The value beyond the bling
If you subscribe to the idea that the Mini is a prestige vehicle then the $43,900 Countryman diesel wagon represents great value. If you believe the brand is a mainstream marque, it’s on the dearer side of the ledger. Most Mini buyers, being in the first camp, have no problems adding thousands to dress the car to mirror their style. Beyond the bling, the Countryman is impressively well-equipped with semi-automated parking, adaptive cruise control, digital radio and power tailgate. The lighting package projects a winged Mini logo on the ground when you open the door.
For anyone who spent time in the back of the previous Countryman, the new one is a revelation. Based on the same platform as the BMW X1, it has more than generous rear head and legroom and boot capacity is a respectable 450L. The extra size finally makes it a viable family car, a genuine SUVstyled Mini to take on the everrising number of crossovers.
Mini was criticised for not fitting a reversing camera to the previous Countryman. Now every model has a rear projector, along with autonomous emergency braking and six airbags. It doesn’t have a crash-test rating yet. By way of reference, the X1 scored five stars.
Steering feel and feedback is a Mini strong point and the Countryman doesn’t disappoint. The Cooper D has plenty of torque and the traction control won’t stop it from spinning the wheels on takeoff or when accelerating from low speeds. Once under way, it’s a great driver’s car. Outward vision is great, chunky windscreen pillars apart. The ride is on the firmer side — part of the brand ethos is a sporty drive — but rarely harsh. The $700 dynamic damper option is for those looking to moderate or increase compliance at the flick of a switch.
BMW X1 diesel, from $49,900 Same chassis and engine mean the Beemer has similar takeoff issues to the Mini. It is also $6K dearer, so you’re putting a lot of faith in the blue-and-white roundel badge. If you regard the Mini as comparable, it’s a bargain. Audi Q2 TDI quattro, $47,900 All-wheel drive quells torquesteer off the line and the default features pretty well mirror those on the Mini. At the price, it is a better proposition than the BMW. The bigger Countryman is more practical but the Audi looks and feels more luxurious.
This generation of the Countryman is evidence Mini is growing up and away from quirky niche product to a proper car company. As long as you view it as a prestige item, it is hard to fault the value.