MINI Countryman

3 Sep, 2010 3:51pm Luke Madden

At last, we get behind wheel of Brit 4x4 on UK roads. Is it the new king of the crossover class?

Verdict

4
It’s far from mini, but the new Countryman is still undoubtedly a MINI – just with an added dose of practicality. The five-door is ideal for young families who are willing to sacrifice comfort for impressive on-road dynamics, and are looking for something sporty and stylish that can carry passengers and their bags with room to spare. The Countryman’s biggest problem is how much it costs. With a raft of cheaper rivals on the scene, its price tag may be a stumbling block for potential buyers who are not committed MINI fans.

The MINI 4x4 has finally hit UK roads. With a raised ride height, four doors and a usable boot, the new Countryman is no ordinary MINI. But can this controversial crossover move the brand up a notch, or is it a step too far?

We got behind the wheel of the range-topping, four-wheel-drive Cooper S ALL4 to find out. The good news is all the things that make the MINI so popular are present in the Countryman, from the quirky interior to the sporty driving experience and bold styling.

Video: watch our review of the Countryman from the launch in Germany


By trying to stay true to the design of the hatchback, the newcomer has ended up looking slightly awkward. It has been stretched and bloated in a way that makes the nose appear rather bulbous, although it’s smarter at the rear.

Inside, there’s MINI’s trademark chrome toggle switches and huge central speedometer, plus the new Centre Rail which holds cups, sunglasses and phones.

The interior isn’t perfect, though. Some plastics in out-of-the-way places feel a little cheap for a model that starts at £22,030, and the aircraft-inspired handbrake lever takes some getting used to.

So, what about practicality? Our Countryman came in a 2+2 arrangement, which allows rear passengers to slide their seats back and forth to increase legroom or boot capacity as required.

With the seats all the way back, luggage capacity measures 350 litres, but fold the Countryman’s seats flat, and it has a generous 1,170-litre bay.

The sparkling MINI chassis gives the best handling in the class, although this model can’t quite match the agility or driver involvement of the standard hatch. It’s more comfortable, though. While the Countryman does still crash over potholes, it’s far easier to live with. Even so, there are better alternatives for buyers wanting a soft and refined driving experience.

Under our Cooper S’s bonnet is a 1.6-litre turbo engine, which sends 184bhp to all four wheels. The car accelerates hard off the line, sprinting from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, and offers strong in-gear punch for overtaking.

But thanks to the firm’s MINIMALISM eco technology, the ALL4 model returns 42.2mpg combined fuel economy and emits 157g/km of CO2.

All this comes at a price, with our car costing a hefty £28,420. That does include the Chili Pack, which adds automatic air-con, bi-xenon headlights and foglamps. Even in standard trim, the Cooper S is £22,030, which is expensive when compared to rivals – the turbocharged 1.6-litre four-wheel-drive Juke starts from £19,595.

This hasn’t deterred loyal MINI fans, though, as the entire allocation of Countrymans for the UK in 2010 has already been sold. So the brand continues to grow!

 

Disqus - noscript

I hope they have sorted the steering pump out and will stand by problems unlike the previous Mini

Nice enough review, but it's a lie....

Titled : At last, we get behind wheel of Brit 4x4 on UK roads.

Last time I checked we drive on the left not right as in your video...

MINI have a two door hatch and have brought out a 4 door Countryman. They are also considering a two door Countryman. Looks like they have lost their way. Why isn't the Countryman called a MAXI?

Back seats don't fold flat and there is a gap between them - so much for practicality. An other triumph of form over function and the reason why mini will never be a true mini.

A Saab is not a Vauxhall, a Volvo is not a Ford, a Nissan is not a Renault, a Lambo is not an Audi etc., so why does this publication continue to call the 'Mini' a BMW. More to the point, why is it called BMW designed, when any professional should know that after spending almost £500 million on their attempt at developing a small car in the early nineties, BMW cut their losses and purchased Rover (at a bargain price) for an easy entry into this market. They made a remarkably sensible decision, but please remember that 'MINI' is a marque in its own right and definitely not BMW. Put simply the new Mini was designed and developed by Rover.

I found this report objective, extremely well-balanced and clearly focused on the fact that this is a completely new model. Most of the opinions emanating from journos of other magazines have stuck with the current obsession of the MINI thing. Mini is just a name and the fact that BMW are squeezing everything they can out of it, is simply good business strategy. Some of the comments made by other respondents also puzzle me. If BMW had not bought it, there would be no Mini - period! BMW bashing seems so puerile to me. I have been driving cars since a schoolboy during the Suez crisis and I don't give a damn what the badge is on the bonnet - what is important is - what is it like to drive; is it a car I feel good about when I get out of it. So come on fellas, names don't mean a thing its the vehicle that is important and the more variations of Mini that arrive the better as far as I am concerned. I'm looking forward to a 'Moke' type being released. I'm the antithesis of a football fan and I won't care what it is called or what colour shirt it wears as long as it is fun to drive.

Excuse my rant.
I like the BMW mini, I own a cooper and I’m pleased as punch with it.
I fancy a 4x4 cross-over so I’m checking out all the options. I must give the new Countryman the once over. Off to the dealership I go.
Why do showrooms insist on displaying examples of new ranges with every conceivable gadget you could possibly fit (like the rear bike rack). I want to look at the standard cooper not the cooper S that looks like Bet Lynch on a night out with more bling than Mr T. I just wanted to look at a car minus all the stripes and tacky cr@p. It looks like BMW have allowed a school child design the interior. I know they wanted to retain continuity for the interior with the rest of the Mini range but it’s just over the top on this occasion. Too much going on with the interior door furniture, and those silly electric window buttons on the back doors, why? The centre rail is from a Brabantia Rotary Airer. So with a roof line copied from a Fiat Panda and the boot lid styled from the Chrysler PT Cruiser and interior from Toys R Us. I’m so disappointed; I really wanted to like this car. Enough to buy one. If I worked at Cowley I would be pleased we weren’t knocking these out. If sales underperform let the Austrian’s take the hit. But mind you I might be totally wrong, there’s probably thousands of badge conscious chavsters out there.

There's a very clear gap in the market now that we have seen so much BMW MINI product.

How about any manufacturer producing a cleverly packaged ten foot long Mini-shaped car aimed at the core of the motoring market?

The name would not matter too much as there could be a major market for this, especially in the current era when so many motorists want to downsize.

It could be propelled by conventional engines with capacities ranging from 850cc to 1300cc and have really sharp handling.

For today's emerging markets tarmac-burning electric and range-extended electric models would be a good idea too, as long as the gubbins can be miniaturized into the standard body without robbing passenger and load space.

Such vehicles might flagrantly clean up in the marketplace!

But not a Mini saw one today parked up by normal family cars and the Mini dwarfed them the thing looks huge!

Key specs

* Price: £22,030
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo, 184bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
* 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
* Top speed: 130mph
* Econ/CO2: 42.2mpg/157g/km
* Equipment: Roof rails, air-con, alarm, stability control, rear parking sensors, digital radio, six airbags, Bluetooth phone preparation, puncture warning, USB input
* On sale: 18 Sept

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