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Car Review

Mini Countryman review

£29,025 - £45,625
710
Published: 25 Mar 2024
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Smaller and lighter would've been lovely, but no dice. Oh well, the Countryman still hits its brief as an SUV

Good stuff

Fabulous interior, distinctive character, well engineered

Bad stuff

It’s grown so much it’s hardly a Mini or a hot hatch

Overview

What is it?

It’s the third generation Countryman, the model in the (now not so) New Mini line-up that tested the definition of ‘mini’ to the point of destruction. Well, if you thought the previous two iterations were packing a little excess timber, get a load of this one.

It’s a resounding 130mm longer than the outgoing model and 60mm taller, a growth spurt that moves the Countryman out of crossover territory and closer to a full-size SUV. At 4.43m, it’s not far off the length of an original Range Rover, a factoid that would likely have Sir Alec Issigonis rotating in his grave.

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The new Countryman takes its place in a broad and congested sector, the one that’s effectively the family car battlefield of the moment. Rivals include the Audi Q2, Cupra Formentor, Ford Puma (Britain’s best-selling car in 2023), Lexus LBX, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Renault Arkana, Vauxhall Mokka and VW’s T-Cross and T-Roc. The Mini aims to outwit them all in terms of digitalisation, connectivity, and perhaps most importantly personality. This is the most complete Mini yet.

So what do we get, range-wise?

The big news is the arrival of the first fully electric Countryman, in E and SE All4 versions. Both are powered by the same 65kWh battery pack, making 201bhp or 309bhp and delivering a range of 287 or 269 miles.

Hedging its bets slightly against the wholesale shift to electrification, three combustion-engined Countrymans (Countrymen?) are available. The C uses a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo that makes 168bhp, with the 215bhp four-pot turbo 2.0-litre S All4 next in line. Then there’s the John Cooper Works, powered by the same unit but with 296bhp. Mini claims 34-36mpg WLTP, while CO2 emissions are 177-188g/km.

Prices start at £29,325, but it’s the Countryman JCW All4 (the black and red one pictured above) that we’re focusing on here, priced from £41,520. Our impressions of the less powerful Countrymen and the electric models will follow. Note that no diesels will be available, nor anything with a manual transmission.

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Is the Mini effervescence still intact?

Despite the Countryman’s increase in stature, we expect Mini – in all its forms – to keep faith with the original’s inherently joyful persona (just don’t use the word go-kart puh-lease). The JCW wilfully invokes the memory of the man who helped turn the earliest Mini into such a remorseless giant-slayer, to this day one of the most amusing cars you’ll ever see racing at Goodwood. Or anywhere else for that matter.

The Countryman JCW obviously has a very different job to do, and the world is a wildly different place now, so it’s best not to get hung up on suspicions of mission creep. That said, the Countryman has its hands full in its efforts to manage traditional Mini design cues on this plus-size template. The front end is as unapologetically in-yer-face as most other things in the wider BMW Group product portfolio.

The JCW gets a new glossy blacked-out double octagonal grille, with vertical coloured inserts in the side intakes. Note the radar sensor, which is better integrated than most and enables the car to run Level 2 semi-automated driving.

I can’t see any Union Jack brake lights…

Indeed. The rear vertical light clusters are configurable and back away slightly from the questionable Union Jack motif, while at the front all Countrymen get bigger, more expressive headlights with three different daytime running light signatures. Whichever mode you choose, the lights start and end with a welcome and goodbye animation. The slightly icky notion of the Mini as your faithful companion reappears throughout.

The C’man is swollen of wheelarch and chunky of body side, and it needs that otherwise superfluous contrast colour panel on the C-pillar to distract the eye from the visual mass. The JCW gets a quad exhaust, contrasting Chili red roof, and you can have red or black bonnet stripes depending on the primary colour.

As ever, Mini would very much like you to peruse the extensive list of options and curated trim levels. Anything is possible, not all of it necessarily in line with design director Oliver Heilmer’s desire for “charismatic simplicity”. Some of the bells and whistles here come with extra bells and whistles.

What's the verdict?

The new Countryman is fit for purpose and then some. It’s roomy, versatile, and in JCW form a spirited enough performer

Amid all the talk of carbon zero factories and sustainability, you’d be right to query the merits of a Mini that’s so much bigger and chunkier than before. Smaller and lighter would be lovely, but then the human race isn’t going that way either, and this is what the market demands. Besides, smaller Minis are also available, soon to be joined by the Aceman.

The new Countryman is fit for purpose and then some. It’s roomy, versatile, and in JCW form a spirited enough performer to satisfy most drivers this side of an Alpine A110 or GMA T.50. But it’s the interior that’s the USP here, as will increasingly be the case as the focus shifts firmly onto how we interact with cars rather than what propels them. This new Mini delivers oodles of tactility, connectivity and entertainment. It’s a joyous place to be before you’ve even turned the key.

The Rivals

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