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First drive: MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.

First drive: MINI John Cooper Works Countryman
Has MINI launched one of the only compact high-performance crossover options in the shape of its new JCW Countryman?

   



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MINI John Cooper Works Countryman

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Bringing some extra performance to the compact crossover segment, the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman doesn't just look fast, it handles impressively well, too. The balanced chassis and on-road performance demonstrate that it is more than merely a box-ticking exercise for MINI.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: MINI John Cooper Works Countryman Automatic
Pricing: 32,275 as tested; range starts at 30,675
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat crossover
CO2 emissions: 158g/km (500 for first year)
Combined economy: 40.9mpg
Top speed: 145mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Power: 231hp at 5,000- to 6,000rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,450- to 4,500rpm
Boot space: 450 litres (seats up); 1,390 litres (seats down)

What's this?

MINI has given its largest car the now familiar performance treatment to create the John Cooper Works Countryman. Subtle styling changes differentiate it from the Cooper S and Cooper SD models, as it gains larger air intakes in the front bumper and a more aerodynamic diffuser at the rear. The company's ALL4 all-wheel-drive system features as standard, too. It's needed as well, in order to help the JCW Countryman put all of its 231hp down onto the road. That combination of all-wheel drive and a total of 350Nm of torque sees this family-friendly crossover break the 0-62mph barrier in 6.5 seconds.

There is, of course, still a premium interior to match the premium price tag. Reminders of the John Cooper Works influence abound, with contrast red stitching featuring on the perforated leather steering wheel, door armrests, gear selector and surround. The sports seats are part leather with Alcantara inserts and they hold you in place without being too firm. All the Countryman's practicality remains, with a 450-litre boot and generous amounts of knee- and head room in the rear for passengers. The only limiting element is the transmission tunnel, which restricts foot space for the middle rear seat passenger. The back seats can also slide forward and back as well as recline.

How does it drive?

MINI provides drivers with the choice of three distinct driving modes in the John Cooper Works Countryman. However, if you like having fun when you drive, then you'll only be needing the Sport setting. Flick the rotary dial at the base of the gear selector to the left and the 2.0-litre engine's tone immediately changes. Some of this is artificial, but with so many other manufacturers doing the same thing do we really care anymore?

As standard, the JCW Countryman comes with a six-speed manual gearbox or, for an additional 1,600, you can upgrade to the eight-speed automatic tested here. Both offer identical performance in all the usual areas, such as top speed and 0-62mph times, but the automatic does slightly reduce fuel consumption.

Where the JCW Countryman impresses the most is when it's shown a fast, sweeping B-road where there's an opportunity to let that turbocharged four-cylinder engine stretch its legs. Peak power output of 231hp arrives at 5,000rpm, and spending any amount of time at that end of the rev range will soon have you clipping along at an impressive speed. The eight-speed transmission works through the gears smoothly, but should you decide to shift using the paddles there is a more deliberate jolt between shifts to add to the experience. At speed, the engine sounds great, real or not, and on the overrun there's an addictive amount of popping and crackling from the sports exhaust.

This car isn't all show though. Demand even more from the chassis and the ALL4 four-wheel-drive system delivers grips levels above what many might expect from such a car. It does primarily drive the front wheels, sending power to the rear axle only when grip levels up front begin to tail off. Around tighter bends, the back end follows quickly and there is little in the way of body roll. The big MINI does always keep you aware of its overall mass, but the ride is always well composed. Fuel consumption can become an issue with prolonged periods of enthusiastic driving, so if you want to get even remotely close to the official 40.9mpg combined figure, you'll need to spend more time in the Green driving mode rather than Sport.

Not that you'll mind all that much, as when you aren't hooning along your favourite ribbons of tarmac the JCW Countryman is still every bit the practical, comfortable crossover that its less powerful siblings are. The high-set driving position and lightweight steering make it a more than adequate town car and even the start-stop system used to help claw back some of that fuel economy is quick to react and won't have you automatically deactivating it in heavy traffic.

Verdict

While it might be easy to see the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman as something of a novelty given the lack of performance-based crossovers on the market at present, MINI has done quite a good job of making the whole package work well. It has enough performance and grip to satisfy anyone that may be moving up from a hot hatch, yet doesn't sacrifice practicality for speed. It certainly isn't the cheapest crossover on the market, but it is one of the most fun.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 14 Apr 2017



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2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.

2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman. Image by MINI.








 

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