Value — and price — get a boost in Mini’s premium compact SUV, writes Hamish Miles
the Countryman as a viable family car, albeit up-market, rather than a second or third vehicle in suburban stables.
The first-generation Countryman wagon tallied 3000 sales since launch in 2011. However, some customers sought more space and practicality from this biggest member of the five-model strong Mini family.
Still unmistakeably a Mini, the 2017 Countryman measures 4.3 metres in length, is 199mm longer than its predecessor, and rides on a longer 2670mm wheelbase. It is also 33mm wider and 13mm higher.
Upfront there’s a new grille — as found in the latest Mini Hatch models — plus a wider rear door pillar and a redesigned tailgate.
In the cabin, there is the full swag of comfort and convenience gear from navigation to dual-zone aircon with rear vents. Ergonomics upfront are fine but it is a rather busy cockpit of switches and buttons.
There is little argument about cabin comfort, though, with decent room for four adults. The front seats are wellbolstered and the rear seat splitfolds. Intrusion of road and wind noise is low and all Countryman wagons feel substantial on the road.
At entry-level, the frontdrive Cooper with 1.5 litre threecylinder turbo (100kW/220Nm) may feel a little underwhelming when compared with the 2.0-litre diesel Cooper D. The latter adds 10kW but its hefty 330Nm of pulling power aids driveability in town and on the highway.
Move up to the Cooper S Countryman and its 2.0-litre turbo produces a handy 141kW.
Families, and others, will have plenty of choice.
On first impressions the pick of the bunch for drivers is the all-wheel drive Mini Cooper SD All4 Countryman. The driveline works with stability controls to apportion drive 100 per cent to the front when cruising and up to 100 per cent to the rear when traction’s an issue — best of all it is quick to react to stop the front end pushing wide or the back end stepping out.
The Countryman is most assured when pressing on over back roads, whether tar or gravel.
A substantial compact SUV, Mini’s Countryman comes with premium appeal as well as premium prices.