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2017 Mini Countryman Review: First Drive


Good points

  • Spacious interior and boot
  • Fun to drive – especially Cooper
  • Generous standard kit list

Needs work

  • Customisation options add up
  • No electric seat adjustment
  • Rough ride on 19-inch wheels

Mini’s original Countryman was ahead of its time in predicting that premium small SUVs would become a hotly-contested segment. Since the boosted British hatch hit Australian shores in 2011, joining the X1 as the BMW Group’s second small SUV, the Countryman has faced increasing competition from a variety of rivals. Strong sales of the Mercedes-Benz GLA, the Audi Q3 and lately the Q2, and the effect of the internal rivalry with the BMW X1, contributed to the headwinds faced by the first Countryman – car that was too small and didn’t always represent great value. Those are two factors addressed by this all-new model, which is larger in all the right places and punches into genuine value territory with a well-equipped, $40,000 base model. In fact, the 2017 Mini Countryman is so well thought-out that it leaps from the trailing end to the top of the class it helped create.

Though the new Countryman is, visually, a clear evolution of the first model, the car’s designers have concentrated on both reinforcing the brand’s key traits – including reorientating the rear lights to mirror a traditional Mini – and further pumping up the Countryman’s rugged stance. In virtually any of the colours on the palette, the toughened fenders, bulkier shoulders and high roofline make the Countryman the best-looking car in this class, in our view. It’s sure of what it is: this is a hunky little SUV but one that stays true to the Mini aesthetic at every angle.

The new shape lands in Australia with a well-rounded range of four engines – two petrol and two diesel – with a fifth arriving later in the form of a John Cooper Works Countryman performance variant. The JCW is worth waiting for if you’re after something quick. The four standard engines, even in sportier S petrol and SD diesel versions, are speedy but not scintillating. However, each adds a different character layer to the Countryman.

At the car’s local launch in Canberra, it quickly became clear that the entry Cooper model is a winning option. The Cooper finds motivation from BMW’s terrific turbo three-cylinder petrol and while it’s obviously not going to set land-speed records, it sounds great and is entertaining to drive – and the car its moving is well-equipped. You can spend into the $60,000 range on a Countryman, but you don’t need to: a $39,900 Cooper with one or two well-chosen options would make a seriously viable family runabout.

Key specs (as tested)

Single turbocharger
140kW at 4,000rpm
400Nm between 1,750–2,500rpm
Power to weight ratio
93kW / tonne
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
51 litres
Average Range
981 kilometres
All wheel drive
Engine configuration
4.30 metres
1.82 metres
1.56 metres
Unoccupied weight
1,501 kilograms
Cargo space seats up
450 litres
Cargo seats down
1,390 litres

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