MINI Countryman review - Engines, performance and drive
The Countryman’s ride is quite firm, but in handling and refinement terms it’s up there with the class best
MINI has built a reputation for building fun to drive small cars, but as larger and more practical models arrive they threaten to erode the agile feel delivered by the core cars. Thankfully, the Countryman still has plenty of MINI DNA left in the driving experience.
This fun is evident when you get the Countryman on a twisty road. The steering is quick and there’s lots of grip on offer. Even though it has a longer wheelbase and a higher kerbweight than rivals like the Audi Q2 or Volvo XC40, the car feels more nimble and sharper to drive.
The steering is quick, especially just off centre, so the MINI darts into turns with a keenness that might take you by surprise at first. But you soon get used to this agility, and the car handles well and corners with little roll. There are different driving modes to choose from as part of the Sport Pack, and in the Sport setting the Countryman’s steering and throttle response are sharpened up. However, Mid mode is more natural, with a nicer linearity to the accelerator.
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The wider track means the handling is very surefooted and composed. There’s plenty of grip, even on lesser models, and the MINI is keen to turn-in to corners with its sharp, direct steering. Even the gearshift operates with the well-oiled precision typical of a BMW Group model. It’s not as fun or engaging to drive as smaller MINIs, but by the standards of the crossover class it’s very good – giving the Mazda CX-3 a run for its money.
Happily, MINI has also managed to match composed handling with mature cruising ability. The ride is a bit firm at times - particularly on models with larger wheels - as potholes and torn surfaces unsettle the car. Vertical movements are evident at higher speeds, but the Countryman is never too uncomfortable thanks to good damping. Optional Dynamic Damper Control allows this to be adjusted according to the road surface and the driver’s preference.
Despite some tyre roar on bad surfaces, the Countryman is among the more refined cars in its class, with excellent isolation from wind and engine noise. Visibility is okay, and it’s easy to place the corners of the car when manoeuvring and parking.
The Countryman offers a different engine with each trim level. The base models are the Cooper petrol and Cooper D diesel. Buyers can choose from a six-speed manual gearbox, and a six or eight-speed automatic gearbox depending on the model.
The Cooper uses the same 1.5 litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine found in the MINI hatch and Clubman. With 134bhp and a decent 220Nm of torque it should prove a characterful offering. It could well start to struggle if loaded with kids and luggage, though, particularly as the Countryman isn’t all that light.
The Cooper D uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine producing 148bhp and a healthy 330Nm of torque. It’s both punchy and flexible, with a decent turn of pace and a willingness to rev that you don’t often see in diesels. It’s also very refined, never getting raucous or clattery once warmed up.
Buyers wanting the most powerful Countryman for sale need the Cooper S. It uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine producing 189bhp and 280Nm of torque. While it’s smooth and torquey, it doesn’t really live up to the brief of being a hot crossover. Outright performance is adequate but not sparkling.
We've also had a go in the plug-in hybrid Cooper S E. With a system output of 221bhp and rear-mounted electric motors creating all-wheel drive, it's a brisk car - getting off the line from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds. It's also got a sporty three-cylinder note and lots of torque, but the performance tails off at higher speeds. It'll score highly with company car drivers though, thanks to its rock-bottom running costs.
In this review
- 1MINI Countryman reviewThe new-for-2017 Mini Countryman offers better space, greater efficiency and more advanced tech than its predecessor
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe Countryman’s ride is quite firm, but in handling and refinement terms it’s up there with the class best
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe Countryman is competitive across the board for running costs, justifying its high purchase price
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe Countryman’s exterior look is divisive, but the attention to detail in the interior is impressive, while quality and tech are both top notch
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe larger size means more space for passengers and luggage, and makes the Countryman a genuine small SUV
- 6Reliability and SafetyThere’s a wealth of safety kit as standard, which should stand the Countryman in good stead, although the brand’s reliability record should be better