The second-generation MINI Countryman is the biggest and most versatile model to be launched in the brand's 57-year history. With its larger external dimensions and increases in space throughout the cabin and luggage area, it offers a more credible premium alternative to Qashqai-sized family 4x4 Crossover segment rivals. There's a bit of interior innovation - and the option of Plug-in hybrid tech too.
The new MINI Countryman family 4x4 is available at launch with a choice of five new engines: two diesels and three petrol-powered variants, all of them featuring MINI's TwinPower turbo technology. Most will want one of the 2.0-litre diesels - there's a 150bhp unit in the Cooper D or a 190bhp powerplant in the Cooper SD that puts out 400Nm of toque, providing for a 0-62mph sprint of just 7.7 seconds. The petrol line-up starts with the 136bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit used in the Cooper Countryman. The alternative is the 192bhp 2.0-litre powerplant you'll find in the pokey Cooper S, a variant able to complete the sprint to 62mph from rest in just 7.5 seconds. Steptronic auto transmission with paddle shifters is optional across the range. Another option across the line-up is an improved version of MINI's 'ALL4' all-wheel drive system. This set-up now reacts more quickly and precisely to changing situations.
The most interesting engine option though, is the Plug-in hybrid set-up used in the priciest variant, the 'Cooper S E ALL4' family 4x4 model. Here, the 1.5-litre 136bhp Cooper engine is mated with an 88bhp electric motor and the whole package is combined with Steptronic auto transmission and 'ALL4' 4WD.
The problem with the original Countryman was that in size, it sat rather awkwardly between the compact 'Juke'-shaped part of the compact 4x4 Crossover segment and the larger 'Qashqai'-shaped family section of this class. With this larger MK2 model, the target market for this car can be much more clearly defined and high-ish pricing can much more easily be justified. It's 20cms longer than before with 7.5cms of extra wheelbase length, enlarged dimensions that make it the largest MINI ever made, and puts it in the running for consideration in the best family 4x4 segment.
You certainly feel that inside, where both driver and front passenger benefit from extended head and shoulder space. The second row of seating now contains three fully-fledged seats, and the rear door openings have been enlarged, enabling easier entry and exit. In addition to overall interior width, leg space is now significantly more generous too, with an extra five centimetres of knee room over the previous model. The rear seats can be shifted back and forth by up to 13cm, prioritising either passenger legroom or boot capacity depending on the situation. The folding rear backrest offers a 40:20:40 split and also provides a variable tilt angle so as to also offer either increased seating comfort or additional storage space for the bigger 450-litre boot at the rear. This family 4x4 has considered what everyday use by a family means.
The family 4x4 Countryman is still a MINI - but not as many will know it. But then if it was, this Countryman wouldn't be able to continually keep existing MINI people loyal when they out-grew their city runabouts and shopping rockets. Nor would 80% of its sales tempt in buyers new to the brand. Customers liking the vibrant SUV-inspired Crossover concept, but wanting it with a little more tarmac sparkle.
This larger, more sophisticated second generation Countryman model has achieved both these things, though arguably at the cost of British style and charisma. Still, now cleaner under the bonnet and smarter inside and out, it's as suited to the family 4x4 urban jungle as a Land Rover is to the Amazon, a car created for the times we live in. And a Country you could be proud of.Click here to find out more about our MINI Countryman range