A bigger, versatile offering
When MINI first launched the Countryman back in 2010, it was the brand’s first attempt at the subcompact crossover genre. Seven years later, the sophomore effort represents the biggest and most versatile offering in the line-up and is described as “a more distinctive and mature proposition than its predecessor.” Does it live up to this bold statement? Read on.
MINI is really a misnomer, because measuring at 4,314 millimetres in length, 1,822 millimetres in width and 1,557 millimetres in height, it’s anything but miniature. That means the 2017 model is a full 200 mm longer and 30 mm wider than before. And rare for a performance vehicle, there is loads of cargo space, depending on how the back seats are configured.
“The new MINI Countryman has essentially grown in size. But it was still possible to retain the typical MINI proportions,” says Julius Schluppkotten, MINI Countryman project manager.
The second-generation features a load of notable visual highlights, for example the contrasting “helmet roof” possessing the appearance of floating above blacked out A, B and C pillars. The grille now has a separate polished section within tracing the upper edges, and the headlights each contain a striking LED daytime running light ring. Additionally, the side turn signal indicators are encased in arrow-shaped surrounds.
Inside, occupants are treated to five full-sized seats and enlarged head, shoulder and legroom. The rear door openings are bigger for easier ingress and egress. And for those relaxing drives to the countryside, a “Picnic Bench” folds out of the luggage compartment, overtop of the rear bumper, providing open air seating for two. A nice touch is the power tailgate, not easily found in the micro SUV class, which can easily be operated in a manual fashion unlike other competitor units.
Where some vehicles on the market seem to be favouring the removal of cupholders and storage bins to achieve a tidier, more uniform look, the Countryman has increased the same. All door panels incorporate beverage pockets capable of fitting a one litre bottle, with two more cupholders in front of the gear lever. There is a generous storage compartment built into the centre console.
“The interior of the new MINI Countryman emphasises the car’s suitability for families and as a primary vehicle. The sense of quality in the interior has been significantly enhanced, too” says Schluppkotten, reiterating the versatile nature of the model.
The rest of the interior is classic MINI, revolving around the uniquely shaped infotainment system panel containing an 8.8-inch touchscreen display. A LED ring circles the panel and changes colour depending on mode, such as turning red as engine RPMs climb or glowing orange while approaching an object in reverse (part of the optional Excitement Package also including additional ambient lighting and side mirror puddle lighting).
The Cooper S variant of the Countryman DARPAN tested is driven by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine receiving MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology and churning out 192 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. For those seeking an even bigger kick in the pants, a grade-topping John Cooper Works edition pumps out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
The powerplant is mated to a choice of a six-speed standard transmission or an optional eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox only available to the S trim and above. The motor is peppy, and thanks to a slightly raised but taught suspension, the small crossover feels equally comfortable cornering at higher speeds as it is zooming down a muddy road. The ALL4
all-wheel drive system also helps with the latter. Communicating with the onboard Dynamic Stability Control, ALL4 is able to react quickly to changing road surface conditions directing power to slipping wheels in order to optimize both traction and stability.
Motor: 2.0-litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 192 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 207 @ 1,350 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed manual transmission
Layout: Front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 11.6 L/100 km mixed city/highway