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MINI Countryman Cooper S Sport

The Countryman is the largest and most versatile MINI in the company’s line-up and comes with four-door practicality along with the option of all-wheel drive. But does it sacrifice its go-kart-inspired driving thrills along the way?

By Maxine Ashford
Nov 10, 2020
From £24,295 (test car was £28,300 before options)
Pros:
  • Spacious cabin with room for four adults
  • Great road holding despite increased dimensions
  • Characteristic interior with plenty of on-board technology
Cons:
  • Loses some of the traditional MINI fun factor
  • Pricey when you start adding the optional extras
  • No Android Auto, just Apple CarPlay

Introduction

The MINI Countryman line-up is available with petrol, diesel or hybrid powertrains along with a choice of well-equipped trim levels starting at entry-level Cooper and topping out with the all-singing John Cooper Works version.

Customers can personalise and spec out their cars to stamp their own identity on the model and there is also the choice of a Countryman with ALL4 – MINI’s all-wheel drive set-up.

The interior features MINI’s dna through and through with traditional toggle switches, circular dials and all the quirky features we have grown to love about the car over the years.

On The Road

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Performance

We opted for the MINI Countryman Cooper S Sport model powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a sport double clutch seven-speed automatic gearbox. The car, developing 178hp and 280Nm of torque, could complete the 0-62mph dash in a very respectable 7.5 seconds, topping out at 140mph.

Because of its slightly more mature nature, the MINI Countryman is just as happy hurtling down a busy motorway as it is pottering around town. There was a time when a MINI felt a little vulnerable travelling alongside larger trucks and lorries, but that’s certainly not the case now.

The acceleration is sharp, especially if you select the Sport driving mode and the steering, as always with MINI, is perfectly weighted with ample driver feedback.

But in all fairness, just like its siblings, the location where the Countryman excels is out on the open road and fast B lanes. The handling is confident and the power on tap makes light work of overtaking slower moving vehicles.

It’s also nice and agile in town and it’s still quite compact dimensions – it’s 4.3-metres long – make parking fairly easier too.

If you do opt for the ALL4 4WD system, it adds weight to the car which isn’t particularly great for the vehicle’s driving dynamics and handling, so it’s certainly worth thinking carefully how much that feature is needed for the likes of towing or driving on poorer road surfaces where extra grip is essential.

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Ride Handling

What the Countryman gives on one hand – space, versatility and practicality, it takes with the other – traditional go-kart style driving. You simply can’t have both. That said though; the Countryman is still far more dynamic to drive than many rivals out there.

It feels balanced and composed with bags of grip and that means corners and long sweeping bends can be attacked with a degree of confidence.   

And it still delivers when faced with the open road with sharp acceleration through the automatic gearbox plus the option of selecting from three drive modes called Green, Mid or Sport that alter the characteristics and handling of the car. These different modes also change the appearance of the main circular touchscreen infotainment system with the outer rim glowing green for the eco mode and red for sport.

You can take control of the gear changes via the gear lever or steering wheel paddles for added driver engagement, and despite the more upright seating stance, the Countryman still stays relatively true to its sporting heritage while offering more practicality along the way.

Obviously, as the MINI grows, it loses some of its fizz and popular go-kart dynamism. But it’s still so MINI with the quirky circular dials, rapid acceleration, great handling and all-round thrilling driving experience that we have come to expect from the manufacturer.

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Refinement

The latest 2020 MINI Countryman has an updated design, along with extra on-board equipment and new innovative technology. Still instantly recognisable as a MINI, the car boasts an upright stature along with increased ground clearance compared to other vehicles in the line-up.

The radiator grille has been redesigned and features the signature hexagonal contours and has a slim chrome surround and a red ‘S’ denoting the Sport model.

LED headlamps have been added to the mix from entry-level up, and the main light clusters have been enhanced for improved performance. There are new rear LED lights, additional colour choices along with extra alloy wheel designs.

The interior boasts more upmarket materials and upholstery, plus the introduction of a modern digital dash display that was first seen on the MINI Electric.

