MINI Countryman Cooper SD ALL4 2017 review

MINI's Countryman Cooper SD is one of their most expensive models yet. Is it worth the price tag?

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4.0 out of 5

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Although the MINI Countryman Cooper SD is very easy to like - the punchy engine, lively handling and characterful design ensure that - the price tag means it’s not the model we’d go for. A Cooper D is nearly as quick and just as fun to drive, while being significantly cheaper to buy and run. Plus, most buyers won’t need the four-wheel drive system - and if you do, the very capable Land Rover Discovery Sport is in the same price range as this top-spec MINI.

The most frequent comment you’ll hear about the new MINI Countryman is surely “look how big that MINI is!” With decades of tiny cars under the MINI name, plus a couple more of the BMW-owned brand, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that there’s something odd about an SUV with that badge.

Of course that doesn’t seem to matter to the buyers, as previous-gen car was one of the brand’s best-selling models, and this new one is expected to follow suit. It’s also one of the most expensive, but while that doesn’t put the buyers off either, this new model in Cooper SD ALL4 form is nearly £30,000.

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What justifies that big price tag? MINI will point you to the 188bhp turbocharged diesel engine, automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive traction. Plus, as it’s a top-spec car, there’s lots of kit including 19-inch alloys, sat-nav and smartphone connectivity. It’s a MINI, so there are loads of customisation options when you buy as well.

While the kit list isn’t particularly impressive - sat-nav is standard on all models in the range - the SD engine is great. It’s smooth and powerful at low revs, only starting to sound harsh when you really go for it, and with 400Nm of torque from 1,400rpm it’s great for in-gear overtaking.

The gearbox doesn’t change down as soon as you touch the throttle either, instead hanging on to the right gear and keeping the revs low. If you do want to get going quickly, the ‘box shifts quickly, and the 188bhp engine takes the Cooper SD from 0-62mph in just 7.4 seconds.

An equivalent Cooper D does the sprint in 8.8 seconds, but while those numbers suggest it’s a lot slower, it doesn’t feel it on the road. The normal diesel is actually a great performer as well, and since it manages 64.2mpg (the SD returns 57.6mpg) and costs around £3,500 less to buy it’s definitely the better choice.

It’s also possible to get the Cooper D with ALL4 four-wheel drive, but in the UK it won’t make sense for most buyers. If you plan on taking your car off-road the MINI probably isn’t the best choice in the first place, so a front-wheel drive version will save you money and fuel. It does add extra grip in all conditions, but the normal Countryman isn’t particularly lacking.

On a twisty road the MINI feels composed and there’s little body roll. The quick, precise steering means it’s good fun to drive, and even the small windscreen means the Countryman feels sporty. The ride is quite firm, however, so at low speed you’ll feel the lumps and bumps - though it’s better on the motorway and settles down at speed.

It being so big - for a MINI - means it’s surprisingly practical, with a big 450-litre boot that even has a false floor for extra storage space underneath. There’s not a huge amount of space in the back, but it’s enough for adults on short trips and kids will have plenty of room.

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