Many buttons, heating controls positioned too low and a huge speedometer in the centre mean that, from inside the Countryman, there’s no doubt that you’re in a Mini. Another consistent trait is the high quality of the materials and the overall robust feel of the interior. Passenger space is decent, although not as good as in a 3008, but the driving position is high so it gives a good overview of the road ahead.
All Minis have precise steering and agile handling, but the high riding Countryman pushes the well-sorted chassis to its limit. It’s a very capable car and will bring a smile to the driver’s face, but the uncomfortable seats and noisy interior can become tiring. There is also a four-wheel-drive version for that snowy day in January.
There is a wide choice of four-cylinder petrols and diesels, but the most sensible one is the 1.6-litre diesel in the Cooper D. Despite being powered by a diesel engine, the car retains all of its character and fun, while being quite cheap to run. The petrols are less fuel efficient and also lack the low down power of the diesels.
The Mini Countryman brings retro style and sharp handling to the small SUV class
The basic One models are nicely equipped with most things you’ll need for city life, and the sporty versions can transform the Mini into a performance hatchback. The options list is impressive but can make the Mini’s price huge.
Unlike some of the other Mini niche-filling cars, it’s pretty easy to see what the point of the Countryman is – it’s a Mini branded crossover. It keeps with an awful lot of the traditional values that make the brand so strong, with good driving dynamics and a slightly retro interior that’s worlds apart from the blander offerings from brand owner BMW and its countrymen.
Compared to many rivals it looks expensive, particularly as the cheaper base models are too underpowered to make for reasonable ownership propositions, but remember that few have the same badge attraction and it will likely depreciate less as a result. Grab a Cooper S model and you’ll have one of those rare cars that does a little bit of everything and does it well.