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Mini has to toe a difficult line in order to maintain its brand identity. Its cars must be stylish, relatively small, and most importantly, fun to drive. Meeting all those criteria isn’t that hard to do on a compact hatchback, but a Mini crossover needs to strike a delicate balance of smallness and utility while maintaining that playful personality Mini is known for. That’s a tall order, but the new Countryman doesn’t disappoint.
The 2017 Mini Countryman is the largest Mini yet at 169.8 inches long—that’s 8.1 inches longer than the last-gen Countryman and 1.5 inches longer than the Clubman, which shares its platform and wheelbase. In addition, it’s taller and wider than its Clubman sibling and rides higher to give it more of that crossover vibe. The seating position is also higher than the Clubman’s, offering a more commanding view of the road. In back, the new Countryman has just 0.1 cubic foot more cargo room than the last model, but 5.4 cubic feet more space with the rear seats folded down. The cargo area is on par with other small premium crossovers such as the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA and is of usable size.
But cabin space benefits the most from the size increase. The rear seat is now more suitable for adults, gaining 3.8 inches of legroom and nearly 2 inches of shoulder room over the last-gen Countryman. The crossover’s bigger footprint is harder to perceive from the front seat, but the more upscale feel of the interior is immediately noticeable. The trim looks and feels high quality, and many surfaces you’d regularly come in contact with are soft to the touch. The interior design is still quirky, with toggle switches for the ignition, parking sensors, and other functions, and a round center stack that contains the infotainment display. But overall, the styling feels more mature and presentable. You won’t have to explain why there’s a gigantic, useless speedometer in the center of the dash to your coworkers any more. Instead, there’s an LED ring that simulates a tachometer when you rev the engine and changes colors when you switch driving modes or play with other settings. Still useless? Yes, but it looks cool. I also like that the HVAC vents are now rectangular instead of round. It makes the dash look more cohesive.
Our car came equipped with navigation and the latest iteration of the Mini Connected infotainment system, Mini’s version of BMW iDrive, which features a welcome 8.8-inch touchscreen interface in addition to the console-mounted control wheel. Inputting addresses is now much easier with the touchscreen, and zooming in on a particular part of the map can be done with a pinch gesture. Our tester also came with a head-up display, which uses a retractable sheet of clear plastic to relay relevant info such as speed and navigation directions.
With its higher center of gravity, the Countryman S All4 we sampled exhibited more body roll than our similarly equipped long-term Clubman S All4. It still handles well for a crossover on the street, however, and the grip provided by the All4 all-wheel-drive system will make you look forward to curvy freeway onramps. The ride is smooth and comfortable, aided partially by the longer wheelbase. The turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 of the S model provides 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty to move the Countryman All4’s 3,644-pound bulk around town. On the highway, the eight-speed automatic is sometimes slow to kick down to a lower gear, which can make passing more of an ordeal. Click the gear selector over to the sport position, however, and things improve. For total control, the responsive steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are your best bet because they allow you to swap cogs quickly on demand. If you need more grunt, it’s available in the John Cooper Works version of the Countryman that makes 228 hp and 258 lb-ft.
In acceleration testing, the Countryman wasn’t left in the dust by its higher-powered competitors. The Countryman S All4 hit 60 mph from a standstill in 7.2 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds at 88.1 mph. Its platform-mate the BMW X1 xDrive28i, which is powered by the same 228-hp engine as the Countryman JCW, managed to do 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and finish the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 90.5 mph. A Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic, packing a turbocharged 2.0-liter making 208 hp and 258 lb-ft, sprinted to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and reached the end of the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 89.8 mph.
The Countryman took 26.8 seconds to complete our figure-eight course at an average of 0.64 g. That matches the result for the X1 and is slightly quicker than the GLA (27 seconds at 0.66 g). The Countryman needed more room to stop from 60 mph (126 feet versus 122 for the BMW and 110 for the Mercedes). However, road test editor Chris Walton noted that the brakes have good initial bite and fairly good brake-fade resistance. In our Real MPG tests, the Countryman recorded 18.7/31.6/22.9 mpg city/highway/combined. The city result falls well short of the EPA’s 22-mpg estimate, though highway mileage is slightly better than the 31 mpg advertised.
The 2017 Mini Countryman S All4 starts at $31,950, but our tester came with $6,550 worth of options. But even at $38,500, the Countryman is cheaper than its competitors when comparably equipped. It’s also the only one available with a six-speed manual. The Countryman is just small enough to live up to the badge on the hood and big enough to be a practical option for crossover shoppers looking for something a little different.
|2017 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$38,500|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon|
|ENGINE||2.0L/189-hp/207-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,644 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||169.8 x 71.7 x 61.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.5 sec @ 88.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.85 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.8 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||18.7/31.6/22.9 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||22/31/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||153/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.77 lb/mile|