Posts

2017 MINI Countryman review: driving the biggest MINI yet

2017 MINI Countryman review: we drive the biggest MINI yet

2017 MINI Countryman review: driving the biggest MINI yet

Look, we know the MINI Countryman isn’t exactly mini. We know this probably isn’t what Alec Issigonis had in mind for the future of his ADO15 economy car ahead of its launch as the original Mini in 1959. Chances are, you might not like the MINI Countryman one bit. But that’s OK because, since its launch in 2010, it’s not shied away from being controversial.

There are lots of happy MINI Countryman owners out there, however. More than 550,000 have been sold globally, while 79,000 have found homes in the UK. And that popularity is only likely to grow as the Countryman has been revised for 2017. We’ve driven it on UK roads to find out whether it’s OK to hate the new MINI crossover.

The new MINI Countryman is the biggest MINI ever

The new MINI Countryman is bigger than before – a full 20cm longer than its predecessor and 3cm wider. A 75mm longer wheelbase translates into an extra 5cm of rear legroom and 100 litres of boot space, meaning the Countryman is by far the most practical MINI on sale.

This puts it firmly into the C-segment, making it a rival to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Fiat 500X and Audi Q3, as well as conventional hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf and BMW 1 Series.

What’s it like inside?

What’s it like inside?

Sit inside the Countryman, and it feels typically MINI. Everything’s chunky – from the huge central infotainment system (now a touchscreen) to the family-friendly door bins and hefty steering wheel. Features like the toggle start switch add a retro touch, while the rectangular air vents give it a more rugged feel, apparently.

The new MINI Countryman certainly feels upmarket – but that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from MINI. It’s got a solid feel, with no cheap-feeling plastics to be found.

It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position in the new Countryman (helped in our test car by the optional electric adjustment), while passengers in the rear will appreciate the large windows, airy feel and generous legroom. New for the 2017 model is an optional electric tailgate, while a picnic bench can be specified to sit on the bootlid and provide seating for two people. Hashtag: lifestyle.

Tell me about the engines

Tell me about the engines

The new Countryman comes with a choice of petrol and diesel engines from BMW’s TwinPower Turbo range, similar to the line-up already found in the hatch and Clubman models. The entry-level Cooper is powered by a 1.5-litre petrol producing 136hp and hitting 62mph in 9.6 seconds, while the 2.0-litre diesel powered Cooper D takes 8.9 seconds to reach 62mph.

Sportier models include the 2.0-litre Cooper S (tested here) and a range-topping John Cooper Works. This produces 231hp and hits 62mph in an impressive 6.5 seconds.

For the first time in MINI’s history, a plug-in hybrid model is set to go on sale later in 2017. An 88hp electric motor powers the rear wheels of the Countryman Cooper S E, while a three-cylinder petrol engine sends drive to the fronts through a six-speed Steptronic gearbox. The result is 49g/km CO2 emissions and combined fuel consumption of 135mpg.

How does the Countryman drive?

How does the Countryman drive?

We tested the hot Cooper S model in four-wheel-drive All4 guise. This produces 192hp and hits 62mph in 7.2 seconds when combined with BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic auto ’box. It doesn’t feel quite as quick as you may expect, but with Sport mode selected it certainly sounds the part, while the steering weights up – albeit rather artificially.

If you’re not in a Cooper S kind of mood, you can flick between Mid or Green modes. We actually like the standard mode best – certainly with the adaptive dampers fitted to our test car. It’s less jittery than when in Sport, and – while the steering still isn’t overly communicative – at least it doesn’t make you flex your muscles just to round corners.

The Green mode works well, too, toning down the throttle response and making the steering even lighter. It makes choosing the costly Cooper S seem a bit daft, but we find the Countryman to be at it’s best when you’re pottering around town or meandering cross-country with little urgency.

Should I buy a 4×4 Countryman?

Should I buy a 4x4 Countryman?

