The previous Mini Countryman didn’t quite fit the SUV description, lacking the U-for-utility that defines the genre, but now in its second generation Mini has fixed the previous model’s space issue.
Unfortunately for Mini fans that means the new model is bigger, though it’s hardly oversized or cumbersome, and it also benefits from the flexible interior space inherent in the BMW-based front-wheel drive platform it’s built on.
That gives it a handy advantage against premium competitors from Mercedes-Benz and Audi that scrimp on space to deliver style, whilst maintaining that unmistakably Mini-charm that attracts buyers to the brand.
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $44,500 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 110kW/330Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.8 l/100km | Tested: 7.3 l/100km
There’s a Countryman for just about everyone, starting with the ‘entry-level’ Cooper and Cooper D twins and moving up through the performance range that includes the Cooper S, Cooper SD, and John Cooper Works.
That entry level tag applied to the Cooper D is a little misleading though, with a strong list of standard features to help the Cooper D justify its premium positioning compared to mainstream competitors from the likes of Mazda or Nissan.
Under the bonnet the Cooper D keeps things frugal with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine, but isn’t handicapped by a lack of power with 110kW and 330Nm proving more than enough to keep things lively.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth and leather seat trim, leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, configurable LED interior lighting, halogen headlights, automatic lights and wipers, powered tailgate, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch media monitor, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Aux and USB inputs, six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 450 litres to rear seats, 1390 litres with seats folded
The Countryman’s interior provides plenty of retro styling touches in its circular design, but is entirely modern to use, with a full range of modern conveniences and tech-friendly features integrated into it.
Mini’s clever infotainment interface, upgraded with a larger 8.8-inch screen on this particular car, takes its cues from the closely related BMW iDrive system, and although it lacks the latest generation of smartphone mirroring, it is comprehensive enough to take over most of those functions anyway.
Interior space has also scored a massive upgrade compared to the previous generation, overall the new Countryman is 20 centimetres longer than before, and interior space benefits the most - there’s more room front and especially in the rear with a sliding rear seat to balance passenger and cargo space if need by.
Young families will appreciate the added space, loading little ones into car seats has been made easier thanks to the added rear room and larger door openings but as your family grows into teens the Countryman may hit its limits, particularly if you’re raising a future Boomers or Opals player.
The boot also grows by 100 litres compared to the old Countryman. It might still be a squeeze for big or bulky items, but overall trips to your favourite flat-pack furniture store, or long weekends away will pack into the boot with less jamming, cramming, and cursing.
From our short time with the car the presentation of the interior seems impressive. The available two-tone colour scheme (there’s plenty to pick from) gives an upmarket impression, the glossy black interior details look smart, and the soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors impart a premium feel.
Design details stick to Mini ‘tradition’ although anyone who ever owned an original Mini will be hard-pressed to recognise much of the Countryman’s interior. That retro-reliance means some features, like the toggle switches in the roof and centre stack, are a bit clunky to operate but the look is at least distinct from the monotony of most modern interiors.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 110kW @4000rpm, 330Nm @1750-2500rpm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
- Towing Capacity: 1500 kg braked, 730 kg unbraked
The Cooper D Countryman is powered by an earnest little engine, rated at 110kW and 330Nm from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel. Here’s the thing though, unless you were to drive it back to back it feels no less exciting to drive than the more powerful and expensive Cooper SD.
In fact, unless you absolutely had to have the Copper SD’s all wheel drive, or are planning on running your car against a stopwatch at each set of traffic lights, it might be wise to save the almost $8000 step up to the Cooper SD and take a trip through the extensive options list instead. If times are all important, the Cooper D Countryman runs from 0-100km/h in 8.8 seconds.
With plenty of torque available down low, the Cooper D doesn’t feel under-engined in any way trundling to the shops or commuting to work, and on the open road the eager diesel engine sips fuel, while also providing robust overtaking.
Refinement levels are high, there’s little in the way of engine noise until you really crack the whip, wind noise is well managed, but as is so often the case with European cars, Australia’s coarsely-coated roads can create some tyre roar at times.
Is the Cooper D a sporty steer? Well, honestly no. It drives nicely, feeling more like a hatch than an SUV through bends. Although there’s plenty of torque, there’s no sense of willingness for a spirited drive.
The Countryman does get suspension comfort right though, be it navigating low-speed bumps and lumps on city streets, or corrugated rural roads, the Cooper D kept its composure, and more importantly kept from shaking up occupants with a firmish ride helping provide a feeling of solid road holding.
On test fuel consumption wasn’t as stellar as Mini’s factory 4.4 l/100km claim suggests, but city-centric driving kept figures up - a more balanced mix of city and country driving would likely even things out.
Realistically buyers planning regular weekend escapes to the country are also ideally suited to the Cooper D, urban-only users will find the petrol Cooper Countryman a better fit to city driving with longer high-speed drives required to keep the Cooper D’s particulate filter healthy.
ANCAP Rating: 5 stars - The Mini Countryman recieved the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when tested in 2017 using crash data obtained by Euro NCAP. This rating applies to Cooper D variants only.
Safety Features: Six airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain), electronic stability and traction control, antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, rear view camera, front and rear park sensors, road sign recognition, speed limiter, and front seatbelt pretensioners.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Mini Service Inclusive (MSI) pre-paid servicing packages start from $1240 for MSI Basic which includes five years or 80,000 km (whichever comes first) of servicing, including filters, and brake fluid. MSI Plus packages are also available with brake pad and disc replacement and wiper blade refills which you Mini dealer can explain in full detail.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The new Audi Q2 is as funky as you’ll find, with a boxy style, and plenty of personalisation options. Just like a hatch to drive, but lacking the outright space of the Countryman’s interior.
Mercedes-Benz has recently refreshed its GLA range, with chunkier styling and added equipment. Rear seat space isn’t as roomy or flexible as the Countryman, and pricing is a touch more premium, though the diesel GLA 220 d provides more power and torque.
Under the skin the BMW X1 and Mini Countryman share their structure and mechanicals (though you’d never pick it at a glance), but the X1 goes further in the family stakes with more space inside, and a more versatile interior.
Want more space without missing out on a premium look and feel? If you can settle for something less exclusive than a Mini the Mazda CX-5 Akera provides a bigger interior (and exterior) but doesn’t scrimp on features, with a healthy standard equipment list.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
More sensible than ever before, the new Countryman is less of a caricature than the first generation car, and more usefully spacious and user friendly. There’s also more equipment, and more comfort, making the Countryman a (gasp) more sensible purchase.
It’s hardly the most practical of the premium SUV crop, but is nowhere near the least practical. Signature Mini style ensures the Countryman is anything but boring which won’t appeal to everyone but is a real plus for buyers that crave Mini’s individual appearance.
Of course a top-spec mainstream medium SUV could be yours for similar money, with more space and just as much standard equipment - but in the same way something from the Michael Kors collection is just as practical as something from K-Mart, it’s the designer appeal that sets this fashion-forward accessory apart.
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