The best and biggest Mini yet.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Mini Countryman
Base price (Cooper S ALL4 trim): $31,990
Options: $1,450 Essentials package; $1,400 LED Lights package; $1,000 wired navigation package; $650 style package; $2,250 Chester leather; $1,500 automatic transmission; $750 Harman Kardon sound system; $590 metallic paint; $500 ALL4 exterior styling; $250 piano black interior trim; $750 heads-up display
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $45,425
The Countryman surprised a lot of people when it was introduced. People couldn’t believe Mini could stoop so low as to make a 4-door car, and murmurs that Mini had completely lost its way, if not its mind, were heard. Of course, Mini has lost its way if its way is to continue doing what it was doing when it was an eccentric British company. But it’s not that company anymore. It’s owned by BMW, and it is there to make money. And yes, it retains some of its eccentricity, but let’s face it – Mini is going to try to build the kind of cars that lots of people want to buy.
And the concept of a 4-door Mini certainly resonated with lots of people. It’s done well for them. And here we have the latest rendition. This is a big Mini.
Mini has definitely made the new Countryman appear more refined, and more rugged at the same time. It’s instantly recognizable of course, and nothing is surprising in the design. It’s still a tall, stubby wagon essentially. I love the look, but it is definitely not for everyone. The LED headlights are very bright and flood the landscape ahead of you with white light.
This trim’s handsome 18-inch rims come with chunky (for this size of car) 225/50 tires on them.
For a relatively small car, the new Countryman comes with a surprisingly spacious-feeling interior – there’s plenty of headroom and it never feels cramped.
The materials are quite nice, with plenty of soft-touch plastics throughout the two-tone cabin and stunning piping and quilted leather upholstery on the heated seats. Those seats are very comfortable, even after a couple of hours on the highway, and provide plenty of bolstering if you want to throw the car into a few curves. The steering wheel is great – behind it is a speedometer and tach that move with the steering column.
The traditional round centre instrument remains, although it’s just for show. The screen in it is a rectangular 8.8-inch touchscreen can also be controlled by a few hard buttons and a rotary directional knob. The whole system is based on BMW’s iDrive and works pretty well. This review car came with navigation and a delightful optionally upgraded sound system. There is an LED ring around the centre circle, which you can change to suit your mood in terms of accent lighting, or you can even assign it the tachometer task – it’s great fun to watch the LED ring light up as your revs soar higher.
Mini stuck to their guns with other traditional bits too, such as round design cues (check out the door handles) and the toggle switches on the centre stack. They look cool and for the most part, they work just fine. This trim has a dual-zone automatic climate control and a significant amount of driver assistance technology – backup camera with rear parking sensors, forward collision mitigation, and a heads-up display that uses a flip-up plastic display screen (a la Mazda) and dynamic cruise control.
One of the biggest changes was how much rear seat space Mini engineered into the new Countryman. There is plenty of it – I found lots of head room and an almost shocking amount of leg room. And another surprise was the adjustable rear seats. Yes, they slide fore and aft and even recline – a very unusual feature in this class. The middle seating position is a different story – it’s narrow and cramped, thanks to the drive shaft tunnel someone sitting there would have to straddle.
Transporting little ones? There are two sets of ISOFIX child seat anchors. Rear passengers get a couple of adjustable air vents, an armrest that folds down with a couple of cupholders as well as a 12V charging plug. There’s a two-pane sunroof allowing both rows of seats to benefit from the sunshine overhead.
At the bottom of the centre stack is a drop-in bin with auxiliary, 12V and USB plugs – I found it a bit small. Under the armrest lid is a nice rubberized bin with a wireless charging cradle and a USB plug. There’s a power trunk lid with hands-free access (the old kick your foot under the rear bumper trick) – once open, the 450L trunk feels very big for this size of car, and there is a ton of underfloor storage as well. The flexible rear seats split 40/20/40 and when folded down, you’re working with a very sizable 1390L cargo space.
Under the Hood
The S trims get a turbocharged 2L 4-cylinder that churns out 192HP and a very solid 207 lb.ft of torque that’s available from 1350 RPM and on. The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and an optional ALL4 all-wheel drive system. Mini has this configuration of Countryman rated at 10.5 L/100 km in the city and 7.4 L/100 km on the highway. We averaged 9.4 L/100 km after a week of driving with a somewhat heavy foot. Although premium fuel is recommended, the engine will run on regular – if that is something that matters to you.
The combination of a responsive engine and transmission sling the portly 3670 lb (1665kg) “Mini” from 0-100 km/h in 7.2 seconds. But the Countryman S feels faster than it is. It is always snappy off the line, and had plenty of jam in every driving situation. There are three drive modes – Green mode, which will try to be as efficient as it can and will try to coach you on how to drive as economically as possible, Mid mode which is basically normal driving, and Sport mode which makes things significantly more responsive and also pipes a terrific throatier (albeit fake) engine note through the speakers.
The transmission is truly outstanding. It’s super smooth, but very intelligent in that it always seems to be shifting at the right time and it’s always in the right gear. It can be put into Sport mode, as well as manual shifting mode, which is quite rewarding thanks to the crisp, quick shifts.
The all-wheel drive system is very good. Now Mini makes a big deal about how off-road capable the Countryman is, and it’s easy to discount all that and laugh it off. I mean, c’mon – it’s a Mini! But I actually did some soft-roading with the Countryman, with a run through a nasty farm field (to park for our air show) and an extended run on some slick, wet gravel roads. The system provided superior traction and inspired a lot of confidence, even at speed, and the Countryman’s suspension did an admirable job at soaking up massive hits including ruts, huge chunks of dirt, etc.
The ride is firm but remains comfortable, even over extremes like the aforementioned nastiness. And of course the Countryman handles well. It’s a delight to throw into corners and bites into them like a champ.
The car’s noise levels are quite nicely contained with one exception. The optional roof rack (which looks great) creates exceptional levels of wind noise at highway speeds.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was really high. She wasn’t the biggest fan of the exterior at first but ended up loving the driving experience and the space it provided inside.
Mini has put together a really great car to drive around. The Countryman nearly always felt like some sort of catalyst for a good time. It was a car that begged us to drive it, as if it was always waiting for us to jump in and go do something. That probably sounds stupid, but we always felt as if it was the primer for another thing that got done. And so it ended up fitting into our family and our lifestyle really well. A very nice combination – well done, Mini!
Please note the following accessories were added to this review car at a total cost of $1,034.38: mud flaps, all-weather floor mats, fitted luggage compartment mat, mirror caps with checkered flag, side scuttles with checkered flag, roof rack base system. The must haves on the list in my opinion are the fitted trunk mat and the roof rack if you’ll use it for other accessories.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mini Canada.
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