By way of a fascinating comparison, fellow-Brit the iconic LandRover Defender 90 is shorter and narrower than the upsized Mini Countryman…
Most importantly, the Countryman’s wheelbase is significantly greater, being 75 mm up to an impressive 2670 mm which makes for significantly more legroom inside. There’s also 59 mm more elbow room, 50 mm added shoulder room, even another 9 mm extra headroom. More about all this added space in our Driving section of this feature.
Customisation continues to be a major feature in the BMW Mini’s success, something it carried over from the original iconic Mini Minor / Austin 7 of the late 1950s and into the swinging sixties. New Mini Countryman joins the rest of the Mini range in offers offering potential buyers a staggering number of options.
Our road test Countryman came in a deep chocolate brownish orange with ‘racing’ stripes and a black roof, perhaps not to all tastes, but to a chocoholic like me…
Frontal styling follows that of the latest Mini hatch range, with different design for its grilles from model to model. The wagon’s rear has a wide D-pillar and wide tailgate shaped to give it a large style.
The standard ‘Elegant’ Countryman exterior theme can be replaced with an optional ‘Offroad’ style. Or there’s the sporty look with the optional John Cooper Works (JCW) Chili Package.
There’s absolutely no doubt this is a Mini, it stands out from the others in this crowded market segment even when view from hundreds of metres away. Love it!
Inside it’s the same. The large central dial is a carryover from 58 years ago, though these days the central speedo has been pushed aside to make way for the infotainment screen.
While the circular central screen housing is huge the screen itself is tiny. It’s clear enough, but using the satellite navigation (which impressively is installed in all models) at a quick glance isn’t easy. You can pay extra and get a bigger screen and some other goodies, though.
There’s DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and voice control. You can also use the BMW-style iDrive controller. There’s an Aux jack, but surprisingly there’s just one USB port.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can’t be used at this stage, but surely that can’t be too far away?
Mini’s range features an interesting variety of drivetrain options: two- or all-wheel drive (AWD). Petrol and diesel engines, all turbocharged.
The Mini Cooper SD Countryman All4 (Mini-speak for AWD) we tested has 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, with 110 kW and 330 Nm.
The lowest cost model is the front-wheel-drive Mini Cooper powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that produces 100 kW of power and 220 Nm of torque. Mini Cooper S Countryman comes with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder petrol driving the front wheels. It produces 141 kW and 280 Nm.
Automatic transmission is standard in all models, it has six forward ratios in the 1.5-litre petrol and eight in the others.
Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go function is fitted across the range as standard equipment. It works from zero to 140 km/h in conjunction with the Mini Driver Assistant Package that includes Forward Collision Warning, City Collision Mitigation, High Beam Assistant and Speed Limit Info. The latter advises of the speed zone in which the vehicle is travelling.
However, the ANCAP safety rating is four-star rather than five.
WARRANTY / SERVICING
All new Minis are covered by a three year/unlimited distance warranty. All service and selected maintenance costs can now be covered by a single, one-off advance payment with Mini Service Inclusive. This comes in a choice of two packages, Basic and Plus.
Basic provides scheduled servicing, while Plus combines scheduled servicing and selected maintenance items. Details are quite complex so talk to the guys and gals at your Mini dealer to see which best suits you.
The 50 millimetre increase in rear seat legroom means the Countryman is a four-seat wagon for adults to stretch out with ease. The centre-rear can be used for three grownups without too much hip and shoulder rubbing.
The back seat is excellent in the ways it can be set up to permit juggling of interior room between people and cargo. There’s 130 mm fore-aft adjustment, 40/20/40 split-fold and the angles of the rear seat backs also be adjusted in various ways for juggling of passenger/ luggage space.
Boot capacity with all five seats in use can be as high as 450 litres. It has a very useful hidden deep space underneath, something that impressed our real-estate friend who has to carry a lot of expensive gear.
You sit 90 mm higher in the Countryman than in the standard Mini. This sort of gives a better view over the traffic. However as traffic these days consists chiefly of huge four-door utes the advantage you used to get from piloting an SUV have been minimised.
Ride comfort is good on normal roads, but seems to deteriorate more on substandard surfaces than is normal in this class, probably because the suspension leans a little in the sporting direction. This is something that has always been the case in Minis, so we applaud it.
Steering feel is good and the Countryman is happy to hold on hard in corners, as well as to change direction promptly due to tight bends that might otherwise surprise you.
NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) is well controlled, though tyre noise can be quite loud on some coarse-chip surfaces – but see the previous references to sportiness.
Fuel consumption from the diesel was in the four to five litres per hundred kilometres range on motorways, into the sixes in spirited country driving, and in the sixes and sevens around town. Considering its performance and the fact it’s a small-medium SUV the Mini’s numbers are pretty good.
Sheer fun in its styling inside and out almost contradicts the fact that this is a spacious family vehicle. Well done to the folks who have produced what we reckon is the most interesting of all Minis.
AT A GLANCE
Cooper D $43,900
Cooper S: $46,500
Cooper SD: $51,500
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mini dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Mini Countryman 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon)
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 140 kW @ 5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 240 Nm @ 1600 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91ROM
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 149 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4299 mm
Wheelbase: 2670 mm
Width: 1822 mm
Height: 1805 mm
Turning Circle: 11.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1399 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 47 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Three years / unlimited km