Recently the MINI Countryman was completely redesigned, increasing what was already the brand’s biggest ever model by a whopping 205.7mm in length and 35.5mm in width. Sworn MINI enthusiasts may turn up their noses, writing the Countryman off as too big, but that new girth remains 104mm less long than a Mercedes-Benz GLA250 and 76mm less than an Audi Q3. Besides, MINI wasn’t talking to the converted. This latest Countryman is chasing those would-be customers who always liked the idea of a MINI but believed they needed more space. Here’s why they may want this one.
- It should have enough space for your stuff and your passengers.
Earlier you read how the Countryman’s smaller than two of its Teutonic competitors. Somehow it still manages to offer more legroom than either of them.
A MINI spokesman told me the idea was to allow one adult urban couple to comfortably ferry another urban to and from dinner. Yes, comfortably. That is, without feeling like they’re back in high school and skipping geography. You still have 450L of trunk space for whatever you’re carrying.
You can adjust the trunk floor to cache valuables or for a tad more packing space. Then with that second couple gone and their 60/40 split back seats folded down, the Countryman provides a total 1,390L of cargo space. Picture 1,390 liters of milk. If that’s not enough space, consider downsizing or stop reading.
- The design is still stylishly bold and uncompromising (if you like that kinda thing).
The Countryman is the choice of the urban multi-tasker who wants one car that can do it all (we don’t have much space for parking). That includes carting groceries and dinner friends, making trips into the country on weekends, and showing off a little while in town.
MINIs are jewelry. Few brands are as unapologetically visually distinctive. Outwardly, you recognize them immediately even if you know nothing else about any brand of car. Inside they retain a design ethic that’s just as distinctive, so round and comforting it’s almost mammalian. Count the number of thick circles containing tools, buttons, dials, displays and cossetting passengers. It’s an adult’s leather-bound version of climbing into a bouncy castle. Which leads to our final point.
- It’s still fun to drive, as you’d expect any MINI to be.
More than ever, MINI is maximizing its BMW resources. Driving it isn’t unlike driving a BMW X1. The ALL4 all-wheel-drive system doesn’t impinge on its, still, very much MINI, driving characteristics. Meaning?
MINIs have always offered a go-kart-y, pinball feel and, despite its size, the Countryman ALL4 retains that feeling. However, the drive is delivered in three noticeably different modes: green, mid and sport. Green feels virtuous and sport feels like Friday afternoon. Sure, the Countryman will never be the fun little psychedelically painted death trap that George Harrison drove beside John Lennon’s psychedelically painted Rolls Royce, but safety laws have evolved since then (thank Krishna).
In short: Even in the Countryman, corners are still the driving equivalent of a chocolate glazed donut. Donuts are éclairs!
- It doesn’t need to be expensive. Test the base.
Incorporate MINI babble, Cooper means entry-level trim. This one’s powered by a small 1.5L inline engine with 3 cylinders, turbocharged (demanding top-shelf gasoline) to provide 134 hp@4,4400rpm and 162 ft-lb @1,250rpm. It’s not hugely powerful but is efficient enough.
Note this tester’s base price of $29,290 and final as-tested of $40,180. Its $650 style package isn’t a necessity but does make a striking difference. The $800 visibility package is a good investment given how many idiots there are on the roads these days. Meanwhile, the Loaded Package probably isn’t intended as an insult but unless you’re loaded, you could probably live without.
Whether you need all the other comforts and baubles is up to you, but if you love driving MINIs, consider dispensing with the automatic transmission and go stick. Then use the $1,500 in savings to cover the visibility and style packages!
2018 Cooper Countryman ALL4 base: $29,290
As tested, after options: $40,180
Freight PDI: $2,245
About the Author:
In case the CRA is reading this, Steven Bochenek is a part-time automotive and travel writer, part-time marketing writer, and part-time college instructor.