When it comes to driver refinement, the MINI Countryman does a good job of smoothing out the bumpy road surfaces, but it can feel a little more wallowy through tight bends than the standard MINI Cooper model. Our car was sitting on 18-inch alloys complete with John Cooper Works grip spoke.

The cabin is well insulated against any road surface, engine or wind noise and these only really become noticeable when the engine is pushed particularly hard or the car is being driven on fast-paced motorways.

In The Car

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Behind the Wheel

With plenty of manual seat and steering wheel adjustment, getting a comfortable driving position within the MINI Countryman is a fairly simple process. Then it’s just a case of sitting back in the well bolstered sports seats and taking stock of all the technology on offer.

There are the traditional MINI toggle switches, including a red ignition control, and there is a circular theme that runs throughout the car with a main circular display screen that is accessed via a dial positioned just behind the gearstick. There are also quick access buttons to the likes of music, navigation, media and communication functions, plus separate controls to activate the heated seats and climate system.  

The main new feature on the car is the digital dash positioned behind the steering wheel. The black panel measures five-inches in diameter and can be personalised according to taste.

On-board technology is plentiful with the likes of smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay, sat nav, a good sound system and Bluetooth pairing. Note there is no Android Auto facility.

The all-round visibility is okay, although the narrow rear screen does limit what you can see somewhat. 

Finally, some smart John Cooper Works and S badging act as a gentle reminder that this is a sporty version.

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Space & Practicality

The new MINI Countryman is a flexible model with three fully fledged rear seats that fold down with a 40:20:40 split and that means the boot capacity can be increased from 450 litres with all seats in use to a generous 1,390 litres with the rear seats dropped flat.

There is ample room within the car for four adults to travel in comfort or a trio of youngsters can fit in the back albeit a little snuggly. The high sided design means there is lots of headspace inside the car and you don’t feel quite so cramped as in traditional models.

There are a host of storage compartments scattered throughout the car, including a glovebox, cup holders, pockets in the front seat backs, trays and a central cubby box.

In addition, the wide opening rear doors make this an ideal car for transporting young children and anyone with mobility issues would find it easy to get in and out of too.

Ownership

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Running Costs

So, onto the nitty gritty then. How much will the MINI Countryman set you back and what are the running costs like? Our test car began life costing £28,300, but the extra optional packs saw the final price-tag climb to £34,150. 

These options included the Comfort Plus Pack that added a rearview mirror, front centre armrest, automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, park distance control and a few other features. It cost £1,600. The biggest expense was the introduction of the seven-speed automatic transmission that cost £1,800 extra.

According to the official figures, our test car could deliver combined fuel economy of 43.5mpg (WLTP) with carbon emissions of 148g/km. This CO2 figure would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £210 which would drop down to £145 after 12 months.

The insurance group rating for the test car is 25.

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Quality & Reliability

MINI enjoys a good reputation when it comes to reliability and the company generally features in the top ten of manufacturers when it comes to customer satisfaction surveys. 

The MINI is still viewed as a British treasure despite being owned by BMW these days. But with that comes the German car maker’s expertise in developing cars that feature a solid build quality with materials, fixtures and fittings that are designed to survive the test of time.

The traditional quirky features on our Countryman, such as the toggle switches and circular dials, not only look retro, but they also feel sturdy along with the upmarket leather upholstery.

The MINI Countryman comes with a standard three-year, unlimited mileage warranty. But there is the option of adding extra policies to the standard warranty as well as including roadside assistance.

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Safety & Security

When tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating back in 2017, the MINI Countryman was awarded the maximum five stars with a 90 per cent score for adult occupant safety.

Standard safety equipment and driver aids on our test car included automatic emergency braking, anti-lock brakes with cornering brake control, dynamic stability control with electronic differential lock control, a tyre pressure warning system and six airbags. 

There is cruise control with brake function, rear park distance control, automatic rain and light sensors and the MINI E-call system which will contact the emergency services if the vehicle is involved in an accident. And there are, of course, additional packs and safety equipment that can be added to the car at a cost and these introduce the likes of Matrix headlights.

The MINI Countryman is fitted with a Thatcham Category 1 alarm system and electronic vehicle immobiliser.

By Maxine Ashford
Nov 10, 2020