All engines are available with a MINI’s All4 four-wheel-drive system. This works with the car’s stability control system to transfer power between the front and rear axles, depending on the conditions. Under normal load, 100% of the power will be directed to the front for maximum efficiency. During cornering, it’ll be sent to the rear to counter understeer, while up to 100% could be directed to the rear axle when required in wet or slippery conditions.

The MINI Countryman is the kind of car you’ll choose for transporting your family, so it’s important to consider how safe it is. Although the new model hasn’t been tested, its predecessor scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, while the more recent MINI hatch and Clubman were both awarded four stars.

Standard safety kit on the Countryman includes a host of airbags and a collision warning system with a city braking function to prevent minor bumps. Optional equipment ranges from a pedestrian warning system to active cruise control.

Which options should I choose?

Which options should I choose?

MINI has made the new Countryman better equipped as standard – a move that follows three quarters of customers selecting the Pepper, Chili or Sport options packs for the outgoing car. Now, many former Pepper pack features are fitted as standard – including 16-inch alloys on Cooper models, as well as parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity.

If you pick just one option we’d go for the £950 Media pack, which includes the XL navigation system, MINI Connected XL and the clever MINI Find Mate. This allows you to fix tags with wireless tracking functions to important objects you may lose – such as keys and rucksacks – and trace them on your phone or on your MINI’s on-board computer.

MINI dealers are taking orders for the new Countryman now, with the entry-level Cooper starting at £22,465. The Cooper D starts at £24,425, while the Cooper S costs £24,710 and the SD £27,965. The range-topping John Cooper Works will set you back £29,565. Deliveries will start in February 2017.

What’s the verdict?

What’s the verdict?

Are you allowed to hate the new Countryman? Hmm. Not really. Whisper it, but the new MINI Countryman is actually pretty good. The interior is more upmarket than ever before, and you get more for your money now. The downside of its increased bulk is it’s not quite the sharp handler you might expect a MINI to be. Even so, keen drivers will find it more satisfying than a Nissan Qashqai.

If you’ve got a family but want to cling onto your street cred, the MINI Countryman remains an excellent choice. Just don’t expect everyone to appreciate it.

 

2017 MINI Countryman

New 2017 MINI Countryman revealed: everything you need to know

2017 MINI CountrymanThe new MINI Countryman is going after the Nissan Qashqai (and responding to the new Audi Q2) with the biggest Mini-badged model in 57 years.

Giving the most-misunderstood modern MINI much more relevance, the new Countryman may carry similar styling but is a far more well-formed model than the previous one – and, surprisingly, it’s on sale TODAY ahead of deliveries beginning in February 2017. Here’s what you need to know.

How big is the new MINI Countryman?

2017 MINI Countryman

Key to the new MINI Countryman’s potential newfound appeal is the fact it’s grown. A lot. It’s 200mm longer, 30mm wider, has a 75mm longer wheelbase. Instead of being little more than four metres long, it’s now around 4.3 metres in length – a bit longer than the new Audi Q2 and not that far shy of the Nissan Qashqai. “It’s much bigger” say insiders. And it’s this that will make the model relevant.

Where does the new MINI Countryman compete?

2017 MINI Countryman

MINI says the new Countryman is now a C-segment car. That means it’s a crossover-infused alternative to, say, a Qashqai, or a posh MINI you’d consider instead of a Focus – maybe even instead of a Volkswagen Golf. Something the current model could never claim to be. It seems MINI is no longer shy about going big.

The interior is much more upmarket

2017 MINI Countryman

A big criticism of the current MINI Countryman is its rather un-premium interior. That’s cured with this one. Materials are higher-quality, there’s more premium-like attention to detail and it will finally feel like the cool sibling of BMW-brand cars, rather than a curiously downmarket one.

It is much roomier inside

2017 MINI Countryman

The new MINI Countryman is a full five-seater, says the firm. Again, not something the current compromised car could claim to be. There’s 50mm more legroom and the rear seats slide back and forth by a hefty 130mm.

