From £16,420
It's not a Mini, but we can see why it holds so much appeal
12 July 2010

What is it?

It's Mini's new Countryman, on public roads at last (albeit in Germany). This is the car which, Mini believes, will attract people whose lifestyle just didn't allow the style/packaging trade-offs of the original 'new' Mini, or its oddball Clubman brother.

Indeed, the Countryman is aimed so squarely at trendy, affluent families that it's the biggest Mini there will ever be; the firm itself says that it doesn't think the brand will stretch beyond the 4.11m length of this car. And it’s a true five-door; no ‘Clubdoors’ here.

The Countryman comes in three states of 1.6-litre petrol tune - 97bhp One, 121bhp Cooper and 181bhp, turbocharged Cooper S - and two diesels, the 89bhp D and the 110bhp Cooper D. It’s the Cooper S we’re trying here, in range-topping, four-wheel-drive ALL4 spec. All of the petrol models are available with an automatic option, but our car had the six-speed manual - standard fare across the range.

See exclusive test pics of the Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4

What’s it like?

An odd’un. First off, it feels noticeably bigger than a regular Mini, and the square corners can make it strangely hard to place during tight manoeuvres. You do feel like you’re sitting in a higher position than in even a regular hatch like a Focus or a Golf.

It sits on slightly taller tyres than a Mini Cooper S, so the ride is a little more compliant (and yes, we did find some urban potholes to see if the Countryman allow as many crashing intrusions as its siblings). And the engine is a willing companion - although the extra bulk of a four-wheel-drive Countryman is enough to make the 181bhp unit feel more like a smooth, healthy powerplant instead of the ultra-torquey role it plays in the regular car.

It seems more grown-up, in fact. And that, you may well argue, is no bad thing.

Yet in some areas - notably the steering - Mini’s engineers have tried to dial in some of the characteristics of the regular car. So around the straightahead the Countryman is pointy - nervous, even. And when you get further round the rack it becomes apparent that this trait has been programmed in; it’s as if the Mini brand book demanded it, so the Countryman got it.


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Likewise the switchgear, which is more trinket-like than ever; the speedo is enormous, the rocker switches are located right at the bottom of the centre console and the handbrake - styled like an aircraft throttle - is a pain to use. Anyone considering graduating from a Focus will be bemused - if impressed, rightly, by the quality of the materials.

Is it more practical than a Clubman? Absolutely. Four big blokes can squeeze into the cabin and travel for a reasonable distance without too much discomfort. Headroom and shoulder room are excellent; only six-footers will complain about knee and legroom in the rear, too.

Luggage space is likely to be more of a problem, mind. Mini has clearly traded off the boot to create a cabin for four, so the chances of them all getting suitcases in are minimal. In this area more than any other, the Countryman is a notch adrift of the Focus and Golf.

Should I buy one?

More of you will probably be thinking that of this Mini than any other, because while the styling has split opinion, there’s no denying that this car does answer questions that the Clubman totally ignored.

It’s not a perfect family car, by any means. And in dimensions at least, it’s not a Mini. But we can see why the Countryman will have appeal.

John McIlroy

Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4

Price: £22,030; 0-62mph: 7.9sec; Top speed: 130mph; Economy: 42.2mpg; CO2: 157g/km; Kerb weight: 1380kg; Engine: four-cylinder, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Power: 181bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 177lb ft at 1600rpm-5500rpm (191lb ft at 1700rpm-4500rpm with overboost function); Gearbox: six-speed manual; Fuel tank: 47 litres; Boot capacity: 350 litres

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12 July 2010

OK I'll go first.

Basic and killjoy-ish question. Is that speedo even safe? Seems like a strange place to be looking to check your speed. I realise that most of us tend to guess how fast we're driving, but surely we have to check every so often. It has to be safer to be looking in the general direction of oncoming traffic while doing this surely? It might even make it less fun; as safety is paramount in making driving fun.

