- A bigger Mini—in this case, a good thing
- Far more refined than before
- But still full of character
- Willing engines, terrific handling
- Huge degree of customizability
- Pretty big, by Mini standards
- Gets pricey fast
- No real off-road ability
- Premium fuel required
It may be less mini than before, but the Mini Countryman now does a much better job of feeling like a proper crossover.
It might share its name with the Mini Cooper Countryman that went on sale half a decade ago as the brand's first foray into the crossover world, but the model is all-new for 2017—and there's more than meets the eye.
Beneath its maxi-Mini body, the Countryman shares its engines, its suspension, and its platform with the latest BMW X1. We're more enamored with the Countryman than its pricier brother, however. The Mini brims with personality, is a hoot to drive, and costs a lot less to boot. We've given it a 7.0 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Countryman is closely related to the Mini Cooper Clubman, too—but this model has a seating position nearly half an inch higher and a taller body. It's not quite a lifted Clubman, however, since the two don't share body panels.
Mini Cooper Countryman performance and styling
For now, it's a tale of two Countrymans (Countrymen?): the base Cooper with its 1.5-liter inline-3 that develops 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque and the Cooper S with a turbocharged, 189-hp 2.0-liter inline-4. Depending on options and equipment, both cars are available with front- or all-wheel drive that's not really intended for serious off-road use, plus a choice of 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, and 8-speed automatic transmissions.
Even the base model is firm and planted on a curvy road, with terrific ride control and sharp steering that borders on darty. For $500, the optional adaptive suspension can firm things up at the flick of a switch, and it seems like money well spent for enthusiasts. There's little of the thumping and crashing exhibited by the old model's suspension, a virtue of a far more sophisticated setup (worthy of the BMW badge) underneath the new 2017.
A sport-oriented John Cooper Works variant with standard all-wheel drive also arrives soon, but we haven't driven it. What makes it especially interesting is that it combines the X1's 228-hp, 258 lb-ft version of the 2.0 with either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic; the BMW is only offered here with an automatic. The JCW version also has its own suspension setup and sports seats inside, plus a zippy-looking body kit.
The coming plug-in hybrid Cooper Countryman S E ALL4 sports the base powertrain and standard all-wheel drive, which it delivers in a through-the-road setup. The gas engine powers the front wheels; the electric motor and 7.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery send their power to the rear wheels as traction needs arise, or as the car's algorithms decide using the rear wheels will improve efficiency. All told the plug-in hybrid system puts out 221 hp and 284 lb-ft net through a 6-speed automatic. Mini figures a 0-60 mph run will take 6.8 seconds, while top speed will reach 137 mph. Mini says it will actually be the quickest car in its lineup in real-world use and it has a 24-mile electric-only range.
It's all new, but the Countryman's looks don't give much away. Yes, it's nearly 9 inches longer from head to toe and its wheelbase is up a few inches, too, but the latest Countryman only looks different once you've parked the old model next to it. There's some detailing differences, but the most obvious thing is that the old car looks like a 2017 that was left in the dryer for too long.
The Countryman remains unabashedly bulbous from every angle, with the off-roady styling bits necessary to butch things up a bit. Unpainted fender flares and a little more ground clearance make it look more at home in front of a ski lodge than the tonier Clubman, for instance. Of course, this is a Mini, so dozens of paint, body kit, and wheel configurations are on offer. You'll want to block out an afternoon or six to place your order if you're one of the roughly third of all Mini buyers who chooses to personalize rather than buy right off the lot.
Mini Countryman comfort, features, and safety
A slimmer all-wheel drive system that digs into the floor less helps open up more cargo and human space in the Countryman; four adults can sit in relative comfort, but a fifth in the rear bench's middle seat should perhaps be a bit smaller. The Countryman is a bit narrow, but not significantly tighter than most smaller compact crossovers.
Where it makes even more ground than before is in its interior finishings. Soft-touch materials abound and there's less of the confused clutter of switches, knobs, armrests, and pads than we've ever seen. Yes, there's plenty of Mini character inside with overstyled gauges, no shortage of whizz-bang light-up effects, and enough color options to make you dizzy. But it also feels just enough grown up in places where its predecessor felt a little amateurish.
Coopers are pretty well outfitted, as they should be for a price that's well above cars like the Hyundai Tucson and Subaru Forester. A panoramic roof is standard (but can be deleted for those who don't want the sign beating on their heads), as are the expected power windows and locks. Automatic climate control, a 6.5-inch infotainment screen controlled by a version of parent company BMW's iDrive knob, and a proximity key are nice additions, too.
The S adds the 2.0-liter engine, of course, as well as LED headlights and foglights and a few styling touches.
All-wheel drive runs $2,000 and also includes heated seats. But that's just the beginning as far as options go. You can work you way into the low-$40,000 range if you don't exhibit some restraint at your local Mini dealer. Several packages make basic ordering fairly easy, but from there a prospective buyer will need to sort through a wide range of styling and convenience items that we'll describe later.
