Just when we thought MINI couldnít stretch the iconic small car any more, along comes the latest and larger Countryman. In fact, it has got so much bigger, that it jumps a sector and is now up against rivals such as Audiís new Q2 and the recently facelifted, crossover sector-defining, Nissan Qashqai.
Iím a big fan of the MINI brand, as I currently have a few other models, including a late first-generation Countryman, which should make an interesting comparison over the coming months. Iím used to larger MINIs with my Countryman, but during the first month of running the second-generation Countryman, Iíve come to already appreciate the extra 20 centimetres of length and 3.3 centimetres of width of the new car. Even with my four and six-year oldís child seats in the back, thereís just enough legroom so they canít kick the backs of the front seats, and the extra width has stopped bickering between them on longer trips. Iím also thankful that our Cooper D Countryman is trimmed in the stylish cloth/faux leather, which has so far been resilient to the worst sticky finger marks. In fact, compared to my own Countryman, thereís a pleasingly upmarket feel to this latest modelís interior.
Then, thereís the new Countrymanís boot ñ with 100 extra litres over the first-generation car ñ which is perfect for family use. I reckon the practically-shaped 450-litre loadbay has swallowed everything Iíve asked of it so far. Our car also came with a useful power tailgate and a clever convenience feature, the Picnic Bench, which folds out from the false boot floor and is useful for hiding valuables and extra shopping. These are just two of our Countrymanís interior highlights. The others include the MINI Yours hand-stitched leather multi-function steering wheel, how supportive the heated sports seats are, and the new Navigation XL system, which can now be operated via touchscreen.
On the outside, MINI has tried to inject a bit more off-road attitude to the five-door SUV design, and on the whole I reckon it has been a success. At the front I like the oval headlights, which are unique to the Countryman, and thanks to the optional Chili Pack, they are LED lit with distinctive halo rings. The only thing is that the reflectors on the adaptive LED headlights tend to make the car look like itís frowning. Iím also a fan of the stronger bonnet dome, and then thereís the Classic Mini-shape to the front grille, although I wish it was chrome-trimmed.
At the side, thereís some interesting metal surface detailing going on around the front and rear wheel arches, plus the chunkier side scuttles. The silver-trimmed side skirts suggest off-roader, although this isnít the ALL4 four-wheel drive version. I also think that the rear styling has now got more of a modern MINI look to it, with the number plate moving from the rear bumper to the boot, together with the chrome-edged rear light clusters.
As a MINI fan, Iím pleased to say that although it is the biggest model to ever wear the winged badge, it feels a lot smaller and MINI-like when youíre on the move. This is mainly down to the sharp, responsive steering, the tight handling despite the tall body, and the slick six-speed manual transmission. In addition, if you want to, the MINI Driving Modes can change the way this car behaves on a daily basis. Iíve mostly left our Countryman in Mid-mode, which seems to offer the best compromise in everyday driving, with the Sport-mode sharpening up the throttle.
Overall refinement is generally good, although the ride is a bit unsettled on the 17-inch ëImprintí alloy wheels that are fitted as part of the optional Chili Pack. That said, I must say this is a much more comfortable compromise than my own Countryman on 18-inch wheels.
Date arrived 16th August 2017
Fuel economy urban/extra urban/combined 58.9/70.6/65.7mpg
The interior is stylish, comfortable, practical and spacious.
The busy ride on those optional 17-inch alloy wheels is tiring on long trips.