The 2nd generation Countryman is brand new for 2017, but being a Mini it still shares a lot of the design characteristics from the previous generation and the rest of the lineup. The model we have here is the Cooper S with All4, essentially all the means is that this little Countryman has All-wheel-drive and the more fun thanks to more oomph.
Making a bigger Mini has always made it look kind of odd. With this new generation, it looks a lot better compared to before with stronger shoulder line and updated front end it looks a lot more masculine. The front headlights feature a surround LED for daytime running light and has LED projector for the high and low beam. Just below is LED fog lights that illuminate when the wheel is turned in the corresponding direction.
Out back the Countryman resembles its cousin the BMW X1 with smaller rear 3/4 windows it creates a character line for the vehicle. Looking at the Countryman it’s only slightly bigger than the Clubman. It’s just mainly taller which gives the car a bigger greenhouse.
The interior is also very mini-esque. With a large round illuminated ring in the centre of the dash which houses a large high resolution 8.8″ screen. Once inside it’s very obvious that you’re in a mini. From the little dials on the vents to the HVAC controls and the chrome toggle switches, it’s right at home.
Controlling the display is done with this little controller, similar if not the same as the iDrive system from a BMW. However, for those who prefer a touch screen, it’s also available. Best yet, unlike some other manufacturer there’s not lock out when in the vehicle is in motion so tap away. The top of the rotary dial is also a touch pad which allows for character entry. While driving it’s only slightly distracting to enter letter by letter but it’s better than taking your eyes off the road to tap the display.
Fully optioned out will include these beautifully crafted diamond stitched leather seats, a $2250 option. They are not only great to look at but really comfortable with heated function. With ample support and seat base extension, it’s able to fit anyone with surprising comfort. Having a big green house also allows the passengers to have a surprising amount of headroom.
Even with the panoramic sunroof, there’s still plenty of headroom for all occupants. Something that’s a bit of a shame is the sunshades, they are rather flimsy cloth cover which allows quite a bit of light in even when shut.
For the back seats, it’s now more of a traditional bench that also features the same Diamond stitch pattern as the front seats and for maximum utility, the seats fold 40/20/40 allowing for longer items to pass through while still carrying 4 passengers.
Speaking of cargo capacity, the rear of the Countryman is immense. A powered liftgate with a kick to open reveals plenty of room behind the seats and a hidden compartment under the load floor where the spare tire is usually found, but thanks to run-flat tires there’s more cargo capacity.
But like all Minis, the question is does it still have that pedigree that we know and love. With a hefty weight increase comparing to the regular 4 door mini, the little 2.0L turbo 4 Cylinder does have to work a little harder to push this 3600lb SUV around. With 189hp and 207ft-lb of torque, the “S” variant is not slow by any means, with a good amount of torque low down it’s easy to dip into the throttle and pass other vehicles with ease. Make no mistake, this isn’t a Golf R contender but it’s still more than enough zip for pure enjoyment.
Dynamically the Countryman has not lost it’s mini-feel. With an eager turn in and a stiff chassis, the Countryman is great fun in the corners. Wearing 225 section tires it has more than enough traction for the power and with all-wheel drive, there was never a time where it was a concern. With three distinct drive modes from green to mid to sport, every mode is unique with different throttle sensitivity. In Sports mode is where the mini really shines, by pulling the shifter to the left it lets the engine hang on to higher rpm for instant turbo spool to allow for quicker acceleration.
Adding more to the customization are the interior lights, with lights up most of the dash and floor. However, if it is a distraction for the occupants, there’s a way to turn it all off. But why would you? It looks so cool!
Overall the Mini is a really fun car to drive, and it’s a blast to be behind the wheel. However, it lacks some key active safety features like Blind-Spot monitoring and more advanced features like lane-keep assist and collision mitigation braking but these can be added for an additional cost. As tested the price comes to $44,880 which seems pricey for the lack of some more basic features where other manufacturers have it as standard. But it’s rare to find a vehicle of such quality and driving dynamics into one. Besides the base, Cooper S Countryman All4 is $31,990 and at that price, you still get the practicality and the fun to drive factor that’s a necessity in every Mini product.