2017 MINI Countryman Launch Review

2017 MINI Countryman Road Test and Review…

MINI is taking the bold step into the small SUV/Crossover market with this all-new MINI Countryman.

Yes, it’s the biggest MINI model ever, and yes, naturally, that makes it the largest vehicle in the 2017 MINI range.

Why has MINI gone big? Well, the German-owned British car company wants to be able to meet the needs of those buyers that would love to have a MINI, but just haven’t been able to justify purchasing one as a primary means of transport.

Thus, for many families, a MINI was the second car in the garage.

But, this new MINI Countryman could just be the answer - it’s a perfect hybrid of practicality and MINI enjoyment.

I first had a drive of the top-spec Cooper SD All4 (yes, an all-wheel drive) - a diesel powered model, then jumped into the base-model Cooper - an offering powered by the BMW/MINI three-cylinder petrol engine.

While later in the day at the Countryman launch I got to sample the sporty Cooper S.

My pick, strangely enough, was the base-model.

Sure, it doesn’t have the power or the features of the upper-spec models, however, when taking pricing and practicality into account, well it makes a really good argument.

I thought the entry-level model felt the lightest and most flexible to drive and while the three-cylinder engine can feel a bit underdone when the revs are down, drive it with some enthusiasm and it gets along better than alright.

For the record, here are the stats on the 2017 MINI Countryman:

  • Cooper – 100kW/220Nm 1.5 litre 3-cylinder turbo-petrol/front-wheel drive
  • Cooper D – 110kW/330Nm 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel/front-wheel drive
  • Cooper S – 141kW/280Nm 2.0 litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol/front-wheel drive
  • Cooper SD – 140 kW/400Nm 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel/all-wheel drive

A six-speed auto transmission features in the Cooper, all the others get an eight-speed transmission.

The million dollar question though is whether the MINI Countryman can be a family car - the answer is yes, but only for smaller families.

The interior is bigger than a standard hatch, but slightly small than something like a Mitsubishi ASX.

The instruments, cabin feel, controls etc. are all classic MINI, really it’s like everything you normally get in a MINI, just bigger.

Is the MINI go-kart like feel still there, despite the proportions? Very much so - especially in the base model.

Most importantly, especially for family use, the new MINI Countryman feels really solid, it is reassuring in the corners, has an adequately high seating position, and rides along really well.

While boot space is quite reasonable (you could fit a stroller in there, but might struggle with a large pram with the seats up), cabin storage areas are also reasonably sized and there’s a handy slot in the console to place your phone.

My only real complaint with the new MINI offering was the amount of wind noise that made its way into the cabin.

I’m not sure if it is the large wing mirrors causing the issue, or the windscreen, but it was certainly quite obvious.

The climate control buttons are also located fairly low on the dash and sort of below the main control knobs, this means you can’t simply glance at the buttons to make a quick change.

And, as is the case with most premium offerings like this, the options list is hefty and that means you might find yourself shelling out more than the ‘sticker price’ to get all the things you want/need.

That being the case, by all means have a drive of the Cooper, a genuinely likable offering that certainly has the potential to be an ideal car for many different applications.

And with standard features like sat-nav, 18″ alloy wheels, digital radio, and a reverse camera, it certainly makes a strong case for consideration.

Overall, I came away from from day with the new MINI Countryman quite impressed, so much so that I’m tipping it to be there when we are talking Car of the Year finalists at the end of the year.

MINI/BMW has seen an opportunity to offer a more practical model and have served up a vehicle that certainly does just about everything right in an attractive and interesting combination.

The MINI Countryman range kicks off from $39,900 and I look forward to spending a week in the MINI at some stage during the year to get to know it that bit better.

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