New Mini Countryman

New Mini Countryman

The original Mini was an icon a fantastic little car to come from England and recognisable around the world. Back in 2001, the new Mini came to us, much to the dismay of some. It’s now been with us for over a decade. Along with various versions including the top of the range John Copper works Copper, there is now a new Countryman available.

Prices start at £22,465 and go to £29,565, however, being this is Mini there are of course optional extras that can push the price up. Furthermore, the price for the forthcoming plug-in hybrid Mini has yet to be announced. The Mini Countryman will be available for delivery from February 2017.

Engines and performance

This is an interesting area for the Mini; all the engine levels offer respectable 0-60 times of under 10 seconds the slowest being with the 136bhp and all-wheel drive (ALL4) this being the 1.5 and returning economy of around 50mpg, which for the size car is not too shabby, bearing in mind the ALL4 option available. However, the Countryman offers the slightly faster (around half a second) diesel option with higher fuel economy of 64.2 mpg. These engines offer a distinct improvement on previous generations with lower emissions, quicker times and better mpg figures.

Whilst it’s good to see improvements with the engines overall, thanks to BMW’s work on hybrid drivetrains, the Mini Countryman can also be supplied with a hybrid power unit that produces 224 BHP a 0-60 time of 6.9 seconds and claimed mpg of 134.5. The Hybrid system also allows for the car to run for up to 25 miles on just battery power. Unlike early Hybrid systems, this one has a plug in charge facility.  In effect what we are seeing is Hybrid technology coming down the car hierarchy, whilst the Prius gained a lot of fame for its hybrid technology BMW are bringing it down the market, from the I8 to a more accessible level.

Under the bonnet

The Chassis on the Countryman has been upgraded and optimised for weight and rigidity and benefits from dynamic stability control, hardly a new feature but nice to know it’s there. The car also has the option of Dynamic damper control, which is in effect electronically controlling the suspension and dampers between three modes (MID, SPORT and GREEN), these also adjust the influences of the pedals and steering, in effect it’s a car mode system allowing you to switch between modes depending on the road conditions and the desires of the driver.

The ALL4 system on the Mini allows for its higher ride height to be put using off road whilst it won’t ever keep up with a Range Rover, the ALL4 system is designed to give traction and stability rather than off-road performance. Additionally Mini claims that it improves agility “when driving through bends in a sporty manner”. As always it is an optional extra with Mini, which at £1600-1700 (estimate) extra might be worth considering depending upon your usage of the car.

Styling

If you look back at the roots of the Mini you can see a glimpse of it in the Countryman, where the original Mini (and the 2001/2 re-launch) had a good bit of style, the Countryman still suffers from a chunky looking exterior and unfortunately, the front face makes it look like its crying. However, its previous generations mean that it has improved in appearance.

(below, Hardly the winner of a beauty contest with that face)

The interior still has the same circular based dials but has also got smarter looking insides which give a quality appeal to the car. This is an area which the Mini has been strong in and continues to do so. Overall if the Mini’s styling was to be given a report at school, “good effort, but could do better” would be about right.

Geek specs

Mini’s have been renowned for their high level of optional extra equipment that does not come as standard. However, with the Countryman, they have sought to address this by raising the standard level of equipment on the Countryman.  This includes 16-inch alloys rear parking sensors, cruise control, emergency E-call, Bluetooth connectivity and other features. Additionally, all the Countryman’s trim levels feature Sat Nav as standard. This is displayed on the 6.5inch screen in the middle of the dashboard. Playing towards the geek specs Mini has included the Mini country Timer which records all travel on slopes uneven unsurfaced and snow covered roads. This fun little feature sounds like a good idea.  Whilst all the additional standard equipment has been increased the base price has also gone up, but this does mean benefitting from the under the bonnet and performance changes as well.

For those that want to garnish their Mini with more, other options available include; two zone air conditioning, panoramic glass roof and towbars and Wireless charging amongst other things. There are other options called Mini connected, which allows you to connect your Apple Iphone/watch to the car which connects with your calendared events and works out the best route to get you there without putting it into the sat nav twice. There are a couple of potential problems with this; imagine you had a surprise party on your phone and the car selects it “taking you to Jane’s secret party”, that could ruin it easily. Whilst this technology is attempting to catch up with other car manufacturers such as Teslar, it neglects the android market of phones.

The boring useful bits.

Boot space has been increased from the previous generation giving a boot space of 450 litres up from 350 and with seats folded down this increases to 1309 litres. As with a lot of new cars coming out it can be sspecifiedout with an electronic tailgate. The rear doors have benefitted from being enlarged allowing for easier access, this has been put alongside a full-sized rear seat and an extra 5cm of knee room. The rear seats can also be moved back and forth to allow more leg/boot room as required. There are also increases in driver and passenger head and shoulder space. All these features have been down to an increase in the Countryman’s size making it longer and wider and the largest Mini on sale.  However, the rear seats come with a variable tilt angle to “offer increased seating comfort or additional storage space”. This space is helped by the 40:20:40 folding seat arrangement.

Safety

The Mini has a “full complement of airbags” and some driver assistance systems as standard including collision warning with city break function, which can be extended to use camera assisted cruise control. Most of the features considered to be for safety such as parking cameras and pedestrian warning are optional extras. With the increase in equipment levels, it would be nice to think that safety increases would be included, particularly given the price increase.

Final thoughts

For a 5 door SUV the Mini offers a different package compared to others cars on the market, whilst still using typical Mini pricing with optional extras the increase in standard equipment helps readdress the balance, overall for a 5 door small SUV it is a quirky little option. Although maybe little isn’t the best word for Countryman. Finally, there is a Countryman Copper works (sporty) version which will be covered in a different post.

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