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First drive: MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.

First drive: MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4
Bigger, roomier MINI Countryman is terrific to drive, but expensive for a family car.

   



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MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4

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If you adore the MINI badge and brand, but still need room for kids, pets and/or luggage then this is an engaging, if very expensive, solution. Those looking for practical family motoring should possibly look to better value options.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4 Automatic
Pricing: from 22,465; 28,025 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door compact crossover
CO2 emissions: 156g/km (VED Band F, 145 now; 200 if registered after April 1st 2017)
Combined economy: 41.4mpg
Top speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Power: 192hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 280Nm at 1,350- to 4,600rpm
Boot space: 450 litres (seats up), 1,350 litres (seats down)

What's this?

Just as with Monty Python's Mr Creosote, the MINI keeps on growing, becoming ever less MINI-like with every mouthful it swallows. The size and weight gain of the MINI hatchback and, to an extent, the Clubman estate, can perhaps be justified seeing as the 10-foot original never did keep pace with growing customers and growing safety concerns. The Countryman, though? Well, a MINI SUV was always going to be as counter-factual as it was inevitable, and the sales success of the first generation model guaranteed a return for the Countryman, while the slow-selling Paceman, Coupe and Roadster fell by the wayside.

This new Countryman grows yet more. It now breaks the tapes at 4.3 metres long (that's a full four-feet longer than an original 1959 Mini) and, in the form of the Cooper S ALL4 automatic that we've tested, weighs in at a not inconsiderable 1,530kg. We're not quite sure how to break it to the Countryman that the concept of 'mini' is now well and truly a dot in the rear-view mirror. It might seem hurtful.

It certainly still wants to be a MINI in appearance. Taller and longer than the old Countryman, it also manages to look a little sleeker, partly thanks to smoother-looking bumpers and squarer-looking headlights. The standard-fit roof-rails are also a nice touch, bringing a sense of intrepidity to the looks.

The boot is big - at last an advantage to avoirdupois - beating the Nissan Qashqai for volume (450 litres to 1,350 litres with the seats folded flat) and copious legroom in the back, not normally a MINI USP. Cabin quality is excellent too, although it's still both ugly and annoying that MINI persists in trying to convince us that a rectangular infotainment screen can rightly fit into a circular space in the dash.

How does it drive?

The new Countryman is undoubtedly a car that's good to drive, making it all but unique in the crossover segment for being anything but dull at the wheel. The steering feels hefty in its weight (although not excessively so) and with a touch of enjoyable road feedback. In spite of the weight, the Countryman darts in a decent impression of the classic MINI style into corners and the longer wheelbase and extra ride height ensure that, while it's firmly sprung, it's neither as bouncy nor as harsh as the hatch. It is noisy though, with a constant rumble of road noise working its way into the cabin via the boot.

ALL4 four-wheel drive will feature on all the initial launch cars as MINI looks to underline the Countryman's aspirations to join the country club crossover set. And it will actually go off road with no small degree of aplomb, as long as your definition of off road is 'some mud and a bit of damp grass in a country estate.' To be fair, few if any owners are ever going to use a Countryman on the Kalahari, but of greater import on the soggy, wet roads of Buckinghamshire where we were driving was the insouciant way that the Countryman coped with damp corners, leaf mulch and spot floods. Would a front-drive version with traction control be equally as good? Possibly so, so you might be best advised to save your money.

You can save your money when it comes to the Cooper S too as there's simply no point to it. That 1,530kg mass just smothers the Cooper S's 192hp and 280Nm of torque. The engine thrashes away manfully and loudly, but while impressive speed can be built up, there's none of the kick in the pants that you might assume would come as standard with the Cooper S name. You'll probably be better off with the diesel Cooper D or Cooper SD.

Verdict

As with the growth in size comes a growth in sophistication and the Countryman will now come with standard-fit satnav, parking sensors, emergency city braking and you can add an electric boot lid (which opens when you waggle your foot under the back bumper). Prices are also considerably swollen - climbing by the guts of 5,000 to a cheapest point (for now) of 22,465 for the basic Cooper Countryman to a whopping 28,025 (sans extra equipment) for this Cooper S ALL4 auto. Worth it? Almost certainly not, although the yin/yang temptations of driving enjoyment and solid residuals are definitely there. If bigger is better, though, you can easily find much larger, more practical cars around for similar or less cash. Now excuse us, we're just going to try and squeeze in one wafer-thin mint...

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 20 Jan 2017



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2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.

2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4. Image by MINI.








 

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