Mini’s modern-day Maxi is back for another swing at the hatchback mainstream, but is the Countryman good enough this time?

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The new Countryman’s press literature implores us to appreciate Mini’s bigger picture.

By 2010, BMW’s idea of the Mini had been around for a decade. The slightly larger and haplessly left-field Clubman had appeared in 2007, but otherwise the brand was locked into the supermini archetype prescribed to it by Alec Issigonis’s original.

Underneath the new Countryman is BMW’s UKL platform in its larger Mk2 guise — the same version that underpins the BMW X1

‘Going large’, therefore, was always the Countryman’s hard sell. The first Countryman was recognisably a Mini, albeit puffed out to ensure entry into the far more profitable crossover segment.

In retrospect, it seems a fairly logical step, but Mini previewed the idea with concepts before launching it and even made a Mini WRC version – a gestural grope at the original Mini’s rallying heritage.

The first Countryman did as advertised in proportional terms, yet it failed to kick off the transformation of Mini into a broader brand.

That was a hurdle at which the related Paceman, and both the Coupé and Roadster, would also fall before being discontinued.

But at least the Countryman did sell fairly well: for several years of its life, this was Mini’s most popular new car.

Now the model returns for a second swing, trumpeting, it must be said, much the same point it made last time round: namely, that size counts. To show Mini means business they have also added a hybrid to the Countryman range too.

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And so Cowley’s modern version of the car whose closest antecedent in the original Mini’s history is probably the 1969 Austin Maxi gets larger still, gaining five ‘full-size’ seats as part of the deal, plus the obligatory styling makeover.

Alongside improved practicality comes better material richness and a more generous level of standard kit. On the technical front, both two and four-wheel drive are again offered, mated to engines (two petrols and two diesels) that carry over from the current Clubman.

And so the idea of a larger, more mature, more capable and more liveable Mini remains the Countryman’s promise. Time to find out if it’s been better realised at the second time of asking.



Mini Countryman badging

The Countryman is offered in various four-wheel-drive versions, comes with a bit more ground clearance than the average five-door and can be optioned with a roughty-toughty, SUV-apeing bodykit. Does that make it a crossover hatchback?

It’s easy to concede that it does, judging by the square-cornered, faintly macho styling. And yet stand next to it and see what Mini’s decision to split the difference between a five-door supermini and a Nissan Qashqai-sized soft-roader actually amounts to, and we’d defy you to conclude that this is anything other than a typical family hatchback.

All4 versions advance the Countryman’s small SUV aspirations, even if efficiency is penalised

Being 200mm longer than the car it replaces, at almost exactly 4.3m long, and less than 1.6m tall, the Countryman has the dimensions to fit that description. It has a little more head room than the average Volkswagen Golf-sized five-door, though, as well as a quite generous 450-litre boot.

Engines range from a 1.5-litre three-cylinder in the entry-level petrol Cooper and hybrid Cooper S E derivatives to 2.0 litres and four cylinders in the more powerful Cooper S, Cooper D diesel and Cooper SD diesel.

So, in what is becoming well-established Mini convention, there isn’t a remotely weedy powerplant in the range.

You can have anything from 134bhp to 189bhp under the bonnet. A 228bhp John Cooper Works spin-off tops the range while a four-wheel-drive Cooper S E with a combined output of 218bhp and rated for sub-50g/km CO2 emissions provides a hybrid alternative.

Right now, it’s the volume-selling, 148bhp Cooper D we’re testing, in front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual form.

It’s available with four-wheel drive if you prefer, or with an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, or with both – as is any other Countryman in the current range except for the Cooper SD (which comes with the eight-speed automatic only) and the front-drive petrol Cooper (which is offered with an optional six-speed automatic).

The Countryman, like all modern Minis, is suspended independently at both axles; unlike most of them, it’s available with adaptive dampers (dubbed Electronic Damper Control, or EDC) to broaden Mini’s usual highly strung dynamic character for a more mature clientele.

Our test car didn’t have EDC, or the passive sport suspension you can option should you want to, but it did have the Chili Pack, which upgrades the car’s standard 16in alloys to 17s, in this instance shod with run-flat tyres.


Mini Countryman interior

Mini has aimed for a more materially sophisticated, practical and refined feel here than you’ll find in its smaller models, the effect of which may be best described as ‘bubbling under’ in the busy, chromey, idiosyncratic but not quite uniformly well-finished cabin you find in the car.

