MINI Cooper D Countryman

The facelifted MINI Countryman scores well for style and driving fun

If you want a compact crossover with upmarket appeal, the Countryman is a fine choice. It’s also cheap to run and backed by excellent residuals and a pre-paid service pack. Holding it back are the high price, cramped boot and stingy kit list.

Not even MINI expected the chunky Countryman to be such a huge success, but ever since it debuted two years ago, this fashionable crossover has been selling like hot cakes. With its mix of an upmarket image, classy interior and family-friendly practicality, it’s one of the brand’s most popular models.

So it was no surprise that the designers didn’t mess with the formula when the car was given a mild refresh this year. You still get the same retro style as the smaller hatchback, a raised ride height and a practical five-door layout. The bloated shape won’t be to all tastes, but there’s huge scope for personalisation, such as the bold stripes and two-tone alloy wheels on the Cooper SD in our pictures.

It’s a similar story inside, where you’ll find the trademark MINI central speedometer, ‘eyeball’ air vents and aviation-style toggle switches. However, there’s been a number of tweaks as part of the facelift, including improvements to the plastics and the relocation of the electric window switches from the centre console to the doors. As you’d expect, quality is excellent, while the low-slung driving position gives the car a sporty feel missing from its rivals.

There’s slightly more head and legroom for rear seat passengers than in the 2008. As in the Yeti, the split-fold rear seats can slide and recline, plus there’s lots of useful storage, including a large glovebox, centre console bin and a number of bottle holders. You’ll need all the cubby space you can get, though, because the cramped boot will only swallow 350 litres – that’s 66 litres less than the Yeti’s can hold.

And that’s not the only disappointment, because our Cooper D Countryman test car doesn’t get much standard kit. There’s air-con, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and parking sensors, but almost everything else costs extra. The Pepper Pack adds a leather steering wheel, climate control, trip computer and automatic lights and wipers, but it adds a huge £1,140 to the price. Still, many buyers will forgive the spartan feel if the car drives with the same verve as its fun-loving little brother.

The Countryman’s sharp steering, strong grip, well weighted controls and precise gearshift will be familiar to owners of the smaller car. Yet the MINI fails to disguise its bulk and height as effectively as the composed Skoda does – in particular, body roll is not as well controlled when you drive it through a series of sharp corners.

It hit back at the track, where it was only a tenth slower than the Peugeot from 0-60mph, taking 10.3 seconds. However, the Countryman doesn’t feel as eager as the 2008 in the real world, while its 1.6-litre diesel sounds clattery at idle and gruff when worked hard. It settles down on the motorway, but the calm is disrupted by some wind noise from the upright screen.

The biggest problem is the £19,300 price – more expensive than better equipped rivals. But this is countered by class-leading residuals and great-value pre-paid servicing.

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