Mini PH launches all-new Countryman SUV
The Countryman SD has the heritage of fun with light quick steering and a general quirkiness
When we drove the first MINI Countryman years ago, we were expecting not to like it.
The Germans had made the British more Teutonic, though admittedly more reliable.
Then it became a trendy but small SUV. Things definitely were being stacked up against the big little mini.
Then, the funniest thing happened. We loved it. It was the right size for actual use, and it had the playfulness of the platform we loved, but with a bit more stability.
On the track, it was surprisingly predictable, and ended up turning in quicker times than cars with more power and a more comfort-oriented suspension.
The new model is bigger, and uses the space quite well. It is 200 millimeters longer, has a wheelbase that is 75 mm longer, and is 30 mm wider.
In the driver’s seat, there’s more headroom and shoulder space.
The front is quite a pleasant place to be, with very nicely done brown leather seats in the Countryman SD model we tested.
The seats are well bolstered, which makes for proper support during spirited cornering, but which can also make entry a bit of a twist.
Steering on this car is nice and tight, quite playful. You get to choose three modes of play in this car, which are dictated by how you move the large ring surrounding the gearshift in the center console.
We are happiest in sport, which calls up images (literally) of a rocket ship and a go kart on the display.
Mid is what they call standard, and green is eco mode, which seems a bit low on energy—but then that’s what you’re trying to save, right?
The whole car, though, is skewed sporty in terms of
handling, which is where you may get complaints from
The Countryman is by far the most passenger-friendly MINI yet, but that doesn’t stop you from accelerating quickly as often as you can or taking corners with a little more speed or having to hit the brakes a bit
harder. The two-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel (the only badge to this, by the way, is on the engine cover itself, identifying it as a Twin Power Turbo) in our test car has a good dose of torque and a pretty touchy throttle.
The 1995 cc and 16 valves produce 190 hp and a very fun 400 Nm in the SD, up from 150 and 330, respectively, from the Cooper D model.
The D gets a 6-speed automatic transmission. The SD, with its higher power and more spirited use, comes with an 8-speed sport automatic.
The SD wants you to be on the move. It is happier at speed, and other than some slight lag at start and roll-off (two turbos, remember), it is quick to deliver power.
Green mode and normal mode are all you need as you roll between traffic lights around Bonifacio Global City.
Sport mode is for when you want the power waiting at your toes.
Here’s a tip: if you move the gearshift left onto manual mode, things get a little bit more sprightly because the revs are a little higher and more in the powerband.
Shifting up under full acceleration using the paddles is quite fun, and sounds great even with the diesel under the hood.
Under hard acceleration, you will be quickly reminded that you are in a front wheel drive with lots of torque.
Steering will get a bit light, and this will be particularly obvious when you are accelerating on a turn on uneven road surfaces (C5 behind BGC) as it feels like the wheels hunt a bit.
Overall, the new MINI Countryman SD is to the old one pretty much what the Countryman was to the other smaller siblings.
It has the heritage of fun with light quick steering and a general quirkiness about it.
Details—such as the start/stop button that has its own heartbeat, a nice foldout padded seat for when you want to protect either your or your car’s behind if you sit in the trunk, and colors that you will only see at night—all contribute to the fun factor.
I particularly enjoy the fact that the air vent controls are simple and have full movement in all directions, and that the heads-up display rises out from a folding cover like something out of a Bond villain’s lair.
But all the fun has grown up, and this Countryman is more mature, more refined.
It has more space, and that space is used well with pockets and cubbies and just more room.
The rear seats are adjustable, and now have a fold-down center with places for drinks.
Whereas previous MINIs would be second or third cars, this one could well take the place of the daily driver.
The longer body has added trunk space as well, and the trunk lid is electric so everything is that much easier.
It is a car that can fit far more easily into your daily life than any other MINI, and it will probably put more smiles on your face due to sheer amusement than most other cars.
This is one of those cars that you find yourself taking the longer way home, and taking advantage of corners that might not be all that interesting with other SUVs.