4 wheel drive. More spacious than the regular mini. 5 doors.
I have always liked the Mini Cooper but as a mum with 3 children, it has never been a car I could consider because it's simply too small. Enter the Mini Countryman Cooper then, the 5-door version of the regular mini that's also available in 4 wheel drive. This car aims to be perfect for the family and perfect for all conditions, but it's fairly expensive (over £20k), making it one car many women look past as their daily driver. I ask, is it worth a second look?
Since the new shape Mini was launched its design hasn't changed all that much, and the Mini Countryman Cooper looks just like a normal Mini, only taller and longer. The 1.6-lire Cooper ALL4 is the lowest specification Countryman you can buy aside from the 2WD version, and as standard, the car looks okay. It has its own distinct style, which sets it apart from the regular smaller Cooper, with a longer face, larger front grill, but the same distinct rounded headlights. The skirts of the car are matte black plastic, which add to the rugged quality image Mini want it to have, but in truth it just make the Countryman Cooper D look like a low specification Mini - something buyers of a premium car simply don't want. The car looks best in red and with black alloys or white with grey alloys. Although Mini showrooms will polish the Countryman up to look as appealing as possible, it fails to deliver the good looks of its smaller sibling.
The Mini One, Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S are all fun cars to drive. With the same basic underpinnings as the smaller car, then, you'd expect the Mini Countryman Cooper D to offer the same. Sadly, it's not good news, because whilst the driving position in the Countryman is fine -if a little too high - the engine is difficult to live with. The 1.6-litre diesel lump rattles at idle and send vibrations in to the cabin like you'd expect from an older PD unit. It offers up 112 bhp and 199 lb /ft of torque, which is a good amount. Out on the road however the Mini's 1380 kg kerb weight shows and the car struggles to return respectable pace. 0 - 60 comes up in 11.6 seconds and if you want to accelerate from 50 - 70 mph, you'll have to leave over 9 seconds. Unlike many cars that offer small diesel engines that prove to be great fun, you'll find yourself working hard in the Countryman, despite the ALL4 system working to keep grip on the road. In the wet, the car handles well though, and in the dry handling is good too. The trouble is, you'll never be going fast enough to test the chassis.
As with every modern Mini, interior ergonomics are geared towards style rather than quality. On photographs the interior looks lovely with large retro dials and lots of aluminium / chrome, but in real life it's like being sat in a posh wheelie bin. As noted above, the driving position in the Mini is good and the seats give a good view of the road, but as you put the car in to top gear you'll find yourself scratching away at the cheap plastics used on the door panels and center console. For a family of 4, for Countryman does offer good space and practicality though, with sliding rear seats which almost double boot space. In the back with the seats up, there is room for three passengers, although the middle seat doesn't have much space and a central passenger may find themselves feeling cramped.
The MINI Countryman 1.6 COOPER D ALL4 5DR will return 57.6 mpg on a combined cycle according to Mini, and 53.3 around town. These figures do not reflect our own experience though, where we struggled to get 40 mpg out of the car with a range of mixed driving over 60 miles, 25 of which were on the motorway. Day to day, you won't find yourself filling up at the pumps, but the MINI Countryman 1.6 COOPER D ALL4 5DR is not as economical as a 5dr Seat Leon 1.4 TSI, which is a very good family car.
Trim and equipment
The Mini Countryman Cooper D is not good value for money in terms of equipment. As standard you get air conditioning, alloy wheels, electric and heated mirrors and very little else. Climate control is a £345 extra, cruise control is not available, heated seats are a £250 extra, satellite navigation is a £1,345 extra (I know, what the hell!), leather seats are a £1,250 extra, and even fog lights are an optional extra at £130. Thankfully, Mini saw fit to give you airbags and ABS as standard though. How nice of them!
The regular Mini is a fun car to drive that can be perfect as a runabout. The Mini Countryman, on the other hand, isn't a particularly fun car to drive and it's too expensive to be used as simply a runabout. It feels pretty lethargic in its performance, despite the 1.6-litre TDI engine having lots of torque and 4 wheel drive to help it of the line. In the end, buyers of the car should opt for the ALL4 version as it isn't much more expensive than the 2WD version, but don't expect to be winning any races or having much fun behind the wheel. Want a top tip? Avoid the motorway, because the road noise and unrefined engine make for a pretty deafening experience.
If I had just over £20k to spend, I would seriously consider a car with less badge appeal but a much better driving experience. A Seat Leon FR or low specification VW Golf would serve you better than the Countryman 1.6 COOPER D ALL4 5DR, although neither have 4 wheel drive.