Is bigger better?
I had mixed feelings when I first saw the Countryman. The MINI brand is synonymous with well-built, small, fun cars. That Countryman, introduced in 2010, changed that perception and expectations. A big five-door, five-seaters, and a rather odd-looking crossover has evolved into a rather capable car and has become popular with the masses. The MINI Countryman has four derivatives: The 1.5 litre 3 Cylinder turbo-petrol Cooper, the diesel-powered Cooper D, Cooper S and the all-wheel-drive range topper John Cooper Works. I recently took the MINI Cooper Countryman S on a weeklong test drive – here are my thoughts.
For various reasons, the first generation MINI Cooper Countryman wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. But a formula can always be tweaked, right?. The Countryman is now 200mm longer and 30mm wider than its predecessor. Such dimension changes have given the Countryman a sleeker and poised appearance thanks to bigger wheels, power bulge on the bonnet, and slightly pronounced wheel arches give it that overall muscular look.
The Countryman is a big car – in fact, it is the biggest car MINI builds – and the upside to that is interior space. It easily sits three people at the rear with plenty of leg and headroom to play with. The Countryman’s boot comes in at 450litres, wait for it, with the seats up, and 1390litres with the seats folded down! A nifty plus is that all Countryman models come with automatic tailgates operated either with the key or in the car with a switch – nice! Upfront the MINI quirkiness hasn’t been lost. All switches are well placed and always seem to be an event when being used. For example, the interior light switches are placed overhead like how you’d find in an airplane, you gotta love it.
This particular model had electric seats with memory which comes in handy for individual needs (if two or more people share the car) to get that perfect seating position. I love the 3-spoke sports leather steering wheel with controls such as adaptive cruise control and remote audio switches. It feels good in the hands, however, on a long journey, I did feel my hands feel a bit numb. A beautiful 8.8-inch touch screen sits in the center of the dash equipped with MINI’s latest Connected 5. It can be controlled with the touch feature or the clicky wheel.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 141 kW and 280Nm of torque, it’s a peach to drive. it’s not exactly hot hatch performance, and that’s due to its considerable weight (1600 kg+). MINI’s “Go Kart” character hasn’t been lost, but you are reminded once in a while that this is a big car. Thanks to its launch control function (which I didn’t get to use) the Cooper S Countryman should be able to hit 100 km/h from standstill in 7,4 seconds, and I believe that figure, this car is quick. Power is sent to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The only variant in the Countryman range in South Africa to have MINI’s ALL4 all-wheel-drive system is the John Cooper Works (JCW). Overtaking is a breeze without the car showing signs of losing its puff.
There are three driving modes: green, normal, and sport. I drove the car in Sports mode 90% of the time meaning I didn’t get close to the claimed 6.5l l/100. Driving in Sports mode does come with some rewards, under hard acceleration, the upshifts sound splendid and when letting off the loud peddle comes with bangs and pops from the twin exhaust. It leaves a smile on your face all the time. I did drive in Green and Comfort and it’s quite a pleasant drive, and not forgetting that you do get a better fuel average in these modes.
The MINI Cooper S Countryman has a lot of items on its options list that will set you back some money. But at the end of the day if it makes your life much easier, add them. If you take a moment and look past the MINI Countryman’s size, it’s hard not to like the car. Its quirkiness, the driving experience, and its evolved styling is quite a recipe. It will leave you with a smile all the time. Most people I did come across love the car. So if you’re looking for something unique, fun and funky, look no further.
And to answer my own question, yes, bigger is better.
- Engine: 2.0litre 4 cylinder turbo-petrol
- Power: 141kW @ 5000 rpm
- Torque: 280 N.m @ 1250 rpm
- Transmission: 8 Speed Automatic
- Acceleration: 0 – 100 km/h in 7.4 seconds (claimed)
- Fuel Consumption: 6.5l per 100km (claimed)
- Price: R530, 200.00 (without options)