What is it?
Get past the oxymoron of a much bigger Mini and it’s easier to understand what the Countryman is about.
Mini has been losing customers to the need for a bigger car that it can’t supply, and this enlarged five-door – which is almost 15in longer than the three-door, sits nearly 6in taller and rides on a wheelbase 5in longer – is Munich’s answer.
The 1.6-litre diesel model – driven on British roads for the first time – features BMW’s new N47 engine.
In Cooper D tune it produces 111bhp and a fat 199lb ft of torque, against the 109bhp and 177lb ft of the previous PSA unit. All4 four-wheel drive, as fitted here, costs £1065 and channels torque to the rear axle on demand.
What’s it like?
Most, however, will want this bigger Mini for its space rather than any off-roading capabilities, which aren’t bad on mud, incidentally. There’s more room up front, and many will enjoy the seats’ additional height, but rear accommodation is mixed.
There’s a fair bit of space, but the standard-fit, split sliding bench is unyielding and only moderately supportive. The no-cost individual chair option is even less comfortable because the cushions are too flat. Backrests that merely fall forward fail to provide the biggest load space, although the boot itself is big when the false floor is removed.
The diesel Countryman pulls usefully hard with BMW power, even if it’s barely any more refined than the PSA engine, and it rides better than the lowered Cooper S Countryman.
Individual bumps are absorbed quite effectively, but camber changes will have your head bobbing and hard cornering produces plenty of roll.
The Countryman corners fairly neatly, given its height, and you can feel the All4 back axle helping if you push it, but those searching for traces of the original Mini tactile DNA will be disappointed; this is a long way from a go-kart with a roof.