The second-generation Countryman is the biggest ‘Mini’ in the 58-year history of the company. I took the compact SUV for a spin on English country roads.
Visiting England in our summer is a bit like entering your local liquor store’s walk-in fridge. Except it’s bigger. And the chilly mist is everywhere. Which puts an even more romantic touch to the picture-perfect country estate of Soho Farmhouse. Adding to the atmosphere are a couple of original Minis, shuttling journalists between their bed for the night and the launch & dinner venue. Once again showing the enormous size difference between vintage and contemporary Minis.
When BMW introduced the nameplate Countryman in 2010 it was initially smiled at. Too big and chunky. But about 550 000 units sold worldwide proofed the point. About every third Mini sold, was a Countryman.
The new, second-generation Countryman is the biggest Mini in the company’s 58-year history. And it’s now BMW’s smallest SUV. 20cm longer and 3cm wider than its predecessor, with a wheelbase extension of 7.5cm. It is closely related to BMW’s X1 and the BMW 2-series Active Tourer. Or as BMW puts it: ‘We could have made it smaller, but not bigger, as it is using the X1’s platform’. All the happy Countryman buyers over the years had only one request: make it bigger. That’s why five seats and an electric tailgate push the second-generation firmly into compact SUV territory.
I have previously seen a fold-out picknick table in the rear, in another Brit with German DNA, the slightly less affordable Bentley Bentayga. It works like a little bench with room for two. Sweet touch. English people love picknicks. In summer.
Inside the new Countryman there is now even more space and for the first time in a Mini, a central instrument with touch screen.
Four-wheel drive (ALL4) turns the Countryman into a veritable root vole. Impressively demonstrated on a deeply rutted, muddy track in the gardens of Hedsor House. Movie posters in the gents, show, that the stately English manor house had been used numerous times as a movie location. That’s why it looks so familiar. Along the dirt track around the estate are a couple of Countryman displays. One with a roof tent mounted on top. Cool idea. But I am particularily fond of the orange ALL4, pulling a trailer with my favourite bike on, the BMW RNINET Scrambler.
In South Africa the ALL4 will only be available in the hot John Cooper Works (JCW) version of the Countryman.In dealerships from June. A diesel variant will be introduced locally in the third quarter of 2017.
Having officially arrived in the Golf class, there is not much Go Kart driving feel left and the lifestylist is not mini anymore, but the trendy family car is still playful and inside and out easily recognizable as a MINI. And one thing is for sure. Whoever liked the predecessor will love the new one.
Mini Countryman Cooper/Cooper S
Engine 1.5-l./2.0-l. petrol
Power 100/141kW and 220/280Nm
Top Speed 200/224 km/h
0-100km/h 9.6/7.5 seconds
Price R422 000 to R440 000/R490 000 to R509 000