The way the new Mini Countryman looks on the outside and the way it has been packaged inside are so out there, compared to any other premium crossover that you begin to wonder if Mini set out with one and only brief, which was to make the Countryman standout from the surprisingly crowded posh crossover space. So it absolutely stands out because of its eccentric design and its funky yet functional interior but what’s more interesting is it’s positioning in the market.
The S ‘JCW inspired’ version that you see here costs as much as a fully loaded Volvo XC40 T4 R-Design whereas the equally loaded BMW X1 sDrive 20i xLine version is considerably cheaper. However, as an alternative to the Audi Q2 the Countryman represents much better value because for similar money you can get the Q2 in its Premium 40TFSI trim which is poorly equipped.
So is the new Mini Countryman worth the money? And what’s it like otherwise? You can click here to read our first impressions. For this review, we have handpicked five things that you would like about the new Countryman, and two that you may not.
1. Strong road presence
What sets the Countryman apart from all its rivals is the way it looks. Unusually for a car that isn’t really a big vehicle; the Countryman has such strong road presence. Some of its rivals take up more road space but they are far more rationally designed and on the other hand, Mini’s design is rather bold and polarising. The front-end is traditional Mini with a splashing of chrome for the headlamp surround and the large hexagonal grille. This car attracts plenty of stares and that’s mainly thanks to the comic-like, bug-eyed LED headlamps which look smashing when lit.
Overall, the comparatively low-riding stance and the thick body cladding give the Countryman enormous character. The aggressively designed bumpers (part of the JCW inspired spec) and the flared wheel arches give it a strong visual stance especially when viewed from behind. All in all, the lack of strong creases along the sides and a curvy front and rear-end result in a coherent design that is amusing to say the least.
2. Blistering straight-line performance
The Countryman can now be had in the Cooper S guise only, meaning you get the meaty two-litre turbo petrol engine with direct injection and BMW’s VANOS variable valve timing system. You get as much as 192bhp of power and 280Nm of torque and when you consider that the Mini isn’t as heavy as most of its rivals, the figures that we have got are quite impressive. The Countryman really does accelerate with a level of persistence which results in a 0-100kmph time of just 7.84 seconds. Sure, there is no neck-snapping twitch from this engine but it can really manage to pull this crossover like a train with a strong, linear surge of power. As for the rest of the figures tested, the Countryman will hit 0-60kmph in just 3.68 seconds and 150kmph in an equally impressive 16.98 seconds.
3. Engaging handling and grip
Of all the crossover offerings, the Countryman feels the least pseudo-SUV type vehicle when you drive it over a twisty road with long undulations and bumps. In this JCW inspired version, everything from the suspension tune, compliance and the way it steers are all predictable and it comes across as a really fun car to drive. Despite the added weight and the stretched wheelbase over the standard Cooper chassis, the turn-in is crisp and there is hardly any body roll. Some might find the steering a little heavy in the town but it is a point and shoot affair and overall, the direct steering and the nimble chassis make the Countryman predictable and engaging to drive fast. Speaking of which, when you are going for it, maintaining speed in the Countryman is easy - body control is superb and the overall balance at high speed is impressive as the whole thing sits remarkably flat.
4. High quality interior
It comes as no surprise that Mini has upped the interior game for the 2021 Countryman. It’s not like the old car’s cabin lacked a sense of opulence or occasion. In fact, there’s so much character to this upgraded cabin which cleverly retains that retro charm and yet, comes with the traditional Mini elements such as the 8.8-inch infotainment screen fitted right in the middle of the dash and a line-up of sturdy toggle switches underneath it. In terms of quality, the interior overall is inundated with soft-touch materials, leather upholstery and high-gloss plastics to go with the premium that this car carries. Bits like the chunky steering wheel and the superbly finished air vents reek of brilliant build quality.
5. Long list of equipment on offer
The Countryman’s interior not only looks the part but is also fully loaded when you tick all the boxes from the optional extras. The highlight of its interior, undoubtedly, is the Mini Connected infotainment system which is extremely user friendly and quite funky to operate. Featuring an 8.8-inch display, it controls all of the car’s functions including media, navigation and the various driving modes. The BMW-derived iDrive-like controller and the way the car is shown in context when switching through driving modes makes the system really intuitive. You also get dual digital displays, a heads-up display, ambient lighting, a high-end Harman Kardon music system, all-LED headlights, dual sunroof, leather upholstery, JCW trim bits, front and side airbags, crash sensor, ESP, ABS and cornering assist.
1. Unforgiving ride
The overall driving experience is somewhat dampened with the ride quality which some may find to be too stiff for their liking. The suspension is stiffly sprung and undeniably setup for a sporty drive and not something designed for daily driving over poorly constructed city roads. Sure, there is more give to the Countryman’s suspension setup compared to any Mini with two less doors and the ride quality is more compliant but you are still bound to feel and hear most of the imperfections on the road.
2. Subpar rear seat comfort
Don’t get me wrong. There is more than enough space at the back to sit freely and the overall ambience is also extremely good with high quality leather all-around and a dedicated rear sunroof. What’s not so impressive is the seat cushioning which is simply too firm. Even though there is a great deal of space in the second row, you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time in it because of the uncomfortably firm backrest. All in all, if you are considering the Countryman to move four adults all the time, you should perhaps reconsider. It isn’t as comfortable as a BMW X1 or a Volvo XC40 for sure and it trails behind its rivals as a daily-driven family crossover but if you are after a high quality cabin with some freshness in design then the Countryman fits the bill just fine.
The new Countryman, despite its tempered, family-oriented spirit, is a Mini in every sense. Everything about it is unique and raises eyebrows – the proportions, the cabin design, the drivetrain and its on-road price tag. Speaking of which, for the same price, one could either have a fully specced Volvo XC40 or a mid-spec BMW X1. These are alternatives that nail the comfort brief better, however, neither would stand out the way this Mini does and if you are someone who doesn’t mind paying over and above the norm for some exclusivity and loads of character, the Countryman is definitely the one for you.
Pictures by Kapil Angane