It has a far bigger boot

2017 MINI Countryman

The boot capacity of the new MINI Countryman is… wait for it… 450 litres. And that’s with the seats up. A Volkswagen Golf? 380 litres. This is a massive increase: it’s 20 litres bigger than a Nissan Qashqai, for heaven’s sake! Fold the 40:20:40 split rear seats and it extends to 1,309 litres. That’s 220 litres up on before. MINI goes practical.

It has a picnic bench

2017 MINI Countryman

Just to underline the new Countryman’s newfound practicality and crossover-ability, MINI is offering an optional ‘Picnic Bench’. This folds out of the boot and provides a seat for two people. Who needs that Range Rover, anyway?

It looks like the current MINI Countryman…

2017 MINI Countryman

MINI is famed for its evolutionary styling and, despite the revolution beneath the surface, it’s not changed that with this new Countryman. It’s instead given it more muscle and more crossover kudos – check the form in the front and rear wings. Satin aluminium roof rails are standard, matched by aluminium sill plates to make it look taller. Other metal-look bits pump up the 4×4 elements too.

… And MINI is cool with this

2017 MINI Countryman

Here’s old (left) and new (right) MINI Countryman. Similar, huh? But how much more presence does the new car have? Second time lucky for the designers?

It can have a central touchscreen

2017 MINI Countryman

For the first time ever, a MINI has a touchscreen infotainment system. The famous round central display gains prod-ability for a much more contemporary experience. It’s optional – sat nav is standard on all models but usually controlled by the BMW iDrive-style controller by the handbrake – but the 8.8in screen may still become a must-have, just because.

There’s stowage space everywhere

2017 MINI Countryman

Owners of the current Countryman could, for all MINI’s talk of lifestyley stowage solutions and central sliding rails, never quite find enough suitable places to put their stuff. Fixed here. There’s much more on-board stowage, from front and rear doors that tale 1-litre bottles, to a massive cubby in the centre console, to more cupholders and a space-saving electric parking brake (be gone, impossible-to-use current lever!).

MINI Find Mate helps you find the stuff you’ve lost

2017 MINI Countryman

All this newfound space makes it far more likely you’ll lose stuff on-board. MINI Find Mate to the rescue: these are tags you can put on bags, keyrings, backpacks and the like. It lets you track exactly where they are in the car – and fire a warning bleep to help you find them on-board.

There’s a lot of standard equipment

2017 MINI Countryman

All MINI Countryman get a lot of standard kit. The feature list on all includes sat nav, Bluetooth, cruise control, 16-inch alloys autonomous-brake Active Guard and an emergency e-call feature. Cooper S and Cooper SD models add 17-inch alloys and part-leather upholstery. 75% of buyers will take the Chili option pack, which adds climate control, sports seats, LED headlights and user-selectable driving modes, amongst other bits.

It is now MINI Connected

2017 MINI Countryman

Like BMW Connected, there’s now MINI Connected personal mobility assistant – making the Countryman a MINI that’s fully connected with devices such as the Apple iPhone and Apple Watch. It means there’s an app for communicating with your car (and finding it when you’ve lost it in a car park). The new Countryman syncs with your digital calendar. Will tell you to eat your breakfast more quickly if it spots traffic on your commute.

The new MINI Countryman is faster

2017 MINI Countryman

The engine range comprises all-turbo motors: the Cooper-branded engines at launch are a 136hp 1.5-litre turbo petrol Cooper, which does 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds, or a 150hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel that does 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. The Cooper S has a 192hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol for 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds (or 7.2 seconds if you pick the ALL4 all-wheel drive auto), while the 190hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel Cooper SD does 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds or 7.4 seconds as an ALL4.

The new MINI Countryman is greener

2017 MINI Countryman

MINI says the new Countryman will average up to 64.2mpg and emit as little as 113g/km CO2. Expect future additional models to be greener still.

There is a plug-in hybrid MINI Countryman

2017 MINI Countryman

If you want even greener, pick the new plug0in hybrid MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. This has a turbo petrol engine with an electric motor and extended capacity batteries. For a claimed 134.5mpg… combined with 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds. Impressive.

