The Mini Countryman is practical for its size, has a high-quality interior and is fun to drive. But its cutesy looks are less convincing than they are on smaller Minis and options are pricey
If you’re looking for a practical family car that’s fun to drive and looks quirky then it’s well worth having a look at the Mini Countryman. It’s a highly customisable small SUV with enough paint and contrasting roof colours, bonnet stripes and sticker packs to ensure you’ll never park next to an identical one.
It’s also spacious for its size, looks premium and even has some of the fun-driving characteristics of smaller Minis, although all this does come with quite a big price tag.
If you don’t mind stumping up the cash then the Countryman gives you much of the charm of a smaller Mini but enough space to make it a genuine family car. The interior has a quality feel to match the Audi Q2 but with fun touches such as a circular infotainment screen and chunky toggle switches that make mundane tasks such as starting the engine feel that little bit more special.
The infotainment screen is incredibly quick and easy to use, and its playful graphics fit the not-so-mini Mini’s cheeky character.
All the cutesy looks in the world don’t make for a decent family car though, and thankfully the Countryman is reasonably practical, with plenty of room in the front and back, and a comfy driving position. You can spoil the kids by spending £300 on rear seats that slide and recline for a bit more comfort on long trips, although this can reduce boot space a bit in the rearmost position.
That said, the 450-litre boot is pretty big for a car this size and the lack of a boot lip makes it easy to slide heavy luggage into place. The boot’s maximum capacity of 1,320 litres is pretty decent and the rear seats split three ways, so you can carry long loads and two rear passengers at once.
The Mini Countryman’s styling is a little bit a dad dancing at a wedding – it tries to be young, hip and happening but somehow doesn’t quite pull it off
What’s great is that the Countryman combines this practicality with a true Mini driving experience. It has a range of decent petrol, diesel and hybrid engines – although you’re best off going with the frugal and nippy 1.5-litre petrol. All Countryman models have pointy steering and little body roll that makes them quite fun to drive, although the downside is that the firm suspension can get on your nerves in town. There are also some fairly big blind spots to deal with – so it’s worth budgeting for the £310 reversing camera option.
Sadly expensive options are part and parcel of the Mini experience. If you want to boost safety you’ll need the £810 Driving Assistance pack that includes adaptive cruise control, which can match the speed of the car in front before returning to your preset cruising speed when the way is clear – handy if you do a lot of motorway driving. But even without that it’s a safe car, and earned five stars in Euro NCAP’s tough 2017 crash tests.