No version of the Countryman has been crash-tested by either the IIHS or the Federal government just yet, but all include a backup camera, eight airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking are on the options list.
2017 MINI Cooper Countryman
It's awkward and bulbous outside, but the Countryman is quirky and fun inside.
The Mini recipe hasn't changed much since parent company BMW rebooted the brand more than a decade ago. Even though it's the largest Mini yet (by a wide margin), the Cooper Countryman follows the same theme inside and out.
It's still fun, but not especially imaginative anymore, so we've only awarded an extra point above average for the Countryman's well thought-out interior. That brings it to a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Outside, the latest Countryman is sort of a bloated version of the old car—but you probably wouldn't realize that unless you parked the two side-by-side. The 2017 is almost 9 inches longer than its predecessor, yet it hides its extra girth well. Mini's familial face up front features a pronounced chin and slightly bulgier headlamps than we've seen in, say, the standard Cooper. From the side, an oddball roofline with a strong horizontal line over the cargo area adds some awkward visual interest.
We like things inside much more.
Again, Mini convention remains: a big, round panel in the center of the dashboard serves as a hub for virtually all vehicle functions. Base cars have a 6.5-inch screen, while a gorgeous 8.8-inch touchscreen is on the options list. Below that sits climate controls and some chrome toggle-style switches for features like the start/stop system and the ignition. Right in front of the driver is another round panel—except this one contains an analog speedometer and tachometer, as well as a digital fuel gauge.
2017 MINI Cooper Countryman
Terrific gearboxes, a willing chassis, and excellent steering make the Countryman a hoot for a crossover.
For now, there's a choice of two Mini Cooper Countrymans on offer. Neither is a hot rod, but both do their job well thanks to a well-tuned suspension, a stiff chassis, and excellent electric power steering.
Those merits bring the Countryman to an 8 for its performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
What's most surprising is how much more fun this little crossover is than its BMW X1 sibling. The BMW is sedate and not especially engaging, while the Countryman comes across as only mildly manic. It's the most relaxed Mini in ages, but it's still something of a hot hatch when pressed.
Base models utilize a 134 horsepower, 162 pound-feet of torque turbocharged 3-cylinder engine mated as standard to a 6-speed manual. It's a thrummy little unit at idle, transmitting more engine vibration to the steering wheel than we're used to these days. With the optional 8-speed automatic on all-wheel drive models (front-wheel drive variants have a 6-speed automatic), the 3-cylinder bogs down at first before collecting steam.
Still, we estimate a 0-60 sprint of about 8.5 seconds, meaning it's fairly peppy for the way most people use vehicles in this class. It'll run the pants off of a Mazda CX-3 or Subaru Crosstrek, for instance.
Step up to the Countryman S and you'll net a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 189 hp and 207 pound-feet. It's a version of the engine used in a wide variety of BMW products, including the 3-Series, the X1, and even the 5-Series. Here, it can be had with a 6-speed stick (all-wheel drive only), or a choice of 8-speed automatics—standard and sport. Both automatics are basically the same thing inside, but the sport version has different tuning, slightly beefed up internals, and steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The Countryman S is noticeably stronger in all situations and it's smoother. Oddly enough, there's not much of a fuel economy hit either; the all-wheel drive automatic is rated at 26 mpg combined in the S compared to 25 mpg combined for the base car.
Underneath, a new platform makes the Countryman considerably stiffer than before, which allowed for Mini to tune its suspension far better. There's considerably less crashing over urban and highway pot holes, yet the Countryman corners flatly with minimal body lean. It's a hoot to put through its paces and its precise electric power steering aids in the driving excitement. That steering is a little jumpy off center, but it doesn't take that much getting used to.
The $500 adaptive suspension is a worthwhile option for those who want even more zest to their crossover. Flick a switch to sport mode and it firms up the ride a bit without degrading things significantly. It's an unusual feature at this price point and it's quite inexpensive for what it is.
All models are fairly quiet, but we noticed a lot of road rumble from the optional 18-inch wheels (standard on the S) over the admittedly loud Northwest pavement we encountered during our preview drive near Portland.
2017 MINI Cooper Countryman
Comfort & Quality
The Countryman is well-outfitted inside with great materials, but it's not exactly lavish in terms of interior room.
Mini has made big strides inside the Countryman with much nicer materials and solid build quality, but it can feel a little cramped with a full complement of passengers and cargo aboard.
We've given it a point above average for its upmarket feel; even base models are nicely-wrought while those loaded up are luxury-grade. That brings it to a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Nicely grained, soft plastic trim adorns the Countryman's doors and dashboard; even where rivals now splice in some hollow and hard plastic, the Countryman is something of a throwback in terms of its thoroughly upmarket feel. Spend some time adding in fancier trim panels and upholstery and you'll net an interior that wouldn't feel out of place at $10,000 more—and that's really saying something since the Countryman is definitely expensive.
