Don’t be fooled by the Cooper badge on the D All4 Mini Countryman; it doesn’t necessarily represent sparkling performance. The propulsion provided by BMW’s new 1.6-litre N47 diesel is fine for everyday transport – given time, it will cruise along in the outside lane happily enough – but when asked to provide all it’s got, the motor reveals a few weaknesses.
While a 0-60mph time of 11.1sec is competitive for a diesel engine of 110bhp and 199lb ft, for a car with semi-sporting positioning, the Cooper D feels disappointingly slow. Beyond 60mph it needs another 9.9sec to reach 80mph.
Opting for the four-wheel drive ALL4 version takes the edge of performance in all models, including the 1.6 turbo in the Cooper S models. Where that engines feels torquey and zesty in the regular car, adding four-wheel drive makes it feel a little more ordinary, adding over half a second to 0-60 times, too.
The entry-level diesel, a 1.6D feels struggles to serve up any kind of thrills. Upgrading to the Cooper SD, with its 2.0-litre diesel, offers the power to offset the Countryman's weight. Offering 225lb ft from just 1750rpm makes for decent low-speed response. However, the Cooper SD falls down on refinement and is an expensive purchase, with prices starting at £23,190.
The entry-level 1.6 petrol feels just plain slow, while the more powerful Cooper petrol, again, fails to live up to the excitement the badge promises. The 1.6T Cooper S does provide fireworks, but they come at quite a price. For an even greater premium, a JCW Countryman is available. As in the Mini hatch, the 215bhp, 207lb ft 1.6-litre turbo is an effervescent performer, flexible and accessible on British roads. Of course it is hamstrung by the weight of the Countryman, but the JCW is still capable of 140mph and 0-62mph in 7 seconds.
The shift quality of the standard six-speed gearbox is typical Mini: positive and light, but not especially satisfying to use. But for town use, it is welcome news that the addition of all-wheel drive has provided no extra weight to either the shift or the clutch action.
We certainly have no issue with the outright braking performance the Countryman displayed at MIRA, particularly during the wet tests, where it stopped from 70mph in just 48.6 metres. Similarly, the brakes stood up well to our track tests, but this is perhaps more an indication of the relative lack of power and surplus of grip than the tenacity of the brakes.