The grey cloth trim of our test car was sombre for a Mini (as was the piano black trim over much of the fascia), but it’s wrapped around front seats that offer more adjustment than those of the firm’s lesser models, as well as a little bit more cushioning than Mini’s habitual standard.

The Clubman’s false boot floor has a latch so you can easily stow it out of the way. I expected it on the Countryman too, but no joy. I wouldn’t miss the ‘picnic bench’, though

You don’t have to sit quite so low in this car as you do in other Minis, with your legs and arms outstretched, if it doesn’t suit you. There’s plenty of head room, too, and for a Mini, this is certainly progress towards the comfort and versatility of a ‘normal’ five-seat hatch – more of it, anyway, than the Mini Clubman offered.

The back seats afford less opportunity for adjustment, and yet there are three child-sized seats here or plenty of room for two adults if you prefer, thanks to a bench that splits and slides fore and aft by up to 130mm (as an option, unfortunately).

Even by the standards of practical and considerably more prosaic family five-doors, such as the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra, the Countryman’s interior space isn’t likely to disappoint.

Its hand remains strong in the boot, with 450 litres of space on a level with the load lip, a roomy bit of storage underneath the false floor and back seats that at once recline at various angles and also fold 40/20/40.

The optional ‘picnic bench’ leather cushion (£150) that attaches to the underside of the false floor, meanwhile, can be flopped out to make a mucky, hard rear bumper a bit more pleasant to sit on. It sounds neat, but it’s gimmicky. Since it lives under the boot floor, it is only accessible when the cargo bay is near enough empty – and on family trips and days out, we imagine that wouldn’t be very often.

The Countryman Cooper D comes with a colour navigation system and DAB radio as standard, so, unlike some of the brand’s other models, it’s not in need of further expenditure. The Media Pack should still be a popular upgrade for the car, however, combining enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, Mini Navigation XL and Mini Connected XL, all for £950.

Spending the extra enlarges your infotainment screen from 6.5in to 8.8in and, for the first time in a Mini, gets you touchscreen input as an alternative to the rotary ‘touch controller’ that any Mini or BMW driver would be used to.

The touchscreen options are displayed at a useful scale and are easy to navigate, and you often end up switching menus and radio stations that way because it’s easier than reaching for the iDrive-style rotor. That is the way things should be.

The audio system sounds strong and clear, Bluetooth phone pairing is easily done, call quality is good and the satellite navigation system is excellent. In other words, this is £950 well spent.

As for standard equipment, the Mini Cooper models come with 16in alloy wheels, front foglights, automatic wipers, heated wing mirrors on the outside as standard. Inside there is air conditioning, a leather-clad steering wheel and Mini's Visual Boost infotainment system complete with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB tuner and sat nav.

Choosing a Cooper S variant adds a twin chrome exhaust system, manually adjustable sports seats and 17in alloy wheels. The Cooper S E hybrid model includes charging cables and unique software for its infotainment system.

Topping the range is the Countryman John Cooper Works model whihc comes with a beefy bodykit, sports suspension, 18in lighttweight alloy wheels, LED headlights and half leather upholstery.

As with all Minis, the easiest way to spec up the Countryman is with predefined packs - Chili and JCW Chili. The former adds a part leather upholstery, added storage areas, front heated sports seats, climate control, LED head and fog lights and larger alloys.

The JCW version adds 18in alloys, performance control, a rear spoiler, a sporty bodykit and JCW badging inside.


Mini Countryman side profile

The Mini Countryman’s big-volume diesel is fairly strong for its type.

It whipped the car up to speed pretty smartly and recorded some competitive numbers despite having to contend with low temperatures, what’s probably an above-average kerb weight and a not especially aerodynamic body.

The Countryman turns in hard to tighter bends retaining good steering authority even under high lateral loads and resists understeer pretty well even under power

Given the tricky conditions, it’s better to use 30-70mph through-the-gears acceleration as a benchmark of the car’s pace, rather than standing-start sprinting, and on that marker the Mini was seven-tenths of a second quicker than the torquier (and 100kg lighter) 2.2-litre diesel Mazda 3 we tested.

The Audi A3 2.0 TDI 150 we figured most recently was just a tenth of a second ahead on the same measure.

The Countryman’s engine isn’t quite as flexible as that of the Mazda, needing almost two and a half seconds more to cover the same acceleration increments in fourth gear.

On the road, the diesel’s response is a little bit lazy and non-linear at lower revs but seldom feels weak or unwilling. It does both sound and feel a little gruff and noisy, though.

