THE MINI COUNTRYMAN is back for a second time, and joins the local Mini range as the “final piece of the puzzle” in filling out its local showrooms. It also happens to be surprisingly good, considering the generally underwhelming nature of its predecessor.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
This is the second iteration of Mini’s Countryman SUV, and while the previous model was a little on the compact side its all-new replacement has grown bigger to strengthen its passenger-carrying credentials.
Retail prices start at $39,900, which makes the 2017 Mini Cooper Countryman base model $3600 more expensive than before. Countering that, however, is $6500 extra value in the form of more standard equipment.
The range tops out at $51,500 for the diesel-engined AWD Cooper SD Countryman, though prices can easily soar beyond $60,000 depending on how many option boxes you tick.
The engine range comprises a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol at the bottom end, with two 2.0-litre turbo diesels in the middle and a performance-oriented 2.0-litre turbo petrol for the Cooper S Countryman.
- Cabin packaging improvements yield greatly improved rear seat comfort, and the sliding rear bench also features a reclining backrest to give backseat passengers excellent long-distance comfort. The old Countryman was very confined in the back, but its replacement is anything but.
- The rear doors are bigger and open wider than before, improving egress and entry for your backseaters and furthering the Countryman’s case as the primo passenger-carrier of the Mini range.
- The base model engine is no longer an asthmatic 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated petrol four-cylinder, with the weakling 1.6 replaced by a far more willing 1.5-litre turbo petrol three-cylinder with 100kW and 220Nm. It’s got enough ‘go’ for regular city driving, and only burns a modest 6.0L/100km of premium on the combined cycle.
- Standard specification is very generous indeed. An automatic is now the factory-issue transmission (six-speed in the base Cooper petrol, eight-speed in everything else), and there’s plenty of high-end gear that’s standard across the range. Active cruise control, a power tailgate, keyless entry/ignition, and autonomous emergency braking are the highlights, but there’s plenty more in the feature list as well.
- It handles well, with good balance and excellent roadholding for an SUV of its size. There’s bodyroll and definitely a lot of mass to contend with, but considering its bulk the Countryman is a fun car to steer spiritedly.
- Ride quality has improved, but the Countryman still has a sharp edge to its suspension that may not be enjoyable if you regularly travel rough roads – especially if you option bigger wheels than the standard 18-inch items. Put it up against a BMW X1, however, and the Mini is actually the more compliant machine.
- It’s a pricey option in the mid-sized SUV segment, especially when compared against entry-level models from mainstream rivals from Nissan, Hyundai, Mazda or Toyota. That said, when you take the standard equipment list into account the entry-level Cooper Countryman petrol shapes up as a fairly good deal – especially considering the semi-premium badge. The $51k Cooper SD Countryman flagship? Not so much.
- While the standard equipment list is pretty generous for the base models, there are some surprising omissions on high-grade Countryman variants. Power-adjustable front seats aren’t standard in any Countryman models, for example, and can only be had as a cost-extra option.
- The standard infotainment system for the Countryman range is a decent 6.5-inch unit that’s largely carry-over technology, while a slicker, larger and more capable touchscreen display is a cost option – even in the more expensive Cooper S and Cooper SD, where we’d expect it to be standard-issue.
- Want the extra grip of all-wheel drive? You can only get it in the Cooper SD Countryman – the most expensive variant in the range.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The similarly quasi-premium Volkswagen Tiguan springs to mind as the most natural competitor to the new Countryman based on price, specification and size, but other rivals include everything from high-spec Mazda CX-5s, Hyundai Tucsons, to low-spec variants of the BMW X1, Audi Q2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
Mini Countryman Cooper petrol auto - $39,900
Mini Countryman Cooper D diesel auto - $43,900
Mini Countryman Cooper S petrol auto - $46,500
Mini Countryman Cooper SD diesel auto - $51,500