Sorry. I'll stop now.

12 July 2010

I saw one for the first time on the Mini stand at the Goodwood MSS the other week. A guy on the stand asked me what I thought about it. After a pause, I replied "hideous". He ruefully admitted that the previous 4 people he'd asked had said the same.

12 July 2010

I'm not a mini driver, but don't they have an LCD speedo readout in the rev counter?

As for the car... still not a fan. I can now see who will buy it and why, but the interior really isn't my cup of tea - the Juke's actually looks nicer from the photos. Exterior, well, again neither of them really do it for me. I know I'm boring, I'm not cool, I'm not "lifestyle", but I look at a mid-spec Clubman and think I'd rather save myself a huge chunk of money and get a Skoda Octavia estate. Decent petrol and diesel options available and 4x4 if required, including the slightly jacked up scout (4x4 is up 40mm, scout another 17mm). I know the Skoda is longer and won't be as easy in the city, but then how about a Golf? If 4x4 is a must then an SX4/Sedici? I don't want to come across as sounding negative, but the mini range just doesn't do it for me...

12 July 2010

[quote Autocar]This is the car which, Mini believes, will attract people whose lifestyle just didn't allow the style/packaging trade-offs of the original 'new' Min[/quote]


"This is the car which, Mini believes, will attract people whose lifestyle just didn't allow the appalling packaging of the original 'new' Mini. Having thought about it long and hard, the engineers decided intelligent packaging wasn't an option so just 'Supersized' a Clubman, working on the assumption the Mini customer base has nearly Apple levels of brand blind loyalty"

12 July 2010

[quote theonlydt]'m not a mini driver, but don't they have an LCD speedo readout in the rev counter?[/quote] Yes, which is quite useful. [quote theonlydt]I know I'm boring, I'm not cool, I'm not "lifestyle", but I look at a mid-spec Clubman and think I'd rather save myself a huge chunk of money and get a Skoda Octavia estate.[/quote] Dare I say it, but I don't think you are in Mini's target market. You don't buy a Clubman for load lugging, but for a bit more practicality over the 3dr Mini - though we did get a full size dishwasher in the back of our Clubman. I really like the idea of a more practical Mini, but whilst I like the Clubman (ok so I'm not impartial), the styling of the Countryman isn't working for me, especially in Cooper S trim.

12 July 2010

yeah there is a lcd speedo on the rev counter, but I rarely use that. Find it easier to see at a glance the main speedo. I don't care for practicallity, not everyone does. I have the 3-door car, and it more than suits my needs. i occasionally have more than 2 people, but most of the time its just me and my dog. who would look very lost in a countryman!.

spoke to the guy who sold me my cooper last friday and we were chatting about the countryman. He mentioned that of the 18 they have assigned to them after launch, 12 of them have been sold already, so someone must like them

12 July 2010

Bottomline, BMW has to got to expand the Mini range to make it profitable in the long-term. Making a dedicated FWD platform for only 200k - 250k cars a year is not going to be sustainable.

13 July 2010

I' ve tried to like it but the styling is just too fussy for me . My particular pet hat is the odd downward kink in the roof line at the rear quarter light .

What I find really odd is the Nissan Juke is equally fussy but for some reason I like that for its fussiness or maybe because it is so outrageous . The MINI just looks bloated and heavy in the pics maybe it will be better in the metal .

Sorry but each new MINI that comes out looks progressively worse to me . This may well carry on if the Coupe with the reversed baseball cap is foisted upon us as well .

13 July 2010

Oops missed the word " roof "out of the last para should be reversed baseball cap roof is...

13 July 2010

is it me, or in the pics of the interior, does it quite clearly show it as a strictly 4 seater, with 2 individual seats in the back and a very intrusive centre 'tunnel', however when the seats are folded down a "mini" third seat back has appeared to give a nice flat load area.

Are these different cars, Autocar, with different specs?


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