The shape is unmistakably MINI, but the size suggests the name ‘Maxi’ might be more appropriate. Such is Countryman, the Sports Activity Vehicle model among the MINI range.
At a tad under 4.3m, the new, second-generation Countryman is a tad under 200mm longer than its predecessor. Width has increased 33mm, height by 13mm and the wheelbase by75mm, increasing both on-road presence and interior space.
The maker says there’s 59mm more elbow room, 50mm more shoulder room and 50mm more rear legroom. You sit taller in the ‘saddle’, too, albeit by 9cm, making for a more commanding driving position.
Second-row passengers enjoy up to 130mm of fore-aft adjustment. Seat angle can also be adjusted in the ‘comfort’ setting and the seats split-fold 40/20/40. Maximum cargo area has grown to 450 litres, a 100-litre uplift on the previous Countryman.
As well, both the exterior and interior have come in for a deft touch of the styling wand.
There’s choice aplenty with drivetrain options. Take your pick of front (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) and petrol or diesel engines, with prices ranging from $39,900 to just over $50,000.
At $43,900, our Cooper D FWD test car is positioned towards the lower end, but you wouldn’t know it going by the bevy of standard equipment that includes reversing camera, front park distance control, park assist, active cruise control, DAB+ digital radio, auto tailgate operation and an all-important driver assistant package (forward collision warning, auto emergency braking, high beam assistant and speed limit info).
A 2.0-litre, turbo diesel four-cylinder engine generating 110kW and 330Nm, driving through an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, gives the Cooper D the wherewithal to loaf along at highway speeds. Little wonder that the Cooper D Countryman is a consummate cruiser. Supportive front sports seats and comparative roominess add to the cruise experience.
0-100km/h is a claimed 8.8 seconds, but we found the Cooper sometimes scrambled for traction under acceleration moving off. ADR combined cycle fuel figure is a miserly 4.8 litres/100km; on test, we averaged 7.6.
The Countryman is among the more dynamic handlers in its segment, exhibiting the right blend of grip and ability to rapidly change direction without any histrionics. Typical of cars with run-flat tyres, the ride at low speed can prove a little unsettled.
In summary, here is the MINI concept maxed out, making the Countryman a more practical, if less ‘cutesy’, proposition than its smaller siblings.