While we’d just about agree that the Countryman is probably a touch more refined than an equivalent Mini Clubman or even a regular five-door Mini hatch, it’s not a refined car compared with other mainstream hatchbacks.

The car’s idle isn’t too bad, but it allows three decibels more noise into the cabin than the Mazda at 30mph and two decibels more at 50mph, and that’s enough to notice. Plenty of wind and road noise is evident at higher cruising speeds, as well as the engine noise.

On cabin isolation, Mini could plainly have done a bit more to ensure the Countryman felt more grown-up than its rangemates.

The car’s controls are consistently weighted and pleasant to use in the main, while its brakes are strong and deliver decent pedal feel.

The notable exception, however, is the notchy, fussy action of the six-speed manual ’box’s gearlever, which baulks too often on the trip between ratios and generally requires too much of your attention – and a bit too much in the way of elbow grease – to make for a relaxing town drive.


Mini Countryman cornering

This ought to be the closest thing to a luxury car Mini has yet made.

Okay, so that’s a bit like saying the Spruce Goose flying boat was the closest thing to a submarine ever built by the Hughes Aircraft Company, but it illustrates the point about the Countryman.

I’ve tested Cooper S and D versions, and in some ways the latter is a much calmer drive. They’ve nailed the D’s steering and handling, but I’d want more ride compliance to use it daily

If Mini is ever going to show us it can balance its trademark darting dynamic energy against some more supple compliance, a smoother ride and a more surefooted feel than it usually manages, well, now would be the time.

Has all that been achieved? Well, partly.

Not far enough to make this car feel like anything other than a sporting option among softer and more stodgy medium-sized five-doors, even in bottom-rung diesel, non-sport-suspended, front-wheel-drive form – which, we’d concede, is probably all well and good.

But neither is it far enough to give Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen or Volvo a serious fright that Mini is about to start vacuuming up customers out of the ‘compact premium’ automotive mainstream.

The Countryman isn’t quite that comfortable, quiet-riding or easy to rub along with.

It steers well, with pace and incisiveness just striking enough to make the car seem agile and willing, and with decent on-centre stability, precision and feel. It handles with a vigour that is rare among other full-sized hatchbacks and only matched once you’re well into warm hatch territory.

Level, direct, tenaciously grippy, balanced and encouraging through corners, it’s the last car you’d label as a pseudo-SUV if you’d been blindfolded and put in the driver’s seat.

However, the comfort and isolation the average driver would want from the ride of his everyday-use hatchback still isn’t quite present.

It wasn’t in the Mini Clubman, either, but the fact that Mini has again missed the target while having the Countryman’s extra wheel travel to take advantage of is more of a disappointment.

It rides more than well enough to avoid annoyance while you’re enjoying the keenness of its handling, but there’s little lope or cushioning either in town or out of it. Body control is fidgeting and excitable over uneven B-roads, while the coarse roar given off by those run-flat tyres over rougher surfaces makes it a tiresome car in which to travel when you’re not in the mood to be entertained.

The Countryman takes as well to Millbrook’s Hill Route as you’d imagine any hatchback tuned for sporting tastes might.

Here, grip levels that felt more than sufficient for spirited road driving proved to be high enough to carry the car through testing corners in fast, poised and compelling fashion and certainly engender a more encouraging fast driving experience than you’d expect from a standard diesel five-door.

The Mini has a stepped electronic stability control system that’s subtle enough even when left fully on but can be switched half out (into Dynamic Traction mode) or fully out.

You can leave it on and still drive the car up to the limit of grip without feeling too many interventions; switch it off and there’s a bit of adjustability to the handling on the limit, although not quite as much as you get in smaller Minis. 


Mini Countryman

As the bottom-line price of our example attests, it’s easy to spend more than £30k on a Mini Countryman, especially if you add the popular Media and Chili packs.

Spending such an amount would mean ignoring several upmarket small SUVs, including the Volkswagen Tiguan and BMW X1, and it also makes the Countryman every bit as expensive as the compact premium hatchback mainstream.

Mini values look sterling next to hatch rivals; compact crossover competition tends to be similarly resilient

The option packs offered are tempting, though, and without them the Cooper D would feel a little spartan.

The Chili Pack alone includes, among other things, heated sports seats, the selectable drive modes, automatic air-con and even the leather steering wheel.

Do without those niceties and the Cooper D is significantly cheaper, but the model still faces a host of mid to high-spec mainstream rivals, from the best of the premium hatchback brigade to our current compact crossover favourite, the Seat Ateca.

