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New MINI Countryman 2024 review: stylish, practical and bigger than ever

We put the biggest ever MINI through its paces on UK roads to see if its a winner

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The latest MINI Countryman is about as far removed from the original Mini as it’s possible to get in terms of size, but it taps straight into the modern brand’s DNA by offering style by the bucketload. It’s packed with neat touches, and is a more practical and family-friendly car than ever before. Unfortunately, it has also lost MINI’s sense of driving fun along the way.

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If you decried the original MINI Countryman for being much bigger than the classic Mini, then you’re really going to hate this latest model. It’s around 300mm longer than the Mk1 Countryman (and about 100mm longer than the Mk2), as well as being 100mm taller, while the car’s proportions have grown to fill out those dimensions to the maximum.

However, while it’s not exactly small, it’s still recognisable as a MINI. Some styling touches, such as the Land Rover Defender-esque trim squares on the C-pillars, seem a little unnecessary, but the floating roof, large grille and black wheelarch trim are all familiar cues.

It’s inside where the Countryman really ramps up the style. Pull the flush door handle and you’re greeted by a cabin that’s far from ordinary. Mid-range Exclusive cars feature a fabric-trimmed dashboard that blends into a tan finish on the doors, while MINI offers three shades of fake-leather upholstery in dusky blue, medium brown or light beige. There’s no black option, with that more sombre hue reserved solely for the lower sections of the dashboard and doors, as well as the headlining (although our car featured panoramic glass).

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The vertical air vents look neat, but the undoubted centrepiece of the dashboard is the large circular display. It measures roughly 10 inches across (in comparison, the Countryman’s steering wheel is 14 inches in diameter), and it features some of the sharpest graphics offered in any car.

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There’s lots of functionality built in, too, including the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (although they only display in the centre part of the screen), plus ‘Spike’, the canine on-screen assistant, who can help you use the car’s assorted functions.

Don’t worry about having to take your eyes off the road to look at the central screen for vital information such as your speed or navigation directions, because all versions of the Countryman come with a head-up display as standard. It means you barely need to take your eyes off the road at all to stay informed.

Beneath the main screen is a bank of controls with a central ‘ignition switch’ that you turn left or right to start the car, then a toggle to the right to select drive. On the other side is the ‘Experiences’ switch, which scrolls through eight presets that alter the car’s interior ambience, while some also change the car’s responses.

In the standard Core setting, the Countryman is a solid performer, rather than outstanding; it has enough power
to keep pace with traffic. The steering is always fast – a typical MINI trait – but it’s a little too fast for a car of this size and height. It feels like you need to correct your inputs to compensate for the quick rack.

If only the car’s gearbox were as fast to react as the steering. The seven-speed twin-clutch unit doesn’t like to be rushed, and there are times when you’re exiting junctions or joining roundabouts that it feels a little on the hesitant side, leaving you floundering as it decides what gear it should be in. This wouldn’t be a problem if you had the option to take manual control of the operation, but there are no steering-wheel paddles.

Switch to Go Kart mode and the car’s responses are even faster, but it doesn’t feel natural in a car of this size. Instead it’s best to take things easy and revel in the distinctive cabin layout, which has plenty of room for five and their luggage. Rear space is the best it’s ever been in a MINI, while the 450-litre boot should be able to take everything you can throw at it.

Model:MINI Countryman Cooper Exclusive
Price:£28,500
Powertrain:1.5-litre 3cyl petrol MHEV
Power/torque:166bhp/280Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed twin-clutch auto, front wheel drive
0-62mph:8.3 seconds
Top speed:131mph
Economy/CO2:47.1mpg/145g/km
Size (L/W/H):4,444/1,843/1,661mm
On sale:Now
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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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