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2017 Mini Countryman First Drive Review | Mini?s Big-Guy Shows Its More Grown-Up Side Photo:
 
 
TMR Team | Mar, 13 2017 | 1 Comment

This is the Mini that isn’t. Well, it isn't as mini as it used to be but it’s hardly a barge. The new Mini Countryman has grown-up and grown bigger; it’s 202mm longer compared to its predecessor, and is a substantial 478mm longer than a three-door Mini hatch.

But, as far as small SUVs go, it’s still small. It is jJust 24mm longer than a Mazda CX-3, and 140mm shorter than the BMW X1 it’s based on but 108mm longer than primary rival, the Audi Q2.

But enough boring figures, the whole idea behind the Countryman’s expansion is to make it a better family car. While the Mini hatch models are often ideal for young singles, couples or empty nesters an SUV needs to be more flexible, and that’s what this second-generation Countryman aims to address.

Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $39,900 - $51,500 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 100kW/220Nm 1.5-litre 3cyl turbo petrol, 110kW/330Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel, 141kW/280Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol, 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6sp automatic, 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.8 - 6.5 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

This new Countryman is a larger, better equipped and safer proposition than the model it replaces, one that could woo people away from the likes of a Mazda CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan, and into a premium brand.

Part of growing up is knowing when to admit you were wrong. While Mini is not about to stoop to an apology, heavy revisions to the range highlight shortcomings in the old Countryman. The previous model lacked a reversing camera, front parking sensors, rear air bags and back seat air vents that now join sat nav, a powered tailgate and climate control as standard features in the new car.

Better yet, the new Countryman is loaded with a standard safety pack that includes autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning and active cruise control systems with a semi-autonomous stop-start traffic mode.

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Cooper Countryman and Cooper D Countryman: Cloth and leather seat trim, dual-zone climate control, powered tailgate, keyless entry and start, sliding rear seat, automatic headlights and wipers, multi-colour LED ambient lighting, 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Cooper S Countryman and Cooper SD Countryman: JCW sports steering wheel, rear centre armrest, LED headlights,
  • Infotainment: 6.5-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, USB and Aux inputs, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth phone and Ausio connectivity, six-speaker audio
  • Cargo Volume: 450 litres

First impressions are that this is indeed a bigger Mini. While that may put off some buyers, the updated car is much more useful than its predecessor, offering decent room in the rear for adults on a bench seat that can slide and recline to accommodate people of different sizes.

A 100-litre larger boot now holds around 450 litres of cargo, and there are plenty of places to stash odds and ends.

The wheelbase has also been boosted by 18cm compared to the previous model, making for a less claustrophobic cabin environment than before.

Unmistakably Mini both inside and out, the Countryman features an evolution of the old car's dashboard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen monitor as standard, offering an 8.8 inch display part of a $2400 option pack that includes a 12-speaker stereo and head-up display system.

The brand's quirky toggle switches remain in play, as does a multimedia controller tucked below the gear stick, Just a little further out of reach than most gadgets of its type.

The Countryman features a somewhat upright driving position with plenty of headroom and a decent view out of the cockpit for both front and rear seat occupants.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • Engine: Cooper 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, 100kW at 6000rpm, 220Nm at1400-4300rpm. Cooper D 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 110kW at 4000rpm, 330Nm at 1750-2500rpm. Cooper S 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 141kW at 6000rpm, 280Nm at 1350-4600rpm. Cooper SD 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 140kWat 4000rpm, 400Nm at 1750-2500rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic (Cooper) or eight-speed automatic (all other variants) with front wheel drive, or All4 all wheel drive on Cooper SD
  • Suspension: Four-wheel independent with optional Dynamic Damper Control or sports suspension
  • Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes, vented front, solid rear rotors
  • Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
  • Towing Capacity: 1500 - 1800kg braked, 715 - 750 unbraked, depending on variant

Acknowledging that manual and all wheel drive options added needless complexity to the range, every car is now equipped with a conventional auto transmission (six-speed for Cooper, and eight-speed for the Cooper D, Cooper S and Cooper SD) and all but the top-of-the-range Cooper SD drive the front wheels.

