Mini makes its premium compact SUV bigger and more practical. Value — and price — get a boost, writes Hamish Miles
THE family Mini has arrived — it’s a bigger, plusher and dearer Countryman. This secondgeneration SUV from Mini has morphed into a more sizeable, more comfortable and more competent wagon — more family friendly, even.
It brings the usual front or all-wheel drive, plus petrol and diesel options, but transmissions are now six or eight-speed automatics. Much of this is shared with its BMW X1 stablemate.
Mini Countryman prices have also grown, now starting at $39,900 for the Countryman Cooper (up some $5000) and running via four variants initially to $51,500 for the range-topping Countryman Cooper SD with all-wheel drive and turbo diesel. A hot John Cooper Works edition, with 170kW, is due later this year.
As with others in the premium compact SUV class, it’s easy to option a Mini Countryman past the $60,000 mark with packages ranging from a $750 “road trip” collection to a $4900 John Cooper Works Chili package.
Mini Australia general manager Tony Sesto says the price increase of the Countryman Cooper reflects the size and sophistication.
“The value is much greater than the nominal price increase,” he says.
Among fresh additions to the front-drive Cooper version are the six-speed auto, reversing camera, parking assist, active cruise control, driver assist (including forward collision warning), digital radio, 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tyres and an automatic tailgate.
Mini Australia values the extra standard kit for the latest Countryman at about $6500 and is confident it has the road presence, dynamics and value equation to take on class rivals such as the new Audi Q2, BMW X1, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The company now regards 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.