The ‘Mini’ name hardly seems relevant applied to the new Countryman that is 20 centimetres longer and three centimetres wider than its – already biggish – predecessor. This is Mini gone Maxi!
To younger car buyers this is immaterial, as they did not have the pleasure of the acquaintance of the original Sir Alec Issignonis Mini or any of that heartstring tug to ‘the lekker old days’ born from a deep affection for that iconic creation.
The proliferation of Mini derivatives is testimony to its widespread appeal in markets around the world and the fact it does look different, does offer a funky and unique dashboard layout helps this appeal considerably considering the boring sameness of so many ‘popular’ brand cars against which it competes.
The new Mini Countryman is the biggest and most versatile model in the brand’s 57-year history. Having been completely newly developed, it now reflects considerable advancements in the areas of space, functionality, athletic flair and premium characteristics.
The bigger car results in increased space on the five seats as well as an increase in storage volume and luggage transport versatility.
The luggage compartment volume is 450 litres and can be extended as required to a total of 1 309 litres. This constitutes a maximum increase of 220 litres as compared to the predecessor model.
The car does have its heritage rooted in British history and the Austin Seven Countryman had a highly versatile interior and the version with wood frame panelling – popularly known as a ‘Woody’ – attained cult status that it continues to enjoy to this day.
Easy to spot on the road, the latest generation of the Mini Countryman is defined by an extended ground clearance and raised seating position, further emphasised by the Mini ALL4 exterior look and high roof rails.
Inside, the increased size of the car is particularly evident in terms of rear seat legroom and the easier ingress and egress made possible by slightly large door openings compared to the outgoing model.
Both driver and front passenger benefit from extended head and shoulder space, while the adjustment range of the seats has also been enlarged.
The Mini Cooper Countryman is the base model in the range and is fitted with a 3-cylinder petrol engine with a capacity of 1 499 cc, producing 100 kW and 220 Nm and driving, in our case, through a 6-speed Steptronic transmission..
Depending on the engine, the reduction in fuel consumption from the new generation power plants amounts to as much as 1,4 l/100 kilometres according to BMW. Our test route took us a couple of hundred kilometres with mixed speed driving and the overall average achieved was 7,4 l/100 km.
While the Countryman is a big car, it still feels small car with plenty of that impish aura of mischief that made its forebears so dear to many hearts. It just feels designed to zip through gaps in the traffic, to handle like a go-kart and continue to flip the bird at conventialism.
The zippiness and its general road manners come from the tried-and-tested principle of a single-joint spring strut axle at the front and a multilink rear axle with a design that is optimised for weight and rigidity.
In addition to this, there is an electromechanical steering with Servotronic function, powerful brakes and Dynamic Stability Control DSC. 16-inch light alloy wheels come as standard with the new Mini Cooper Countryman.
The standard fittings include the Radio Mini Boost with four-line display in the central instrument and a Bluetooth hands-free telephone facility. Options include the Radio Mini Visual Boost with 6,5-inch colour display, the Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system, the Mini navigation system and the Mini navigation system Professional.
The standard collision warning with city braking function can be extended to include the Driving Assistant system with camera-based active cruise control, pedestrian warning with initial brake function, high beam assistant and road sign detection. In addition to this, Park Distance Control, rear view camera, Parking Assistant and Head-Up-Display are also optionally available.
At the heart of the connectivity in the Mini Countryman lies Mini Connected, the personal mobility assistant that includes individual mobility planning to enable punctual, stress-free arrival at appointments. And mobility does not start in the car: Mini Connected informs the driver of the optimum departure time based on calendar entries and current traffic data.
Address data and appointments saved by the driver previously on a smartphone via Mini Connected are automatically transferred to the car and do not have to be entered in the navigation system again.
Mini Connected can also save regularly visited places as favourite destinations and it detects frequently covered routes such as the daily run between home and work so as to be able to inform the driver in the event of unexpected traffic delays.
Despite the raised height of the Countryman, it feels well planted on the road even during speedy direction changes. Top speed is a shade more than 200 km/h and it will dash to 100 km/h in 9,8 seconds.
Pleasing and comfortable to drive the Maxi, err Mini, is evolutionary in the line – and we all know, you cannot argue with evolution.
(Note: image is of the Cooper S)