MINI Countryman Cooper D

How many staff can we squeeze into chunky Brit 4x4? Auto Express puts it to the ultimate practicality test...

  • The sat-nav is fantastic: it’s easy to set up, follow and then operate on route. Plus, the parking sensor is very well conceived. It provides an overhead picture of ‘hotspots’ approaching, and the warning noises which accompany it work in stereo to give drivers a sonar-like warning of where those obstacles are situated.
  • Modern electronic parking brakes are not my thing. I’ve never liked pushing a button and waiting for that distant mechanical whirring sound. The traditional handbrake in the MINI has an old-fashioned rachet, so you know where you are. But the top of the handle acts like a giant hook, snagging bags and coats of the driver and passenger.

At the start of the year, 26 members of a dance group squeezed into a MINI hatchback to set a new world record. But how many people could you get in the Countryman? 

Well, Auto Express wedged in seven hefty male staff, as well as dainty road tester Lesley Harris, before the rear suspension began to creak and infringement on personal space became an issue!

But there’s clearly much more room than in the regular car.

In truth, the Countryman isn’t about how many people you can carry; it’s about moving a family of five in comfort and style. And that is something the incredibly popular MINI brand simply hasn’t been able to offer before. So, is it working?

Judging by our trip on the annual London to Brighton rally (Issue 1,167), yes. Unsurprisingly, the views about the five-door were split. Fans of the original Sixties Mini tended to view our Countryman with suspicion; they typically rated it highly as a car, but most were adamant that it is a BMW, rather than a Mini. 

The greatest enthusiasm for the Countryman came from existing and former MINI owners. Most of them loved the fun and styling associated with the brand, but had struggled with the practicalities of running a two-door car with children. As they scrambled over the back seats, our long-term model impressed with its extra boot space, rear legroom and flexibility. 

It was also interesting to see how many existing MINI drivers had already test driven, and even ordered, the newcomer. Job done for the firm, then, as owners of the original Mini were probably never the target market anyway!

I suspect people like me were. And with two growing boys to accommodate and no loyalty to the original Mini – I grew up driving a Sixties VW Beetle – I have to admit that it really works for me. 

Some of my friends have questioned whether the Countryman is simply a car for posers. You can see their point, as the oversized dash, retro toggle switches and endless options suggest it offers style over substance. But I’m really growing to love it. The optional sat-nav is intuitive to use, I’m a big fan of the styling and there’s enough space in the back for family duties.

The Countryman proved its worth during a week off for the recent half-term school break, as it provided faultless company on days out and picnics. True, I have been carrying only three 

or four passengers, but that’s exactly what MINI designed the Countryman for, isn’t it?

Extra Info

“Despite some concerns, our Countryman was well received on the London to Brighton rally. Most MINI drivers loved the extra room, practicality and even the chunky looks”

Jon Morgan, Staff writer

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