Ok, so it may have been a bit of a shock for purists when in 2010 Mini first launched the Countryman (their not so Mini, compact crossover SUV). However the motoring world embraced it and it’s rapidly become one of, if not THE (in certain areas) most popular Mini model out there accounting for almost 30% of the brand’s new registrations worldwide. Anywho, ten years, two generations and now two facelifts (LCI’s) later, we have the 2021 model and Mini New Zealand gave me the keys.
Sage Green metallic joins the distinctive range of Countryman palettes (along with White Silver) and I have to say it’s a real hit. It was the first thing that was spoken about when I picked it up and the last thing remarked in when I dropped it off.
Continuing on with the first (and last) impressions, the grille has been redesigned and now has MINI’s signature hexagonal contours, plus it sports a new bumper design and lower air intake.
It still rides higher than the ‘regular’ Mini and its silhouette remains at 4.32m, but the (in my case) black roof, black mirror caps and 19-inch ‘Turnstile Spoke 2-tone’ alloys with low profile Goodyear rubber really enhanced the look.
The rear has been given a new rear bumper design and lower valence, patriotic Union Jack LED tail lights and a kicker tail gate that opens to 450L of versatile luggage space – rest assured this is a crafty little Mini SUV.
Dotted around the Countryman’s exterior are more Union Jack badging, (including Mini Yours) and Cooper S references and there is plenty of black garnishes and trims to contrast well with the sage green paintwork.
The interior has received a fair share of attention too. The instrument cluster is a 5-inch digital display with a matte finish, making it easy to see and easy to wipe clean. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen still remains as a dominant feature of the Mini’s dash and now comes with restructured Navigation Plus, enhanced Intelligent Emergency services and Amazon Alexa integration – however, don’t start yelling ‘Hey Mini’ and expect it to do anything, BMW may be behind this vehicle but not when it comes to assistance – not yet anyway.
The rest of the interior comes loaded with fine finished furniture and piano black accents (rather than English ones). It still feels uncluttered and modern and rather roomy for the size of vehicle that it is – yes it still feels Mini.
My Cooper S model was in the middle of the range’s line up, with the Cooper below and the Cooper SE ALL4 above. It’s powered by a 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol engine that produces 131kW/280Nm and will take the Mini crossover from 0-100km/h in 7.5s. In terms of mileage it reportedly hits somewhere around the 6.5 – 6.3 l/100 km and emits CO2 gasses at 148 – 144g/km, so it feels spritely underfoot and is easy on the wallet/environment.
Around town and at Malls, the Countryman fits in just nicely. It’s nippy and nimble and there’s plenty of room for both baggage and kids (some would say they are the same thing) but it’s in the countryside that this crossover really puts a smile on your face – funny that.
It still handles like a Mini should. The steering is highly responsive and feels confidently weighty in the hand. Although it’s FWD, the traction is set up well-enough for you to stamp down hard on the accelerator and barely notice any loss of grip, no doubt there’s a flashing yellow light somewhere registering its displeasure but all you need to know is that there’s zero fight to keep the vehicle pointing in the right direction.
On the subject of acceleration I do have a (mini) gripe with the Countryman, or maybe it’s with my plates (Cockney rhyming slang for feet), having a wide instep means that the outside of my right foot seems to rub along the footwell wall – maybe I need to change my clown shoes…
The suspension is taught and firm and has you rounding corners with barely any hint of body roll, (car not me), bizarrely it’s like being in a GoKart – that analogy may have been used before.
It’s easy to see why the Mini Countryman is so popular both globally and here in New Zealand, it offers all the fun driving experience that is inherent of this iconic British brand but delivers more space and far more technology than ever, throw in the new sage shell and you get a Mini that’s – Roomy, Vroomy and far from gloomy