Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Making it to Australia in February 2011, the MINI Countryman SUV is far more individual and distinctive than the average compact SUV, thanks to an oversized grille, minimal overhangs, floating roof and numerous classic MINI design traits.

At 4.1 metres long, the long-wheelbase Countryman is the largest Mini-branded vehicle to date, yet remarkably is the first to have four side doors. It is still noticeably shorter than the competition and roughly 20cm shorter than the compact Mitsubishi ASX.

In our week with the car we received an amazing amount of looks from other road users.
Not so good Styling is definitely chunkier than the smaller Cooper and Clubman models and uses the same engines as fitted in the far smaller Cooper hatch, so performance can’t match the little brother.

It seems unlikely at over 4 metres long, that the MINI tag could still fit, but actually, as the Countryman is noticeably smaller than a Volkswagen Tiguan or Honda CR-V let alone the ASX mentioned above.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good Far more bespoke inside than the competition – the retro toggle switches are continued from previous MINIs, the dinner plate sized central speedo is definitely a conversation starter when your friends glance inside and the mood lighting on Chilli pack grades is disco like. The Harmon Kardon sound system sounds very good too.

The four door body style (five if you count the rear hatch) is far more practical than other MINI’s. For the second row you can choose between two individual rear seats or a three-seat bench. Either way adults should find themselves comfortable in the second row. Rear seat legroom is decent – and if you want to stretch out the rear seats can slide backwards, but at a cost to boot space.

The storage rail-system that runs between the front seats, or all the way back if you opt for the two individual seats in the rear, is a very distinctive and cool touch. This is by far MINI’s most practical model.
Not so good Hard touch plastics can be spotted on the dash and around the cabin and the small rear window is the only cross against driver visibility, which whilst not as impressive as the remarkably airy smaller MINIs, is still better than most SUV’s. With three adults in the rear shoulder room is tight and rear legroom is by no means generous.

The extra large circular speedo gauge positioned in the centre console, is used less than the digital speed reading displayed in the more convenient position in front of the steering wheel. This is a criminal display of style over substance, but if any car can get away with it, it has to be the MINI.
Performance

Performance

Good Three engines are on offer, two petrol, and one diesel. All are 1.6-litres four cylinders and all impressively fuel efficient. The entry level engine is the naturally aspirated petrol Cooper, producing 90kW of power and 160Nm of torque. The sporty petrol is the 1.6-litres turbo, Cooper S (135kW and 240Nm) and the Cooper D generates 82kW but a healthier 270Nm. All grades come standard as front wheel drives however the S and D are also available with all wheel drive which MINI names All4. Official combined fuel consumption ranges from 4.4 litres per 100kms in the Cooper D manual to 8.1 litres per 100kms in the Cooper S All4.

Our time behind the wheel was spent in a Cooper S, and whilst 135kW doesn't sound overly sporty, the Countryman in this specification has no problem accelerating from the lights with real enthusiasm. Pressing the dash mounted Sport button which holds each gear longer further enhances performance. In isolation it feels quick, coming alive above 3500 revs. It also sounds sporty thanks to an exhaust which blurps with enthusiasm.
Not so good For the first time, MINI’s excellent 1.6L turbo engine feels a little restrained. We put it down to the Countryman’s weight gain over its smaller siblings.

The six speed automatic gearbox often selects the gear you’re not after when accelerating out of a corner. We think a dual-clutch gearbox would work better.

At highway speeds road noise from the tyres is louder than ideal.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good This is a more relaxed highway car than smaller MINIs, but still fun, and can put a smile on your face over a wide variety of road surfaces, but especially smooth surfaced twisty roads.

The stiff feeling chassis should get the nod from enthusiasts. It corners well with a lack of body roll and the All4 variants offer high levels of grip and aren’t afraid of a little off-road fun either, remaining stable under heavy braking.

The electrically assisted steering has impressive feel, is communicative and direct and as it’s speed sensitive, parking is never a chore.
Not so good The suspension can sometimes feel as if it’s lacking refinement. And the Countryman rides firmer than the competition. Potholes are often met with a wince, especially on the optional 18 inch alloys. Furthermore, the tyres are run-flats so there’s no spare tyre in the boot.

We’d advise not to selecting the optional 19” alloys if ride quality on 18s is anything to go by.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good The Chilli pack adds goodies such as automatic air-conditioning, the brilliant Harman Kardon audio system, part-leather upholstery and sports seats, an auto-dipping interior mirror and Xenon headlights with automatic headlight washers.

Extensive options list includes satellite navigation, a 6.5-inch central colour display with Bluetooth and USB.

Essentially, the Countryman ticks the safety box with all grades coming standard with six airbags, Electronic Stability Control, three-point seat belts throughout and a tyre defect indicator.
Not so good Our test car had an on road price of over $70,000 which was significantly more than most people we asked guessed it would cost.