Used MINI Countryman (Mk1, 2010-2017) - What’s it like to drive?

The MINI Countryman Mk1 is good fun to drive, but some models ride firmly and entry-level cars aren’t exactly quick

While it isn’t as nimble or as agile as the MINI Hatch, the MINI Countryman Mk1 does share many elements of its smaller sibling’s fun-to-drive handling qualities All of the engines are good fits for the Countryman Mk1, even if the entry-level petrol and diesel options are a bit on the slow side, and performance is blunted further on versions equipped with all-wheel drive or the optional automatic gearbox.

Engines and performance

None of the engines that were available on the MINI Countryman Mk1 were bad, so buyers should be satisfied with their car regardless of what’s under the bonnet. However, the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol engine that came with base-spec One models may not be for you if you need a bit of performance: with 97bhp at its disposal, this spec of Countryman Mk1 could accelerate from 0-62mph only in a leisurely 11.9 seconds.

In comparison, the 120bhp version of this engine (which came on the Cooper trim level) is a bit peppier and is a better fit for the MINI’s sporty character. Performance was unsurprisingly a bit better, too: MINI quoted a 0-62mph acceleration time of 10.4 seconds for this model.

Buyers who need more straight-line speed than that will be best catered for with the Cooper S and John Cooper Works performance versions. Both used a turbocharged version of the 1.6-litre petrol engine, which helped bump power up to 187bhp on the Cooper S and a punchy 215bhp on the John Cooper Works. They were also by some margin the fastest versions of the MINI Countryman Mk1: Cooper S cars had a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds, and the John Cooper Works cars were faster still at a sports car-aping 6.9 seconds.

If diesel is your preferred choice of fuel, there are diesel-powered Countryman Mk1 options out there. Like the petrol range, the least powerful diesel doesn’t exactly have a scintillating turn of speed (the 89bhp 1.6-litre diesel in the One D takes 12.9 seconds to go from 0-62mph), although the decent mid-range torque it has means this engine isn’t totally out of its depth on motorways.

The 110bhp 1.6-litre in the Cooper D is a bit more flexible in general driving duties, with its respectable 0-62mph time of 10.9 seconds, and is therefore easier to recommend over the 89bhp engine. Range-topping Cooper SD diesels had a larger 141bhp 2.0-litre engine, which had an even faster 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds, but is pricier to buy and run.

All versions of the MINI Countryman Mk1 came as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, and every model bar the One D diesel could be specified with an optional six-speed automatic. The automatic makes the Countryman Mk1 a bit more relaxing to drive, but since it has a big negative impact on performance and fuel economy, we reckon the manuals are a more ideal match for the MINI.

On the road

MINI tried to carry over as much of the hatchback model’s fun and engaging handling onto the Countryman Mk1, and for the most part it did a good job. Because it’s a larger and heavier car with more suspension travel, the Countryman Mk1 is an enjoyable car to steer thanks to the precise steering and well-contained body lean when cornering.

Like the regular MINI, the Countryman Mk1 is also an easy car to drive. The light steering helps with the car’s manoeuvrability around town, as do the raised driving position and the good overall visibility. Ride quality is pretty good for the most part, too, with the suspension doing a handy job at ironing out lumps and bumps in the road. However, do bear in mind cars riding on the optional 19-inch alloy wheels don’t ride as smoothly as Countryman Mk1s rolling on smaller wheels, and some alternatives are quieter at motorway speeds.

Most of the MINI Countryman Mk1 range came as standard with front-wheel drive – the only exception to this was the range-topping John Cooper Works performance version, which was only available with all-wheel drive. A number of engine options could be specified with MINI’s All4 all-wheel-drive system, though we wouldn’t recommend it unless you need the extra traction for driving on slippery surfaces or towing, as these versions do lose a fair bit of ground to their front-wheel drive counterparts in the fuel economy stakes.

The all-wheel-drive system doesn’t turn the MINI Countryman Mk1 into an especially effective off-roader, either. As a result, if you need a small SUV with good terrain traversing credentials, you may be better off with something like a Jeep Renegade.

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