MINI Countryman vs Nissan Juke
In this world exclusive, Auto Express pits the MINI Countryman against another new arrival - the Nissan Juke crossover
Many people thought the idea of a 4x4 MINI was a step too far – but the Countryman is worthy of a place in the range. With its cheeky looks and an engaging drive, it’s lost none of the values that has made the brand so popular. But thanks to a spacious interior with decent carrying ability, plus a comfortable ride, buyers who have outgrown the regular MINI now have a model to graduate to. However, while running costs should be low, it’s not cheap to buy. And with stiff competition from well priced rivals such as the excellent Juke, that could be its biggest problem.
It’s the supermini-SUV punch-up of the year! Auto Express has got behind the wheel of MINI’s showroom-ready Countryman – and in a world exclusive, we’ve pitted it against its closest rival, Nissan’s Juke. Which one will take the compact 4x4 class by storm?
Lay eyes on the pair side-by- side and it’s clear they’re both controversially styled. The Countryman is certainly no ordinary MINI. Despite a mere 10mm ride height increase, it seems much taller, although BMW has done its best to keep it all in proportion.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the MINI Countryman
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Rounded-off square lights are designed to make the face more masculine, and blend with chunky looks and an aggressive take on the car’s grille.
However, next to the Nissan, the Countryman looks the more ordinary. The Juke’s eye-catching front end, coupé-like roofline and swollen wheelarches won’t be to everyone’s taste, but will appeal to those after something unique.
Likewise, MINI believes there are plenty of buyers who have outgrown the regular MINI and who want something bigger like the Countryman. Blown in every dimension from the standard car, the interior is now roomy enough to carry four adults in comfort. Compared to the Juke, which suffers from a lack of rear headroom, the MINI feels like a limousine, and the sliding rear seats only improve matters.
Behind them a 350-litre boot – 99 litres larger than the Nissan’s – means there’s even room for plenty of shopping. Style over practicality has always been the way of BMW’s MINI, but in the Countryman the roles are reversed. Useful touches, such as the cabin-length rail running down the centre of the car, are perfect for extra stowage and cup-holding ability.
The dashboard is typically MINI, with a vast circular speedo dominating a stylish and well built interior. The high driving position is the finishing touch, and ensures the cabin is a great place to spend time. The Juke can’t live with the MINI in this area. Apart from the motorbike fuel tank-inspired gearlever surround, the rest of the interior is generally quite bland, and not as well built.
On the road is where the Countryman really earns its stripes, and fears that it would lose the driver appeal of the standard hatch are forgotten when the first corner arrives. We tested the Countryman in four-wheel-drive ALL4 Cooper S specification, and it’s confident and composed at speed with minimal body roll and impressive damping.
The steering feels a little more muted than it does in the regular model, but it still offers lots of feedback and suits the more grown-up demeanour. The 184bhp, 1.6-litre turbo engine offers plenty of urge – it isn’t fazed by the 170kg 4WD system and pulls willingly in all gears.
By comparison, the Nissan’s 187bhp 1.6-litre turbo is equally responsive and the Juke closely matches the Countryman for pace, but the handling just can’t match up to the MINI’s involving experience.
So, which car takes the honours? Well, the Countryman is better to drive, more spacious and feels like a higher quality product. But then at £5,115 more than the Juke, that’s exactly what we would expect. One thing is for sure, families after a cool alternative to run-of-the-mill hatchbacks now have plenty of choice!