A cut above the rest
Tweaks mean SUV offers better ride quality and performance
If you are getting a faint sense of déjà vu, it is because the Countryman was only given a few tweaks before this latest revision.
It is much the same story once again, with MINI bolti ng on a few goodies that were, up until now, unavailable on this car.
You will find lighter alloy wheels, for better ride quality and performance, and a slightly revised front end – although you might need to put the old and the new side by side to notice the differences. The clues are in the light clusters.
LOOKS AND IMAGE
The Countryman has been frowned upon by some for its very un-MINI-like looks, but these days MINI is a brand rather than a specific car, so the executives are sticking to their guns as far as aesthetics are concerned.
Arguably, the Countryman has some of the best proportions of any current MINI, and while i t hardly looks cute, it does look stylish and upmarket.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
This is also the most practi- cal MINI, with space for four adults to stretch out a bit into unexpected leg room.
The seats are quite short under the thigh, but there are Isofix child seat mounts and a decent glove box to add practicality to the interior.
Do not put too much stock in MINI’s marketing regarding the boot though, because while it is undoubtedly bigger than its hatchback equivalent, it is still a long stone’s throw short of the class leaders.
When it comes to pushchairs and carrycots, you might have to get creative.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The lighter wheels on this model i nevitably make i t easier for the suspension to react and make bumps just a tiny bit smoother, although without a back-to-back test there is no perceptible increase in responsiveness at the accelerator pedal.
There is something strange afoot with the steeri ng t hough, which has a disconcertingly elastic resistance around the straightahead.
It dissolves into nicely direct, accurate and consist- ent i nputs once you push through the initial muddiness.
It is a nice car to drive, striking a good balance bet ween body control and comfort and, with the diesel engine up ahead of you, there is an inherently relaxed character that suits the overall package.
VALUE FOR MONEY
As a family car, the Countryman is pretty questionable value, simply because the boot is too small for the price.
The option packs get expensive, too, so i f you are plumbing the depths of the accessories lists, keep an eye on the bottom line.
It is only fair to say though that, for some buyers, only a MINI will do.
Those drivers will find a likeable all-rounder with strong residual values that make finance pretty affordable.
WHO WOULD BUY ONE?
A family looking for a second car to run the kids around town without too much luggage in tow will like this car very much.
It feels a cut above the more utilitarian options out there and can be customised to taste thanks to an impressive options list.
That last reason is why MINI expects lots of new parents to switch from a MINI hatch to a Countryman.
But, given that hundreds of thousands of Countrymans ( or should t hat be Countrymen?) have found homes across the globe so far, it is safe to say that whoever wants one will probably just go ahead and buy one.