MINI Cooper S Countryman 2014 review

5 Jul, 2014 11:00pm Luke Madden

We test the facelifted MINI Countryman in its hottest Cooper S guise

Verdict

3
Clearly, the Countryman formula is working for MINI so we can see why it has chosen not to change things too much. But with a five-door version of the much newer hatchback on the way, the Countryman is starting to look outdated. We still like the handling and the punchy performance but if we’re buying a five-door MINI, the Countryman is no longer the one we’d choose.

We call it a mild update and MINI calls it the ‘new Countryman’, but whatever label you choose to give it, the MINI crossover is selling well, and this refresh is aimed at keeping things that way.

Visually, it’s worth walking you through the changes because they are pretty subtle – apparently the customer feedback for the design has been positive enough that nothing really needs changing. So our Cooper S model now comes with an ‘S’ badge in the grille, which also now has a chrome bar running through it and a new Piano Black Exterior option pack can be seen in the black surrounds for the headlights and rear lights. 

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Other changes are just as subtle, including a new optionally available set of LED foglamps like the ones fitted to our car along with the fresh Jungle Green paintjob. If you go for four-wheel-drive you’ll notice some metal skid plates under the front and rear bumpers.

All the engines now feature lower CO2 emissions and are also all EU6 compliant. Our Cooper S ALL4 model, for example, sees emissions fall from 157g/km to 148g/km, while fuel economy is slightly up to 44mpg. It’s also the only engine that has seen an increase in power, albeit a meagre 3bhp boost up to 187bhp.

On the road that translates to a 0-62mph time that’s two-tenths quicker than before, at 7.7 seconds but the truth is it doesn’t feel any faster. Thankfully it doesn’t need to, either, with strong in-gear punch and enough torque to ensure you can get going in almost any gear. Apart from the pops from the exhaust on the overrun, it doesn’t sounds particularly good at high revs, though.

And that’s a shame because MINI has said it’s worked hard on isolating the cabin from the outside world. More sound-deadening has been added and the wing mirrors have been made more aerodynamic, but has it worked? It’s a subtle improvement and one that’s not quite enough to take the fight to cars like the new Golf but it’s an improvement nonetheless.

MINI has also tweaked the interior for more of a premium air but the changes are even more subtle than the outside. The things to look out for are the dark grey dials and chrome flashes on the air vents. All in all it’s still a nice-looking interior but the new MINI hatch has really upped the game and some of the Countryman’s scratchy plastics are beginning to look cheap.

 

Another area MINI claimed its customers thought didn’t need changing was the ride and handling, so the chassis remains unchanged. As a result the Cooper S is still one of the sharpest crossovers out there, with quick steering and some of the agility of the hatch carried over. The suspension is still a fraction too firm, though.

Thankfully, it remains a fairly practical choice, with a 350-litre boot and back seats that are not only easy to access but also pretty spacious once you’re in. But the Countryman is no longer the only five-door MINI you can have, with the recently announced five-door hatch. In our eyes, that looks like better value.

Not only do you get brand new engines, brand new tech and a more luxurious interior but you also get a lot of the Countryman’s practicality in a more traditionally MINI package. You can bank on it being a little better to drive, too.

You won’t be able to get four-wheel drive in the hatch but if you’re happy to settle for front-wheel drive, then you can save yourself around £2,500 by opting for the hatchback over the Countryman. Take all that in to account and the Countryman all of a sudden doesn’t have the appeal that it once had. 

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Finally, a review that actually mentions the minis shocking interior quality.... But why was this not mentioned years ago? As a previous owner, I loved the handling and fun of the mini but the interior was dreadful for a supposedly premium car.

The Mini is not, and never has been a premium car. BMW and Mini are both positioned as Semi-premium mass manufactured cars within their respective segments - whether we are talking small minis or larger X BMW cars - that are more prestigious than Fords and Vauxhalls but not as prestigious as Porsches and Range Rovers.

The word 'premium' is so overused, especially in the car industry. It's the buzzword for the Tennies! But actually if you look at quality in particular, where huge strides have been made by most manufacturers over the last 10 years, what was once premium or semi premium, is now typical. Mini is good example.

The article above mentions the huge improvements with the latest mini, but actually if you look at interior quality in general, this is where BMW is really beginning to lag behind the benchmarks made by Porsche (compare the Macan to the X3) and Range Rover (compare the Sport to the X5). While cars such as the Countryman quite deservedly has it's fans, I very often feel that BMW make too many cars and variants resulting in too many compromises being made in terms of design flair and consistency of quality.

When the new Mini first came out 2001 and the subsequent re-done version in 2007, I could understand the appeal. Similarly I can understand the appeal of the original British Mini. However the Clubman version and especially the Countryman leave me cold. What is the point? Its just a rather ugly normal car with a few mini styling cues carried over from the Mini itself. Its like those plastic bits they put on tools to make them appear chunky and tough. The Countryman is pricey, looks very questionable, is neither the fastest, best built or best to drive amongst the competition, yet someone is buying them. WHO?Anyone who buys a Countryman could well be 'stupid' (in Clarksons voice)

The scales are beginning to fall from eyes it seems. Followed one of these today and, as ever, had a certain appalled fascination with it. Styling inspired by Mr. Blobby, dreadful detailing externally and alloys that look as if they are Halfords retrofit, although this is a bit unkind to Halfords.
What can people see in this thing? Ridiculously expensive, ugly, badly packaged, the epithets go on. Presumably it is bought by those who are fixated on the brand, like football supporters on the club of their choice. I realise this sounds like an attack on the personal "taste" of the buyers but there we are. Along with the Juke and, perhaps, the 500L, this comes in the category of "how on earth could they buy it.".

We obviously agree about the Countryman and I have only seen one 500L (reminds me of a Renault 4 for some reason). The Juke on the other hand is ok in my book. Its styling certainly divides opinion, but I can understand its appeal. You sit a little higher, its different, it drives well and will be reliable and makes a good alternative to a mainstream supermini. For those in the know, however the Fiesta, the Mazda 2 and the Swift will all put a large smile on your face. Fiesta in particular is like a mini BMW. Its that good

Just as well we don't have exactly the same thoughts! Whereas the Countryman seems to take its inspiration from Mr. Blobby the Juke appears to me to emulate a warthog. Both are enormous externally in relation to internal space as well. Although it is not saying very much, the 500L does IMHO look a bit better in reality than in pictures

The countryman is smaller than the ford focus externally and has alot more interior room. Shows what you know.

Another ugly Mini!
Alex would turn in his grave.

My view is that there is too much choice and variety on the market. Its just confusing. Gone are the day when it was either an Astra, Escort or Golf. Now every model category has been subdivided again and again until its all just a big mess.

A lot more interior room? Which way?

Um, choice is a fine luxury, no?

Boot, Rear legroom (by some margin) My wife can fit behind me in a Countryman not in a Focus (and to note not behind me either in a 3dr Evoque)

Its a bit more of a squeeze getting 3 sideways in the back because the car is narrower but for 4 people its a lot roomier than the Focus.

Well here's an idea: Keep the Ford Focus and pay for your wife to go to weightwatchers! It will still be cheaper than a Countryman

I dont see what weight has to do with knee and leg room, surely that has to do with height? I think it may be slightly more expensive to have a leg length reduction and I think she may look slightly silly for it.

At a glance

MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4
Price:  £23,125
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo
Power: 187bhp
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Top speed: 130mph
Economy: 44mpg
CO2:148g/km
Equipment: 17-inch alloys, sports seats, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth, air-con, rear parking sensors