The standard $39,900 Cooper gets a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine with 100kW and 220Nm, buyers keen for something sportier can go for the $46,500 Cooper S Countryman, which benefits from a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that offers 141kW and 280Nm outputs.

Diesel models include the $43,900 Cooper D, which adds a 2.0-litre turbo diesel motor with 110kW and 330Nm, along with the top-line $51,500 Cooper SD that brings 140kW and 400Nm working in league with reactive all-wheel-drive.

Once underway, the new car adopts Mini's usual road behaviour with taut suspension that lends a sporty feel at the expense of comfort.

Responding crisply to steering input, the Countryman lends driver confidence in the way it tips into bends. The new eight-speed auto is another strong point, as are powerful and easily modulated brakes.

Refusing to roll when cornering - at least to the same degree as other SUVs - the Countryman offers some of Mini's traditional driver appeal, just in smaller doses than the much more engaging hatchback.

A quick blat in conventional five-door Mini hatch during the car's Canberra-based launch reveals that the little one feels much more urgent when equipped with the same engine as a Countryman, also exhibiting better road manners.

Our test took in three examples of the Countryman - two top-end Cooper S petrol and SD diesel models, as well as the base petrol Cooper with its three-cylinder engine. While the latter is less than rapid, it offers adequate poke accompanied with a charming off-beat burble.

Given that it has much of the same standard equipment as a Cooper S, the entry model might be the sweetest point in the Mini range (as it is in the hatch).

The dearer Cooper S and SD offer identical 7.4 second 0-100km/h times, but go about their business in different ways. As expected, the diesel uses all-paw traction to gain an early advantage before making the most of an impressive torque output, while the petrol model's sweeter engine offers a more flexible power delivery and more pleasing, artificially enhanced, engine note more likely to resonate with enthusiasts.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP Rating: The 2017 Mini Countryman has yet to be tested by ANCAP.

Safety Features: All Countryman models come standard with six airbags (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, active cruise control with Stop & Go function, Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, speed limit info, and reversing camera.

 

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three year/unlimited kilometre

Servicing: Mini offers Service Inclusive pre-paid servicing which covers five years or 80,000 kilometres (whichever comes first) of standard servicing for $1240. See your Mini dealer for full terms, conditions and exclusions.

 

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

Mini’s Countryman now neatly straddles the gap between mainstream and premium SUVs and the crossover between high-end medium and entry-to-mid grade upmarket small players, in particular the Audi Q2 which aims to provide a city-focussed and highly customisable compact car to customers looking for something a little different.

Looking very much like a jacked-up hatch more than a true SUV, the GLA doesn’t excel when it comes to rear seat space or versatility, but it does do premium quite well as well as proving some segment-best polished on-road manners.

With all the bells and whistles Mazda has to offer, the high grades of the CX-5 can make something like the Countryman look expensive, but there’s perhaps not as much available high-end tech. On the flipside there’s plenty more space for growing families.

The new Tiguan has moved the game forward when it comes to family friendly features, and if you’re prepared to dip into the options list, it can quickly become a near-premium offering, though as expected that can push the price up.

  • Audi Q2
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Volkswagen Tiguan

Audi Q2
Audi Q2

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Without losing its eye-catching attitude, the Countryman has moved on from being simply ‘look at me’ to a genuinely ‘consider me’ option for young families.

There’s no doubt you can buy more metal for the money elsewhere, but the Mini straddles functionality, compact city-friendly dimensions, and designer attitude all at once and is sure to lure trendy, urban buyers that value Mini’s rebellious sense of SUV conformity.

Better engine, better in-cabin technology, and a much better back seat all contribute to a car that now makes more practical sense than it did before, without the needless range-complexity that made the previous generation so daunting.

MORE: Mini News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Mini Countryman - Prices, Features, and Specifications

 
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