22.6.2017Mini Countryman Cooper D All4 review
Mini has long out-grown its original pint-sized proportions, and there are few complaints about that strategy if you base that judgement on how many models get sold. It comes as no surprise than that this latest Countryman is the largest Mini ever to make it into production, with the family crossover taller, wider, and longer than anything else that has worn the Mini badge.
Review by Chris Lilly
There are the now familiar range of petrol and diesel engines available for the Countryman - with Mini's first PHEV added to the mix too. The model on test was the Cooper D All4, which makes use of a 2.0 litre turbo-diesel unit, producing 150hp and 330Nm of torque. Translate those power figures into performance times and the 0-62mph run is completed in 8.8 seconds, with a top speed of 127mph possible. It's the low-down grunt that's impressive though, with the engine's hefty torque available low rown the rev-range. This means the Countryman feels quicker than the performance times suggest, with pick-up brisk if not rapid. There are faster Cooper S models available, but if you're looking for a Mini Countryman, the Cooper D specification is all you'd need in terms of power for a family workhorse. It pulls eagerly, helped by a slick six-speed manual gearbox, and traction is very good thanks to the All4 four-wheel drive system kicking in when grip is low. Although no hot-SUV, the Countryman has plenty of power on tap for what ever you need of it.
A Mini should handle well - full stop. After all, it was one of the greatest attributes of the original, and a cornerstone from which Mini as a BMW brand has been built. The Countryman is no different in this regard thankfully, providing the kind of driving thrills that are rarely found in family cars - especially ones 'up on stilts'. Mini's engineers have had to fight physics in this regard, with a higher centre of gravity impacting upon driving dynamics. They've done a good job though, and the Countryman is one of the best handling cars in its class. Although this will come as good news for those looking for a fun family car, of greater importance is that Mini hasn't made the Countryman too solid and uncomfortable in the quest for cornering capability. The Countryman is a stiff car but not too much so, and can easily tackle the urban jungle without complaints from passengers. It's an agile thing too, so it will deal with all the environments it will normally find itself in, before offering a fun driving experience when the road opens up. In this class, only the Mazda CX-3 can compete in this regard.
You can virtually compile a tick-list of Mini design details now and play bingo with it each time a new model is released. Rounded headlights, muscular bonnet, square profile, contrast roof, subtle wheel arches, and prominent grille - check all round. There are still some nice details that differentiate the Countryman from the rest of the range though, including running lights that mirror the shape of the headlights, and some subtle creases and folds that help make the Countryman look less slab-sided than it could. Up front is that relatively long bonnet - an unusual feature these days - while the rear is 'shrunk' a little thanks to a drop in the glass-line at the roof. On the whole, it's a decent looking car - though it doesn't have the same eye-catching presence as the likes of the CX-3 or Audi Q2. It's more practical than both though because of more space in the rear for passengers and a larger boot - largely because of the squarer design and wider stance.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Anyone that's driven a Mini in recent years will find the Countryman's interior familiar, with the company regularly tweaking and improving its set-up rather than make wholesale changes. The large central display remains, as do the toggle switches - and everyone likes a toggle switch. The controls are well laid out, even if it takes a little time to work out where everything is. There is plenty of space inside too - both up front and in the rear - which seems a little counter-intuitive since the driver can feel as though they're a long way from the front the car. There is a lot of bonnet in front of you, and a fair bit of dashboard too, which means there's more Mini in front of you than you tend to find than compared with rival offerings. As mentioned though, this doesn't hinder the interior space, be it in the boot, the rear seats, or in the front. Those seats are good too with high levels of support, and they cope with long trips well without making the user uncomfortable. Combine the seats with the excellent driving position and neat steering wheel, and the driver in particular will be happy.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
With an official fuel economy of 58.9 MPG, the Mini Countryman Cooper D All4 looks able to return a useful figure. As always, the real-world figure can't match the NEDC one, but drivers can make it into the 50s MPG without much fuss. Hammer the Countryman a bit or stick mostly to town driving and you'll be in the low-40s. All in all then, fuel costs will be good if not startlingly so. The automatic model is quoted at offering the same fuel economy, but in my experience the auto's tend to offer slightly worse than a manual still - despite BMW's being one of the better automatics on the market. Opt to stick just to the two-wheel drive model rather than the All4 and the official figure becomes 65.7 MPG for the Cooper D - the best available in the Countryman range apart from the Cooper S E All4 model which is the plug-in hybrid.
The Countryman comes with Mini's driving mode selector - found at the base of the gearstick - which tweaks the set-up between Green, Mid, and Sport. The first of these holds back the throttle response and auxiliary systems to improve efficiency. Mini's All4 all-wheel drive system has also been improved to make the set-up more efficient, while auto stop/start is fitted as standard to help keep on top of CO2 emissions. For those that want the greenest Countryman, they will have to pick the Cooper S E All4 PHEV, but the Cooper D is the next best option in the range - with All4 fitted coming in shortly behind. With an official CO2 figure of 127 g/km, according to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 41.
The Countryman has an up-market feel to it, and this is reflected in the equipment list. Standard kit includes 16-inch alloys, rear-parking sensors, and sat-nav infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity. Move up from Cooper and Cooper D models and features such as leather seats and larger alloys come into play. Mini is well known for its personalisation packs though, and three quarters of the buyers of the first generation model picked one of them when specifying their car. These packs can add some excellent complementary features to the Countryman, but beware that the Mini's price can climb quickly. Some features such as the larger touchscreen infotainment system and multi-function steering wheel will almost be considered essential. Others, such as the 'picnic bench' - a padded cushion that folds out from the boot floor and rests on the rear bumper when the lid is open - less so.
The Countryman is in one of the most competitive markets around, with family SUV sales flying and new models coming along seemingly all the time. Mini has a very good one on its hands though - especially in the shape of the Cooper D - with a characterful driving experience, refined and flexible engine, and practical interior on offer. We look forward to testing the PHEV model, but until that time, the diesel does a good job of proving a good family workhorse with low running costs.
Model tested: Mini Countryman Cooper D
Body-style: Compact SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre 150hp turbo diesel / 127 g/km
Trim grades: Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S, Cooper SD, John Cooper Works
On-road price: From £23,035. Price as tested £35,740.
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars