The cockpit is typically Mini in the Mini Countryman, so it’s as extrovert as ever, with the same pleasing aesthetics and frustratingly poor ergonomics.
The dashboard is unique to the Countryman but it’s still dominated by the oversized speedo and the new, optional high-definition colour screen in its centre, while the same chrome switches adorn the upright console. Unfortunately, the unfathomable switchgear layout has made it into the Countryman, with controls for the windows, locking and air conditioning clustered together.
A rail, to which you can attach sliding accessories, divides the front seats and extends right through to the rear cabin if buyers opt to lose the standard bench and go for two single seats. It looks funky, but its usability is questionable. Our test car had a sunglasses case attached which felt flimsy and was too much of a focal point, given its function. Having more storage cubbies would be better.
What the Countryman does very well is provide a decent amount of passenger space. There’s plenty of head and elbow room for four adults, and the sliding, 60/40 split rear bench is comfortable even for taller passengers, although fitting three across the back would be a squeeze.
The boot, however, isn’t quite so in keeping with the active family lifestyle. While capacity with all the seats in place is 350 litres (the same as a Volkswagen Golf), or 450 litres with the rear seats slid forwards and legroom severely limited, the 1170 litres available with them folded is below par next to the Volkswagen Golf’s 1305 litres. There’s a big step in the boot floor with the seat backs down, too.
In truth, this won’t be a deal-breaker. The Mini’s interesting, comfortable cabin will be of far more significance.
As for the standard equipment, it is typical Mini, with most of the goodies left to the Pepper and Chili packs. However, alot of the standard equipment is defined by type of Countryman you buy. So opt for the One or One D and you'll find DAB tuner, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, rear parking sensors and air conditioning as standard, while the mid-range Cooper and Cooper D adds a part-leather interior, roof rails and LED fog lights.
The range-topping Cooper S and SD trimmed Countrymans gain dynamic stability control and traction control, sports steering wheel and a dedicated sport mode, while those pining for more power can have the JCW version which adds an aggressive bodykit, sports seats, velour floor mats and sports suspension. Those after a bit more exclusivity can opt for the Park Lane gains climate control, interior lighting package and chrome detailings.
The 2017 model will be available in Cooper and Cooper S forms, with the diesel variants, and ALL4 models intertwined within those trims, with a Countryman JCW version earmarked for after the Countryman is released.