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.
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