew Evans.
Despite looking similar to its predecessor, the latest MINI Countryman is all new. It’s based on the BMW ‘UKL’ platform underpinning the BMW X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer, which MINI already uses on its newest-generation Clubman estate.
It means the Countryman is dramatically larger than its predecessor, 20cm longer – 7.5cm of it between the wheels – and 3cm wider which moves it up into the C-segment, the broadest and most competitive UK sector.
Looks and image
There are very few badges with as long a history and as broad an appeal as MINI.
A big part of that appeal is the way the cars drive – which MINI calls ‘maximum go-kart feel’ – and despite the Countryman being the largest MINI ever, it translates well to the big crossover. The chunky steering wheel offers a precise and well-controlled action and some of the fidgety nature of the smaller hatches is removed.
On the Cooper S model we tested, the interior was a pretty high-quality environment, with backlit surfaces, leather upholstery and suede on the door panels. MINI is aiming for a luxury feel to what is ultimately its flagship vehicle.
Space and practicality
The longer wheelbase frees up a huge amount of interior room so the Countryman is now no less practical than any other C-segment hatchback or crossover, making it an ideal family car.
Wherever you look, there’s more space, with significantly more rear legroom and more than 100 litres extra boot space at 450 litres which can be improved further by sliding the rear seats forwards. Middle-seat passengers will be grateful for the extra width too. Bigger back doors improve access and hands-free boot opening operation is available.
Behind the wheel
The 192bhp, 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, mated to eight-speed Steptronic automatic and All4 four-wheel drive, propels the Countryman to 62mph in just over seven seconds but in mixed use, using green eco mode as often as possible, we didn’t see much more than 30mpg.
The car can also be specified with 136hp 1.5-litre turbo petrol and 150 and 190hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel engines with a plug-in hybrid. combining 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine and electric motor, later this year.
The Countryman is a good steer on country roads and, while larger, doesn’t feel like a big vehicle. The steering is well weighted and reasonably communicative, and it’s also pretty solid on the motorways.
Park distance control, standard on all Countrymans, makes it easy to manoeuvre.
Who would by one?
The Countryman is very much a car for someone sold on the whole idea of MINIs, but needs the space for all the trappings of modern family life.
It’s enough fun to drive to deserve being part of the MINI range, but adds some more genuine family-friendly abilities than its predecessor thanks to the new, larger platform.
TECH AND SPEC
Price: MINI Countryman Cooper S All4 manual £26,665, auto £28,080 (range from £22,625)
Engine: 1,998cc, 192hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol with eight-speed automatic gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 7.2 seconds; top speed 138mph
MPG: 44.1 comnbined
CO2 emissions: 146g/km