The engines are fairly efficient. Mini claims 62.8mpg and 118g/km of CO2 from the manual with 17in wheels, but the Countryman isn’t class-leading.

Our True MPG testers recorded an overall 41.9mpg, but reported that the car may have emptied its particulate trap during the test, which would adversely affect the economy.

An expectation of around 45mpg as a daily average is respectable, then, but not brilliant.



3.5 star Mini Countryman

The Mini Countryman is a complicated car and not at all the textbook crossover that you might expect it to be.

You can undoubtedly grow to like it, but that affection is more likely to come about if you buy into the retro-cool ‘new premium’ design and zappy driver engagement on which Mini has traded for the past 15 years. If you do embrace it, you may decide that only a Countryman will do, particularly against its less tigerish and quirky mid-sized premium hatchback rivals.

Likeable, practical and keen-handling but short on refinement

But for our money, and by the standards of the classy and complete cars at which this Mini is aimed, it’s not quite the bullseye it might have been.

The art of developing an outstanding full-size hatchback is in expertly balancing obliging comfort against enough dynamism to keep you interested in the driving experience.

Mini has come closer to nailing that compromise here than it did with the Mini Clubman, but the Countryman is still a way off being the broadly impressive, sophisticated prospect it needs to be to bring new buyers into Mini showrooms, rather than simply preventing the old ones from leaving.

With all this in mind, the Countryman only manages to enter into our top five in fourth place ahead of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but behind the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Audi A3 Sportback and the BMW 1 Series.


Mini Countryman 2017-2024 FAQs

Is the MINI Countryman available as a plug-in or electric?

Yes it is. The MINI Countryman was the first plug-in hybrid from the British brand, and shares its petrol-electric powertrain with parent firm BMW. Comprising a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that drives the front wheels and an electric motor that powers the rear axle, it develops 217bhp and can carry the Countryman nearly 32 miles in EV mode. There’s no currently all-electric option - if you want battery power alone you’re limited to the much smaller MINI Electric hatchback.

What are the main rivals for the MINI Countryman?

With its rugged over roader looks and family hatchback-sized body, the MINI Clubman is every inch the compact crossover. The closely related BMW X1 packs the same premium appeal and engines, but is a little more comfortable and spacious. It’s not as upmarket, but the SEAT Ateca is just as good to drive, while in Cupra guise it matches the high performance Countryman John Cooper Works for power - as does the Volkswagen T-Roc R. The Mercedes GLA is more expensive, yet delivers greater refinement and more hi-tech features.

How much power does the MINI Countryman have?

There are four engine options for the MINI Countryman - all of which are turbocharged petrols - starting with the 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder Cooper. The PHEV plug-in hybrid uses the same unit but combines it with an electric motor to deliver 217bhp - that’s more than the 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the Cooper S, which serves up 175bhp. At the top of the Countryman range is the high performance John Cooper Works that uses the same engine as the Cooper S, but tuned to deliver 302bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds.

What choices of gearbox are there for the MINI Countryman?

Despite a relatively limited engine line-up, the MINI Countryman has a surprisingly wide selection of gearbox options. A slightly notchy six-speed manual is standard on Cooper and Cooper S models, while a slick-shifting seven-speed twin clutch automatic is available as an option. The plug-in hybrid is fitted exclusively with a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission for the front wheels and single-speed reduction gear for the electric motor that’s mounted to the rear axle. Finally, the John Cooper Works also gets a traditional auto gearbox, but here it has eight gears, as in the mechanically identical BMW M135i.

Where is the MINI Countryman built?

Despite its heavy British branding, the MINI Countryman isn’t actually built in the UK. Most European models are constructed in the Netherlands, at the Nedcar factory that was originally constructed to build cars under the Volvo and Mitsubishi joint venture, before then being turned over to make the first generation Smart ForFour and Mitsubishi Colt. The Countryman is also assembled by BMW India in Chennai, at the Gaya Motor facility in Jakarta, Indonesia and at the Inkom plant in Malaysia.

How many generations of the MINI Countryman have there been?

The Countryman has proved to be a popular addition to the MINI line-up and is now in its second generation. The original car made its debut in 2010 and was effectively built on a bespoke platform, which it later shared with the quirky Paceman three-door coupe crossover. The current car arrived in 2016 and is based on the BMW UKL2 platform, which it shares with the BMW X1, X2 and 2 Series Active Tourer.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Mini Countryman 2017-2024 First drives