MINI Countryman hatchback
Price £16,990 - £30,125
- Generous boot space
- Economical engines
- Still fun to drive
- High-spec versions are expensive
- Uncomfortable ride
- Cheap-feeling interior
At a glance
"The MINI Countryman isn't the most practical crossover in the world, but it's fun to drive and cheap to run."
The MINI Countryman gives traditional three-door MINI looks in a larger five-door body, which means there is much more space inside, and a much larger boot than you’ll get in the normal MINI hatchback. The Countryman's looks are stretched over a longer body, meaning the five-door can’t match the three-door's cheeky style. Rivals include the Skoda Yeti and even premium hatchbacks such as the Audi A3 Sportback.
For 2014 the model got a light facelift. That brought with it new-style alloy wheels, Jungle Green paint finish. The black exterior pack is a new addition, which adds black surrounds to the front and rear lights.
MINIs are known for being fun to drive, and the Countryman continues that theme. It's a lot taller than a MINI, which means there's more body lean in the corners, but it's nothing too bad. The Countryman can also be had with four-wheel drive (in the MINI Countryman ALL4), which gives grip on slippery roads that the smaller MINI can’t match.
That said, the Countryman is better suited to road driving than off-roading and its range of engines offer a choice of peppy performance, or cheap running costs. The MINI John Cooper Works Countryman is particularly rapid, while the MINI One D Countryman is the most economical.
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MPG, running costs & CO2
Efficient engines mean quite low running costs across the range
The MINI Countryman should be quite cheap to run. The basic MINI One model can manage economy of 47mpg, although road tax will cost £130 annually, thanks to the petrol engine's relatively high emissions of 139g/km. The One D and Cooper D get diesel engines that can return up to 67mpg and emit 111g/km of CO2 emissions for road tax that's free in the first year and £30 thereafter. The Cooper SD diesel model is almost as cheap to run, but also significantly quicker.
Fastest of all is the petrol-powered MINI Countryman John Cooper Works and, as a result, it is also the least frugal with economy of 38.2mpg. Emissions of 172g/km mean road tax will be £225 every year.
Interior & comfort
Suspension is firm compared to rivals, which are slightly more comfortable
With its raised suspension, the MINI Countryman gives you a better view of the road than you would get in the standard MINI, but it is a long way off the towering bodies of some large SUVs such as the Range Rover.
There's plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat and the steering wheel, but the dashboard can be a bit confusing at first. That's thanks to the MINI's retro interior styling, which looks great but isn’t as logical as the layout in cars such as the Volkswagen Golf.
Out on the road, the car's firm seats can get uncomfortable and the interior also gets noisy, so long journeys could get tiring.
The 2014 model gained extra sound deadening and redesigned wing mirrors that aim to keep the cabin quieter. The changes have made a difference, but the countryman is still too noisy for our liking.
Practicality & boot space
It’s the most practical MINI by far
The MINI Countryman is designed to appeal to families that want a normal MINI, but can’t live with its tight interior and small boot. In the MINI Countryman, the 350-litre boot is much bigger – compared to the 211 litres offered in the MINI hatchback. Dropping the rear seats reveals 1,170 litres of space.
The Countryman gets its fair share of cubbyholes in the form of a smartphone holder, a place to leave your sunglasses, and cup holders dotted around the cabin.
The MINI can be ordered with either four or five seats. Go for the former and the two rear seats can slide forwards and backwards to give more passenger space or a larger boot – but the latter is a more popular and arguably a more practical proposition.
Reliability & safety
High quality interior not reflected in the Countryman's poor Driver Power score
Many see MINI as a premium manufacturer – and the company's cars tend to be more expensive than mainstream rivals – so we didn’t expect the firm to finish in 28th out of the 32 manufacturers in our 2013 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. That seems to be reflected by the MINI Countryman's own showing in the car rankings, where it finished a relatively dismal 125th place out of 150 cars.
The Countryman is safe, though, and it gets a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, along with multiple air bags, and stability control. That said, some areas, like adult protection, saw it underperform compared to its rivals.
However, the MINI's switches and fittings are all high quality, and any electronic problems that bothered the early MINIs have now been ironed out. The engines have all been used across the whole MINI range and have been generally reliable, and it's the same story for all the major mechanicals and components, backed up by BMW's automotive know-how.
Engines, drive & performance
The Countryman is surprisingly fun to drive, but not as entertaining as the hatchback
The MINI Countryman has precise steering and suspension that does a good job of minimising body lean in when cornering, but it still doesn’t feel as agile as the standard MINI. It does have the option of four-wheel drive (for around £1,100), which could prove useful when it snows or when the roads are slippery.
The basic MINI Countryman One does feel quite slow, though, taking 11.9 seconds to get from 0-60mph. Go for the more powerful Cooper model and that drops to 10.5 seconds, while the 187bhpMINI Cooper S is quite fast, managing 0-62mph in 7.7seconds. The MINI Countryman John Cooper Works, meanwhile, does it in just seven seconds.
There are three diesel options – the One D, Cooper D and the Cooper SD. The SD is the fastest, providing a good blend of performance and economy.
Price, value for money & options
Competitively priced, but extras are expensive
Even the basic MINI One gets DAB digital radio, a Bluetooth phone connection, heated door mirrors, roof rails, rear parking sensors and air-conditioning, but the MINI is highly customisable and it's easy to run up a big bill by picking too many options.
The MINI One gets ugly steel wheels, but replacing them for alloys will cost you £500 at best or more than £2,000 for big 18-inch versions.
Getting equipment in a bundle pack can save you money, next to buying each bit of kit individually, and the Chili pack – which includes climate control, Xenon headlights, and sport seats – looks particularly enticing. It'll help resale value when you come to sell the car, too, ensuring a decent second hand deal in three or four years time.
What the others say
"Inside, there’s MINI’s trademark chrome toggle switches and huge central speedometer, plus the new Centre Rail which holds cups, sunglasses and phones. The interior isn’t perfect, though. Some plastics in out-of-the-way places feel a little cheap for a model that starts at £22,030, and the aircraft-inspired handbrake lever takes some getting used to."
"The Countryman blends the retro style that Mini buyers love with enough practicality for a small family. All versions are frugal and well equipped."
"MINI is the latest to jump on to the crossover bandwagon insisting that its new creation, the Countryman, is definitely not a 4x4 and absolutely not a hatchback. It's a 'crossover' and no argument. Of course, the motivation behind all this is the predicted sales that it might achieve."
"Your first impressions will match ours: it's big. Eye-rubbingly big; this is a MINI with remarkable height, prominent front end, bulbous rear; from the roofline to the lights, everything about it is, well, big."