Cooper S ALL4
MINI Countryman is the first
four-door MINI, the largest ever
and the first with four-wheel drive,
although two-wheel drive versions
are likely to be the most popular.
In 2011 the Countryman will gain
further exposure when it becomes
the model MINI will use for their
return to World Rallying...
THE COUNTRYMAN IS THE FOURTH MODEL type in the MINI range, joining the three-door
Hatch, the Convertible and the Clubman estate. But that's not going to
be the end of the expansion… two-door Coupe and Roadster versions of the Hatch
are being launched in the next two years and MINI has just announced a three-door
coupe version of the Countryman to be called the Paceman
that will be with us in 2012.
There are also rumours that MINI will return to its roots in the not too distant
future with a small city car. Enthusiasts will notice that I have not included
the e-MINI. Yes, they do exist but these two-seater electric-powered Hatch versions
are prototypes being used to test the technology for a small BMW passenger car.
year MINI sold 234,000 new cars worldwide. The USA is now the brand's largest
market (with over 300,000 customers in the ten years since the re-launch of
MINI in the States) followed by Germany and the UK. In this country last year
43,894 new MINIs were sold a healthy 10% increase over 2009. With
more models joining the line-up, sales will inevitably increase which, of course,
is always good news. Around 15,000 Countryman versions will be sold in the UK
all other MINIS
to date, the Countryman
isnt built in the UK
at Plant Cowley its
built by Magna Steyr
in Austria because they
are experts with
BMWs all-wheel drive
Out of the 200+ new cars or derivatives I tried and tested last year, there
were only a couple of models that gave me doubts. One that did was the MINI
Countryman. Not only did it have a 'steroid-enhanced' body design but during
my initial test drive session I found it didn't drive all that well. Furthermore
it was expensive and its size, added weight, 'jacked-up' suspension and all-wheel
drive system didn't give it the responsive go-kart handling the MINI is justly
Unlike all other MINIS to date, the Countryman isn't built in the UK at Plant
Cowley it's built by Magna Steyr in Austria because they are experts
with BMW's all-wheel drive technology. That noted, there seems to be no difference
in quality, fit or finishings, with no squeaks or rattles, so the marque's premium
brand status appears to have been retained.
However, being a premium brand means premium prices. The Countryman prices now
range from £16,340 to £22,495 for manual transmission models and £17,565 to
£23,725 for autos. The seven-model line-up of specifications is One, One D,
Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper D ALL4, Cooper S and Cooper S ALL4. Of
course, MINI is all about lifestyle packs and options and there are the usual
Salt, Pepper, Chilli, Media and Vision packs depending on which model is chosen,
plus a whole host of other extra-cost goodies.
All engines petrol and diesel are of 1.6-litre capacity,
with 89 and 110bhp diesel and 97, 129 and 181bhp petrol.
My latest Countryman road test was with a top-of-the-range Cooper S ALL4 version.
With a six-speed manual 'box it weighs-in at £22,495; a big price for a bigger
MINI with a body length of 4,097mm, a width of 1,789mm, a height of 1,561mm
and with a kerb weight of 1,455kg there's no 'mini' in these figures.
a week of use the Countryman is still no masterpiece of styling in my eyes or
indeed in the eyes of most people who asked about it. Certainly people found
it interesting but not likeable.
higher ride height
is okay in urban traffic,
where I suspect most
owners will use it the
Yes, it does offer families a more versatile vehicle because of its four passenger
doors and a rear tailgate that accesses a 350-litre boot (with the rear seats
folded, there's a roomy 1,170 litres of cargo space). But for this kind of money
getting close to the purchase price of a BMW X1 xDrive crossover SUV which is
roomier, even more 'brand desirable' and which rides and drives better as well.
The Countryman offers the choice of two or three rear seats mine
had the twin bucket seat layout. Three seats can be ordered as a no-extra-cost
option although the middle one is narrow and in this configuration only three
children can be accommodated in the back. Of course, the added body length and
sliding seats mean extra legroom for rear seat passengers so in that respect
the Countryman is the best MINI for family use.
Despite it bulbous exterior looks, with only a hint of MINI styling details
remaining, the Countryman's interior remains classic MINI. The huge, centrally-mounted
speedometer, the rev-counter mounted on the steering column and the fiddly window
and heater controls positioned in the centre console are all retained.
The seating is comfortable and the quality remains high. All up-market items
of specification are fitted: electrically-operated front windows and mirrors
to air conditioning, rear parking sensors, alloy wheels, Start/Stop button,
alarm, central locking and sports steering wheel plus much more.
The ride very much depends on what type of driving is being undertaken. The
higher ride height is okay in urban traffic, where I suspect most fashion-conscious
owners will use it the most often. But on the open road the elevated body leans
through corners and the car generally feels unsettled with a compromised ride.
The trademark 'skateboard' agility has gone.
In the countryside, the all-wheel drive does have an advantage for added grip
during winter weather conditions but when the roads dry out I'm not convinced
that four-wheel grip is of much more use. The ground clearance, although higher
than that of an ordinary MINI, is not enough to give the Countryman any off-road
capabilities except for crossing grassy fields or driving along gravel tracks.
hard there is evidence that this particular Countryman impresses more on country
A and B roads. Here there is added confidence that the car can purposefully
use the twin-scroll turbocharged engine's 181bhp and 177lb ft of torque. This
is the environment where the ALL4 Countryman impresses most, and I can see it
has huge potential as a rally car.
hard there is
evidence that this
more on country
A and B roads...
Not so good: bloated styling, feels cumbersome at lower speeds, road tyre noise
intrusion, other 4x4 compact crossovers are more practical and cheaper. Plus
points include a great, hugely-responsive engine, drive it in a sporting manner
and you get the usual MINI thrills, feels well made and it caters for MINI owners
with a growing family.
Having only seen two other Countryman MINIs on my local Cotswold roads during
the last week a wealthy locality where I would have expected to
see more I rather suspect the Countryman is more about 'being
seen' in the well-heeled urban jungle than the countryside where proper crossovers
and SUVs remain both more practical and more desirable.
MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4 | £22,495
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds | Overall Test MPG:
Power: 181bhp | Torque: 177lb ft | CO2 157g/km