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2017 Mini Countryman Review: First Drive

4 years ago

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)

Engine
Capacity
2.0L
Cylinders
4
Induction
Single turbocharger
Power
140kW at 4,000rpm
Torque
400Nm between 1,750–2,500rpm
Configuration
Conventional
Power to weight ratio
93kW / tonne
Fuel
Fuel type
Diesel
Fuel capacity
51 litres
Consumption
5.2L/100km
Average Range
981 kilometres
Drivetrain
Transmission
Automatic
Drivetrain
All wheel drive
Engine configuration
In-line
Gears
8
Dimensions
Length
4.30 metres
Width
1.82 metres
Height
1.56 metres
Unoccupied weight
1,501 kilograms
Cargo space seats up
450 litres
Cargo seats down
1,390 litres

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