But in terms of human and cargo hauling, it's clearly still on the small end. There's way more rear seat legroom than before thanks to a smaller rear suspension that intrudes less into the cabin (and a longer wheelbase) plus a bench that can be moved fore and aft. The rear seat also features a convenient 40/20/40-split arrangement for a nice mix of cargo and passengers.
Much of the Countryman's extra length has been put into its cargo area, which can accommodate four roll-aboard suitcases if they're wedged in just right. A power tailgate is optional, but the non-power one is light enough that the option might be worth passing on.
Yet there's still a narrow, tight feel even if four adults can fit in reasonable comfort. The center console is narrow, and not because the Countryman has wide seats. Its available sport thrones are confining for even skinnier folk. Broad riders will almost find their shoulders rubbing one another up front.
2017 MINI Cooper Countryman
The Countryman hasn't yet been subjected to testing.
We can't actually assign the Mini Countryman a score for its safety since it has yet to be evaluated by federal or independent testers, but it does offer the expected safety equipment. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
We'll update this space when we hear back from the IIHS or the NHTSA.
All models feature a new structure composed with, oddly enough, more high-strength steel than you'll find in the related BMW X1. Eight airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and a fairly high resolution backup camera are all standard. A package bundles adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, two items we think are worth the extra cost. An advanced parking package can slot the Countryman into a parallel parking spot on its own, too.
The Countryman boasts good visibility thanks to its tall windows and narrow roof pillars.
2017 MINI Cooper Countryman
There are countless ways to make your Mini different.
Let's just put it this way: if there's a 2017 Mini Countryman in your future, you're going to want to block of some time to pick out just what options you want.
We've given it points above average for its wide range of customizability, its good standard specification, and its comprehensive infotainment setups. That delivers an 8 out of 10 score for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Starting with infotainment, all models come standard with a 6.5-inch screen that we'll admit we haven't yet tested. The optional 8.8-inch setup with navigation, on the other hand, is terrific once its steep learning curve is mastered. It's a touchscreen with pinch-and-scroll capability like on a tablet and it responds quickly to inputs. A control knob between the driver and passenger is augmented by a laptop-style touchpad and a few mode buttons. It's easy enough to work out on its own, but the knob's placement is awkward at best.
The navigation system boasts beautiful maps and, for a small monthly fee, a 4G card delivers high-resolution satellite imagery that's among the best we've ever seen.
Navigation is, unfortunately, a $2,250 option in an era where some competitors are providing that tech for $500. But the package does include a pair of handy fobs that can be attached to a briefcase or purse. If you drive off without a fob (and the item it's attached to), the Countryman will let you know that it's not inside the vehicle.
Base Countrymans come with a few nice surprises. In addition to the expected power windows and locks, they add automatic climate control, a proximity key, a panoramic moonroof (that can be deleted at no cost), 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps and wipers, and more. All-wheel drive runs an extra $2,000 and includes heated seats.
The S brings with it the 2.0-liter turbo-4, plus LED head and foglights, 18-inch wheels, sports seats, and adjustable interior lighting.
Options range the gamut. Most features are boxed into option packages that can get pricey if they're all selected. A $2,000 Premium Package adds heated seats (front-wheel drive), Harman Kardon audio, and a power tailgate. For $750, the Convenience Package includes an alarm, more power sockets, and some cargo management features for the trunk. At $2,000, the Sport Package for base models adds an adaptive suspension, 18-inch wheels, and sports seats.
Once you've picked your package, most of the decision making after that point is about colors inside and out, body kits, trim panels, and wheels (both steering and tire-wrapped).
All in, it's not hard to top $40,000 on a Countryman S with all-wheel drive, but we configured several nice models around $32,000 with front-wheel drive and $36,000 with all-wheel drive regardless of engine.
2017 MINI Cooper Countryman
At 25 mpg combined, the most popular Countryman is pretty thrifty.
With a choice of engines, transmissions, and drive wheels, the 2017 Mini Countryman lineup offers a lot of variables when it comes to fuel economy.
The good news? All models are right around 30 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined, with a few exceeding that figure. The bad? They all take pricier premium fuel. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Using our scale, the Mini Countryman range nets a 7 out of 10 for its efficiency.
Let's first look at all-wheel drive models. Stick-shifted base Countrymans lead the pack at 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined. The automatic changes those figures to 23/30/25 mpg. The 4-cylinder S model comes in with 21/31/24 mpg with the stick and a more impressive 22/31/26 mpg if you opt for the automatic.
Front-wheel drive Countrymans are, naturally, a bit thriftier.
The base model with a manual is rated at 24/32/28 mpg, while the 6-speed automatic option ups that a bit to 25/32/28 mpg. There's only one gearbox on offer with the front-wheel drive Countryman S and it's rated using the EPA's testing procedure at 23/32/27 mpg.