Mildly revised Mini Countryman Cooper S uses improved economy, performance and refinement to fight off its growing band of rivals

What is it?

According to the car calendar, the Mini Countryman soft-roader is ready for a mid-term refresh, even if 350,000 sales since 2010 – and more of them this year than last – suggest that the many buyers aren’t particularly concerned that it needs one.

Despite a lack of enthusiasm from purists, the Countryman has been a storming sales success. It has taken the brand to a new kind of buyer and kept the Mini faithful in the fold as their kids have grown up.

Now there’s a 2014 edition, to which the company has made few major modifications, choosing instead to finding ways to stress its baby-SUV credentials – a strategy it hopes will distance the model from the forthcoming Mini five-door hatchback, due to hit showrooms at the end of October, and minimise cannibalisation.

There are new colours, including a new Jungle Green 'hero colour' and there's a new, rugged exterior pack comprising scuff plates and sill protectors offered as an option offered on 4x4 models.

What's it like?

All Countryman engines are now Euro 6 compliant. The Cooper S – we drove the £23,125 ALL4 version – gets a power hike of 7bhp to 188bhp and engineers have taken the opportunity to improve the aerodynamics of all models by fitting a drag-beating under-floor fairing plus lower-drag wheel bearings.

Low-rolling-resistance tyres are now an option, too, and the three measures cut a Cooper S ALL4’s CO2 to 148g/km – which, importantly, also cuts VED – while hiking the top speed marginally to 134mph and shaving a couple of tenths off the 0-62mph acceleration time, now a brisk 7.7sec. Fuel consumption benefits from the same measures; the combined figure now works out at an impressive 47.1mpg.

The turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine doesn't feel super-strong when you first drive it, but you learn to use the revs to make it sing. It is still flexible down in the 2000rpm area, but not very good at acceleration there.

The ratios of the sweet-shifting, six-speed gearbox feel just right for the job (top gear offers about 25mph/1000rpm) and the car is very pleasant to hustle along, though there's little point in revving it much beyond 5500rpm, where the torque is markedly reduced.

The car corners neutrally, with impressive grip and well contained body roll. The steering is precise and informative, too, once you're cornering, though the car we drove felt a touch vague and even 'sticky' around the straight-ahead, which made very small steering corrections difficult – a real pity in a car with such a fine chassis.

The ride is firm but supple enough for UK roads, and there is a pleasant feeling of strength and rigidity to the whole structure, whose only fault is the slightly surprising use of some cheap-looking hard plastics here and there in a generally high quality environment.

Should I buy one?

The revised Countryman (whose predecessor last year accounted for one-third of worldwide Mini sales) looks a slightly quirky choice if your alternative among baby SUVs is something like a Vauxhall Mokka.

Yet in any company the Countryman can certainly hold its head up: it appears to be heading for a continuation of the past four years' healthy demand, while repositioning itself effectively enough to reduce the harm it might otherwise do to sales of the forthcoming five-door hatchback. This way, everyone’s a winner.

Back to top

Mini Countryman Cooper S ALL4

Price £23,125 0-62mph 7.7sec Top speed 134mph Economy 47.1mpg (combined) CO2 148g/km Kerb weight 1390kg Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 188bhp at 5500-6500rpm Torque 177lb ft at 1600-5000rpm (192lb ft with overboost) Gearbox 6-spd manual

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
bowsersheepdog 8 July 2014

a big lot of nothing

this car is neither small enough to warrant the name mini (though the same is equally true of the entire range) nor a proper jeep for going off-road. if i was in the market for a new small car i'd buy a polo, if i wanted to go off-road i'd get a landcruiser (used at this price obviously) which i could rely on to get me where i wanted to go and to bring me home without breaking. in fact for the asking price of the countryman it wouldn't be difficult to buy a second-hand version of both the others to have a capable jeep to off-road in and a car appropriate to tarmac roads as well.
Andrew Lee 7 July 2014

And a 'hero colour' is what exactly?

A butch/faux Army green? For Action Men on manoeuvres, in Sainsbury's car park??
A34 7 July 2014

BMWs idea of a Maxi, apparently

... Or at least a Maxi crossover. But the original Mini's large brother was a great design let down by detailed engineering. This ones seems to be an odd design with fantastic detailed engineering. Not sure about the Juke sizing at Qashqai pricing either...