This Mini model was initially conceived as the Mini Crossover concept. First unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 2008, the design heralded Mini’s foray into the SUV territory. The intention then was to make the first four-door, four-wheel drive Mini. When the model was finally put into production, it was unveiled as the Mini Countryman.
Presently, two variants of the Mini Countryman are available in Malaysia, the Cooper Countryman and the higher spec Cooper S Countryman. The former is powered by a normally aspirated 1.6 litre petrol engine while the latter has better features and gets direct injection and twin-scroll turbocharger on the same engine.
The Countryman is a larger and heavier version of the standard Mini Cooper. My first impression was to equate the Countryman to a person having undergone some intensive weight training in the gym and coming out a couple of months later looking like a muscled up version of its former self!
The vehicle retains most of the design cues from its prototype concept. Some of the initial ideas such as having a sliding door and a tailgate that open sideways were dropped in favour of conventional door openings and a lift-up tailgate. However, the Countryman retains the center rail storage concept that runs from front to the rear.
The designers probably pushed the envelope as far as possible in designing the Countryman. The overall design should grow on you over time. The car just about retains that ‘Mini Cooper’ look without being a radically different vehicle altogether. These photos taken of the Countryman cannot convey the true size of the car. You have to see it in the flesh and compare it side by side with a standard Mini Cooper.
We were fortuitous to get our hands on a newly launched Mini Countryman over a few days. Our test vehicle was the Cooper S Countryman which is equipped with a permanent all-wheel drive system known as the Mini ALL 4. During normal drives, the ALL4 distributes up to 50% of the engine torque to the rear wheels, but when conditions deteriorate up to 100% of torque can be sent to the rear wheels to improve traction.
Safety remains paramount and the Countryman received a 5 star rating in the EURO NCAP Crash Test. The vehicle is built tough with reinforcements at strategic points over the body shell. Up to six airbags are fitted as standard and for the Cooper S Countryman, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) come standard with the vehicle.
While opinions may be divided on the Countryman’s design, the vehicle scores highly in terms of practicality. Space is no longer an issue and with 4 individual doors, getting in and out of the car is now fuss free. It has generous legroom and headroom for all passengers. The elevated roofline ensures that even taller passengers can feel at ease at the rear seats. Seats are a mix of leather and fabric offering good support. The Malaysian variant of the Countryman is a five-seater with individual three seat bench at the rear.
The dashboard retains the classic Mini look with an enlarged speedometer at the centre and a smaller tachometer just behind the steering. Compared with the standard Mini Cooper, there are more switches to play with at the centre console. Steering is of good size with multifunction buttons. Paddle shifters operate based on the older BMW system but looked somewhat anonymous due to the matching colour with the steering.
So far the two variants of the Mini Countryman that is launched here in Malaysia do not come with the option for GPS navigation via the Mini Connected system. In some Countryman models, the large central speedometer comes with a 6.5 inch high definition display that allows you to scroll through the vehicle’s onboard computer, entertainment system and navigation. Hopefully this will be a standard feature for future Countryman models in Malaysia.
As expected, the materials used for the interior is of high quality and the finishing is first rate. One unique feature which caught my eye was the handbrake lever which looks like something that was plucked out from an airplane cockpit. Even the gearshift lever looked classy as it was adorned with the Cooper “S” logo at the sides.
The Mini Centre Rail concept is an innovative feature that challenges conventional design for storage. In Countryman models which come with four individual seats, the centre rail extends from the front all the way to the rear. Various storage boxes and cupholders with clip-in elements can be placed at any position along the rail. For the test vehicle, the centre rail came with a sunglass cover and ends just behind the front seats to facilitate the three seat rear bench.
Driver and passengers are seated in an elevated position. The driver has good vantage views of the front and sides. Park Distance Control with audible warning tones is provided and this is of great help especially when reversing. The side wing mirrors are now foldable by pushing the little knob downwards. Some familiarity is required to master the workings of this unconventional side wing mirror switch.
The powerplant is a 1.6 litre in-line 4 cylinder petrol engine equipped with a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection. There is also variable valve management to offer a balance of engine power and fuel consumption. Max power and max torque is rated at 184hp (135kW) @ 5,500rpm and 260Nm @ 1,600-5,000rpm, respectively. Upon ignition, the engine surprised us for being silent and refined compared to the standard Mini Cooper S which we tested in 2009.
