This might sound like an oxymoron but the MINI Countryman is huge. This is the biggest and tallest MINI of them all and when I picked it up at the MINI Habitat, it totally stood out from the rest of the other MINIs.
Realising that there are MINI fans who might need a car larger and more functional the typical MINI Cooper, the crossover version of the MINI was born – the Countryman. There was the Clubman and its rear-hinged door but that did not seem to be the right solution.
The true four-door all-wheel-drive Countryman compared to the usual MINI, is 16 inches longer, four inches wider and half a foot taller, but there is no mistaking it as a MINI with its iconic proportions with enlarged insides.
Retaining the all too familiar inside of a MINI, the Countryman has only the tachometer attached to the steering wheel column and the signature oversized speedometer in the middle.
The speedometer has a 6.5-inch display within its circular screen called the Visual Boost where there are audio and telephone functions, as well as vehicle information. Controlling of the Visual Boost is via two buttons and a little joystick-like button before the steering lever.
Sitting high up within the Countryman, this is the best view ever from a MINI thanks to its taller stance. Because of the Visual Boost, it is a bit hard to read the speedometer as the needle is too small. Hence I advise reading the digital speedometer on the tachometer instead, which is easier to read because of its driver-friendly location.
A most conspicuous thing in the Countryman is this centre rails that runs from the base of the gear level all the way to the back seats. You can fix an optional armrest on it or simply just clip on almost anything onto the rails, like sunglasses cases or iPhone docks.
However, as much as it made an interesting conversational topic with my passengers, I could not find anything useful for it except for sliding the default casing on the rails to the back for the run for it. I remember watching a Countryman television advertisement overseas and the rail was used as a sushi conveyor belt to slide plates to the back!
The presence of these rails means strictly seating only two in the back, but it would have been a squeeze for three had there be no rails. Space is glorious in the back with a higher seating position and higher ceiling, making it much more comfortable than in the Clubman. If you think you prefer not to have the centre rail, you can have it removed for a three-seater rear bench.
Soaking up bumps and humps comfortably, the Countryman is driven by the familiar 1.6-litre turbocharged engine from the Cooper S, delivering 184bhp at a peak due to the addition of variable-valve timing. It is capable of 240Nm but there is an overboost function that makes it 260Nm. Using a six-speed automatic gearbox, the Countryman takes 8.3 seconds to hit 100km/h from a standstill.
MINI claims a similar drive to its Coopers but given its size, proportions and set-up, the Countryman does not quite drive as perky as the typical MINI. However, it more than satisfies the requirements of a crossover – comfortable, steady and safe, yet with that edge in driving for a sporty run once in a while. There is a Sport button that you can activate for sharper throttle response and greater steering feedback.
Some might say this MINI, like the Clubman, takes away the essence of MINI but I beg to differ. It is still a MINI in many ways, just more mature.
MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4
Engine: 1,598cc turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Max Power: 184bhp at 5,500rpm
Max Torque: 240Nm at 1,600-5,000rpm (260Nm with Overboost)
0-100km/h: 8.3 secs
Top speed: 205 km/h
Price: $190,800 (with COE)
(-): Not sure of purpose of centre rail
Conclusion: Still a MINI after all.
Rating: 7 out of 10