MINI Countryman - Boldly Going Where No MINI Has Gone Before
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
The new MINI Countryman is the biggest and most versatile model to be launched in the brand's 57-year history. With its larger external dimensions, and increases in space throughout the cabin and luggage area, it offers occupants even greater comfort and a premium ambience.
Useful new features such as electric tailgate control with touch-free opening and unique options, including a fold down picnic bench at the rear, add to the ownership experience.
For the first time MINI is offering a plug-in hybrid model with the new MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Drawing from expertise gleaned from across the BMW Group, this new hybrid features a turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor, reducing fuel consumption to 134.5 mpg yet also enabling a 0-62 mph time of just 6.9 seconds.
The rest of the new MINI Countryman line-up is powered by an all-new range of engines sourced from the latest MINI TwinPower Turbo generation, offering outstanding performance and efficiency.
The Countryman is available with both manual and Steptronic gearboxes and with front and all-wheel drive. The latter, MINI's ALL4 system, has been further refined for increased driving agility and efficiency.
And it was a highly specified ALL4 equipped Countryman Cooper SD that I have been testing, complete with a 2.0-litre 190PS diesel engine and self shifting gears. On your driveway for a smidgen over £30,000 before raiding the extensive options list.
Naturally, being a MINI, there is broad scope for owners to personalise their new Countryman, with extensive colour and trim options, advanced technology features and a range of option packs that offer carefully selected items with significant cost savings for the customer.
One such option is a new 8.8" inch touchscreen display as part of the MINI Navigation System XL, offering touchscreen multimedia and navigation control for the first time in a MINI. It works well and is to be recommended.
MINI by name if not by nature is the order of the day here, so family buyers will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of interior space. Four large adult will travel with head and legroom aplenty whether sitting up front or in the back.
The seats are comfortable and supportive and the driving position spot on.
Boot space is a commendable 450 litres and this increases to 1,390 litres with the rear seats folded.
If you are inclined to tow, then a braked trailer up to 1,800kg may be safely pulled.
Once ensconced behind the wheel and out on the open road, the diesel-powered Countryman pulls strongly and accelerates briskly. The 0-62mph sprint time is just 7.4 seconds and top speed 135mph.
The Steptronic gearbox shifts quickly and smoothly, taking the strain out of stop-start city driving.
The current generation of MINI cars are renowned for their sporty handling and despite its larger proportions, there is still some fun to be had hustling a Countryman down a fast B-road. Body roll is well contained, the steering sharp and the car easy to place on the road.
One pleasant surprise for anyone familiar with a MINI is the mature and comfortable ride. The longer wheelbase clearly helps but I suspect the suspension engineers have softened the springs and dampers for smoother progress. A good job done I'd say.
Being equipped with MINI's latest ALL4 system, it would have been remiss of me not to take the Countryman off-road. To be honest my expectations were not especially high, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The Countryman romped down my usual unmetalled road and then faced the sterner challenge of some wet, grassy hills. To my surprise it remained undaunted by the ever steeper gradient and it was only a lack of ground clearance that prevented me from venturing further afield.
Safe to say that a little winter snow or a muddy field should prove no obstacle.
Not so long ago buying a car equipped with all-wheel drive and automatic gears would have meant heavy fuel economy and high CO2 emissions. Not so with a Countryman as the official combined economy figure of 57.6mpg and emissions of just 129g/km ably demonstrate.
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I very much enjoyed my time with MINI's new Countryman. Whilst not a huge fan of its slightly awkward looks, I find little else to criticise and much to praise.
Prices start at a little over £23,000 and a quick look at MINI's finance page reveals that affordable PCP deals are available with low monthly payments.
For example a Cooper D Countryman can be yours for £239 per month over four years with a deposit of £4,910.72 (APR 5.9%, 10,000 mile limit).
I can see many existing MINI customers with growing families graduating to a Countryman, which offers a more commodious interior, good driving manners and still with that sense of style and fun that has made the brand such a success worldwide.
MINI Countryman Cooper SD ALL4 Auto
1,995cc diesel engine, 190PS
8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission
Price before options £30,235 on the road
0-62mph in 7.4 seconds
Top speed 135mph
Economy 57.6mpg (combined cycle)
Emissions - 129g/km CO2
3 year/36,000 mile warranty
MINI Countryman - Boldly Going Where No MINI Has Gone Before, 8th August 2017, 11:24 AM