Insulation is better in the Countryman. Unlike the standard Mini Cooper S, the cabin is now well insulated from engine noise and external noise. In fact, when the car idles at the lights, engine noise was hardly noticeable in the cabin. Using a sound level meter, the vehicle registered a highest reading of 67db whilst cruising on the North South Highway along speeds of 90km/h to 110km/h.
The Countryman accelerates convincingly from a standstill position. During hard acceleration I did not detect any torque steer and the vehicle is quite easy to control. For those who like driving a bit on the edge as in the Mini Cooper S and the Mini JCW, this might put a damper on your expectations. The vehicle is still quick and I would deem it as having controlled aggression rather than being unleashed when pushed hard.
Steering is electric power assist with Servotronic. This provides a very light and easy to steer system which should please many. Inputs are quickly translated to the front wheels and there is a direct feel and control which the Mini is renowned for. I prefer to engage the optional ‘Sports’ mode as it adds a bit more weight to the steering.
Both the Malaysian variants of the Countryman come with a 6 speed automatic transmission with options for manual gearchanges via Steptronic. Gear changes during normal and hard accelerations are generally refined without jerkiness. Engaging the ‘Sports’ mode at higher speeds results in a gentle downshift, delays the gearchanges and reduces the tendency for kickdowns.
The Mini ALL4 all wheel drive system performed well and provided the much welcomed extra traction to the rear wheels. For a change, it added reassurance to your ride as you can clearly feel the torque distribution to the rear wheels as you drive along. Perhaps, the ALL4 and well as the electronic limited-slip function at the front axle helped to contain any possible torque steer during hard acceleration.
Suspension set up appears to be tuned for comfort as we experienced minimal harshness during the test drive. There is a marked improvement in ride quality compared with the standard Mini Cooper. The only exception is when the vehicle goes through pockets of bumps on the road at higher speeds. It then tends to bump over the obstruction rather than ride over it. This caused a bit of a jarring effect and for a split second the car loses a bit of traction.
Tyres are 18 inch Goodyear Efficient Grip runflats (225/45 R18) for both the front and rear sets. This set of tyres appears to be of softer compounds compared to the Goodyear Excellence runflats on the Mini Cooper. This together with the good damping provided more cushion to the ride. The brakes can be better. Whilst providing adequate stopping power it wasn’t as responsive as we had hoped. Step on the brake pedal and there is a bit of resistance before the calipers gripped the discs.
Based on the specs, the Cooper S Countryman’s fuel consumption is rated at 8.1 litres per 100 km. At this moment the vehicle is still quite new, having accumulated a mileage of around 1,500km. During our test drive, the best reading from the on board computer showed an average fuel consumption of around 10 litres per 100 km which was within expectations due to the spirited drives.
There is more boot space in the Countryman. With all the rear seats up, storage space is about 350 litres. This can be increased up to 1,170 litres by folding down all the rear seats. The rear three seat bench configuration offers flexibility to individually fold each seat in a 40:20:40 arrangements. This is done by pulling each of the individual side straps on each seat.
Entertainment is via the Radio Mini Boost CD system. The improved insulation enabled us to enjoy the music without the need to boost the volume to higher levels during our test drives. The sound and music from the radio was more dynamic compared to music from the CD. There is good balance to the sound where the bass does not overpower the mids and highs.
The Countryman comes with the lights package which adds a bit of colour to the interior at night. Footwell lights and reading lights enabled the interior to have sufficient brightness for reading at night. The xenon headlights provide good illumination for night time driving.
The Mini Cooper S Countryman retains the brand’s strengths in handling and performance. Ride quality has improved tremendously over the standard Mini Cooper. Being equipped with 4 individual doors, more interior and storage space, makes this the most practical Mini Cooper in the market.
|Full Tank:||47 litres @ RM89 (Petrol RON 95)|
|Standard Service:||Mini tlc package*|
|Warranty:||3 Years or 50,000km whichever is earlier*|
* Includes wear and tear repairs as well as maintenance works. Terms and conditions apply.
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Road Tax is for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard/scheduled service excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized Mini dealer.
|Engine:||4-cylinder in-line with twin-scroll turbocharger|
|Max Output:||184Hp (135Kw) / 5,500 rpm|
|Max Torque:||260Nm / 1,600-5,000 rpm|
Source: Mini Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized Mini dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!