It is better off-road

2017 MINI Countryman

This is the crossover MINI, so BMW’s made the Countryman more able off-road (well, it is derived from the BMW X1, after all…). The all-wheel drive system, called ALL4, is faster-acting and is electronically linked to the stability control system. Great for plugging through streams… but also perfect for dealing with adverse weather conditions. Take that, UK winter.

It even has an off-road gadget

2017 MINI Countryman

The Countryman has an off-road gimmick called MINI Country Timer. This monitors what it’s driving over and detects slopes, uneven surfaces, even snow-covered tracks. When things start to get challenging, it flashes up what sort of terrain is below on the central display. The more adverse the surface, the more the MINI icon turns from a ‘street cruiser’ into a MINI monster truck ‘cliff champ’. Yes, really.

It costs from £22,465 and is on sale in the UK now

2017 MINI Countryman

Prices for the new MINI Countryman start at £22,465: that’s for a 136hp Cooper Countryman petrol. Expect a cheaper One Countryman in time. At launch, there’s also a 150hp Cooper D (from £24,425), a 192hp Cooper S (from £24,710) and a 190hp Cooper SD (from £26,350). You can get ALL4 versions of all of them, plus both manuals and automatics. It’s on sale right now and first deliveries are in February 2017.

Mini Plug-in Hybrid

MINI reveals electric plug-in hybrid – and previews new Countryman

Mini Plug-in HybridMINI will launch a plug-in hybrid version of the new Countryman that will offer full electric drive at speeds of up to 80mph – making it the first all-electric production-spec MINI.

The new Countryman PHEV, of which development is almost complete, will intriguingly also become the first rear-wheel drive MINI ever sold. Well, in full EV mode at least: the electric motor drives the rear wheels with the combustion engine driving the fronts.

That also means the new Countryman PHEV’s all-wheel drive system will itself be a hybrid setup. Which MINI bosses say will be optimised to provide “catapult-like acceleration”.

Indeed, the firm is already stressing the fun-to-drive element of the first-ever MINI hybrid, which uses technology similar to that in the BMW 330e (itself derived from the i3 electric car). This is not a car focused solely on efficiency, says MINI, but driving fun is also high on the agenda.
Mini Plug-in Hybrid

MINI’s kept changes over a regular model minimal. The starter button glows yellow instead of red; there’s a power display on the instrument cluster rather than a rev counter – oh, and the car always starts up in electric mode rather than hybrid.

Set the multi-mode electric system to Auto eDrive and you’ll be able to do up to 50mph before the engine kicks in. Set it to Max eDrive and this increases to 77mph.

There’s an incentive for letting the engine kick in, reckon BMW bosses: “Unparalleled acceleration performance” when compared to regular combustion engine cars.

New Mini Countryman teased

Mini Plug-in Hybrid

By revealing the first plug-in hybrid MINI, the firm is also teasing the next-generation Countryman, due for reveal before the end of the year. Set to go on sale in 2017, the new Countryman will be the biggest MINI ever, and much more of a compact SUV-style model than the current car.

The size of the car in the images above is no optical illusion…

Set to challenge models such as the new Audi Q2, the second-generation Countryman is derived from the flexible platform used in the current MINI Hatch, and also seen in the BMW X1. It’s thus going to be roomier and more practical than the current model, although it looks as if MINI is set to retain the bluff-nose styling of today’s car.

As well as a hybrid, regular diesel and petrol engines will be offered, with manual and automatic gearboxes plus front- or all-wheel drive. It’s likely the plug-in hybrid version will follow a little after the launch of the regular cars.

MINI Countryman 2014

MINI Countryman facelift revealed – green and greener

MINI Countryman 2014MINI has sold an impressive 350,000 Countryman since its launch in 2010. Now, it’s given it a minor facelift, with more power and fewer emissions. Read more

Pay half for new MINI Countryman

countryman1

You’ve probably heard: the new MINI was unveiled at Plant Oxford today, and it’s bigger than ever.

Read more