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MINI Countryman review

MINI Countryman review

We get to grips with the next-gen MINI Countryman in entry-level and performance guises…

I’ve always found it tricky trying to categorise the MINI Countryman. It looks like it’s a cross between an estate and a crossover, yet it’s actually about the same size as a family-sized Nissan Qashqai SUV.

One thing is for sure, the third generation Countryman is the biggest MINI ever. MAXI even.

Fans will be pleased to know that it’s still recognisable as a Countryman with its boxy styling, though this time round it’s 130mm longer than the outgoing model and 60mm taller.

The even better news is that means there’s more space for occupants and their luggage, and it’s had a significant tech upgrade.

MINI Countryman review

First a quick recap. The MINI Countryman first appeared in 2010, with the second generation following in 2017. Significantly the Mk 2 was also available as a plug-in hybrid.

The all-new Countryman goes one better. There’s now a 100% electric option with a range of up to 287 miles.

The EV wasn’t available at the launch event, so we sampled two of the turbo petrol versions – the entry-level Countryman C, which has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and is likely to be the most popular model – and the high-performance Countryman JCW (John Cooper Works) ALL4 range-topper, complete with 2.0-litre four-cylinder.

The 2024 MINI Countryman follows the clean, minimalist look already seen in the new MINI Cooper Electric.

MINI Countryman review

There’s now an octagonal grille, smoother lines and simplified LED lighting front and back, while its rugged, upright proportions give it more of an SUV style.

Starting at £29,290 the MINI Countryman is offered with three trim levels – Classic, Exclusive or Sport. The JCW tips the scales at a hefty £40,425.

Arguably, the wow factor comes when you step inside the cabin. It’s paired back, like the exterior, and now the centrepiece is the world’s first circular OLED display.

Serving as an instrument cluster and onboard infotainment hub, the stunning touchscreen is 9.4 inches in diameter. The upper half displays vehicle-related information such as speed and battery status, with the lower area is used for navigation, media, phone and climate.

MINI Countryman review

Frankly, it was a little overwhelming at first because there’s an awful lot going on there, but I reckon it would all start to make sense after a week or so of ownership. Thankfully, MINI has kept a few signature toggle switches below the display.

The display’s party trick is a range of different ‘Experience’ modes, which change the look of the infotainment system and the car’s driving characteristics.

The default ‘Experience’ mode is referred to as Core, with others including Go Kart, Green, Vivid, Timeless, Personal, Balance, and Trail. Whenever you change the mode there’s a corresponding animation and jingle that plays. You’ll either find these quirky or irritating.

Elsewhere, the cabin definitely feels roomier and lighter than before (there’s an optional panoramic glass roof).

MINI Countryman review

A sliding rear seat bench with adjustable backrests adds to the car’s flexibility, while up to 460 litres of boot space is offered with the seats up, expanding to 1,450 litres when they’re folded. Plus, there’s an additional under-floor compartment for stowing charging cables, for instance. In short, it’s a genuine family-sized car.

One of the outgoing Countryman’s strengths was the premium quality of the cabin. Except for the soft synthetic leather seats, I’d say the new model isn’t quite as classy, with its blend of rough-textured ‘knitted’ fabric made from recycled materials wrapped round the dashboard and door cards, and scratchy plastic surfaces.

Another example is the small perspex head-up display. Better than nothing, but nowhere near as classy as a HUD that projects directly onto the windscreen.

On the road, the third-gen Countryman has retained the fun-loving character you’d associate with the MINI family.

The front-wheel drive Countryman C’s punchy engine produces 167bhp and 280Nm of torque, and it can dash from 0–62mph in 8.3 seconds.

So, it’s swift, but it’s also no hot hatch – you’ll need to choose the S or JCW versions for more performance.

MINI Countryman

That said, it’s willing, and if you like a three-pot thrum and economy is important to you (it averages up to 46.3mpg, while CO2 emissions start at 138g/km), then this model ticks all the right boxes.

The C gets a standard passive suspension setup, which is on the firm side. It’s only really noticeable over the worst lumps and bumps, though it can feel a little jittery on poorer surfaces too.

For the most part it’s a perfectly pleasant ride with tidy handling and plenty of grip. The steering is direct and responsive, while the seven-speed automatic gearbox is slick with well-judged rations.

There’s decent body control in more challenging corners, but it would be an exaggeration to say that the Countryman C is agile with go-kart handling.

If you want more performance and sporty handling, then try the distinctive John Cooper Works Countryman. Its 2.0-litre produces 296bhp and 400Nm of torque, drive is via all four wheels and it can sprint from 0–62mph in just 5.1 seconds.

On the downside, fuel economy drops to an official 36.2mpg and CO2 emissions rise to an old-school 177-188g/km.

MINI Countryman JCW

The JCW gets an adaptive suspension setup, so it constantly alters its behaviour according to road conditions and driving style in order to maximise the balance between ride and handling.

In reality, it feels more planted on the road, and if anything, it’s just a bit too powerful at times.

The steering is sharp and, for the most part, the ride is better, but it’s still firm and will still crash over the worst UK roads can offer.

The engine is more refined, though some won’t like the fact that it is artificially enhanced.

Stick the JCW into ‘Go-Kart’ mode and it sharpens up, delivering more driving engagement than its conventional SUV rivals.

Verdict: The new MINI Countryman is a real step-up from its predecessor, especially when it comes to practicality and technology. Fun to drive, well equipped and nicely finished, there’s arguably more of a cooler vibe than premium feel this time round.

MINI UK

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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