Last Word First
This second-generation 2017 Mini Countryman will take you by surprise. Bigger than you’d expect, wonderfully laid out and finished internally, my JCW test car coming with a host of options, including All4 (four-wheel drive), it stands on the tarmac on the northside of €59k, all of which are a paradox to its name.
Whilst my test car is obviously levied at those with a liking for sporting luxury and was personalised to premium specification, the entry level, front-wheel drive models will appeal to many. Al six MINI versions come with a John Cooper Works model and with the JCW Countryman you get a car with a definite personality, one which will welcome you with a smile every day and importantly, one which being a MINI, keeps your residual well protected in three/four years time. Purchasing a JCW MNI Countryman may be seen by many as an indulgence too far - personally, I think I deserve it.
Make: MINI, Model: John Cooper Works Countryman SD All4, Format Crossover/SUV, Doors: Five, Seats: Five, Engine: 2.0 litre Turbo-diesel, Power: 190bhp, Torque: 400Nm, Transmission: Eight-speed Automatic, CO2 rating: 133g/km, Road Tax Band: B2, Annual Road Tax: €280, Boot space: 450 litres, expanding to 1,350 litres with rear seat folded, Entry price: €33,580, 1.5, 3-cylinder petrol, Test car price: €59,040
Some of the Competition; Mercedes GLE, Audi Q2, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tucson, DS4, Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008
It looks like a MINI, carries all the design cues and is the biggest of the family, standing some 4.3 metres long and 1.6 metres tall, putting it firmly in the footprint of crossovers like the Renault Kadjar, Nissan Qashqai and the recently launched Peugeot 3008 – small it is not. It runs on the same platform as BMW’s X1.
It is unquestionably the prop of the MINI front row, its outer profile way more robust than its svelte siblings. I like its looks, albeit some mentioned the styling ‘strained.’ Opinions granted, there is no doubting the buyers love for things crossover and with the John Cooper Works Countryman, MINI are targeting the premium side of the genre. My test car came with a host of options, elevating living with it to sinful, but oh so nice!
Opulent, a delight to the eyes, bordering on ornate, the John Cooper Works Countryman could easily see you running out of adjectives. It is so easy to get in and out off, the wide doors and road heights a delight for those on the long side and a tad less flexible, like me. Leather heated seats hug you like a long lost friend, whilst your hands fall to a steering wheel you’ll never tire off. Alcantara on the doors, piano black inserts and an overall combination of materials and finish that is simply five-star. At the rear three average-sized adults will find it cosy.
Even in its standard form, the MINI interior is one of the happiest places to be, being so distinctive and no other word for it, charming. Add the 'toy chest' of my test car and you find yourself inside one of the finest of rooms, with multiple comforts at your fingertips, all finished to an exemplary standard.
Drivers sit facing a speed and tachometer, a Head-Up-Display above that, the centre console dominated by the large circular ‘speedo’ taken from Issigonis’s original. This one contains a screen that provides information on navigation, radio and media. With its circumference illuminated in a choice of colours via your selection of Eco, Mid or Sport drive modes, the Countryman simply does not do boring. Below it is a line of chrome toggle switches await your flick, the centre red one operating the engine Stop/Start, another reason to love the MINI!
On the Road
Drivers expecting the Countryman All4 to deliver the same or similar driving dynamics, as a standard MINI Cooper may need to recalibrate their enthusiasm. Whilst my test car was all-wheel drive and had enough potency to bring you to the dark side, I found it best to honour this MINI’s added girth and not ask it to perform like its low-slung, lightweight, three-door sibling. The All4 four-wheel drive allows all the power to go to the rear wheels when demanded, but over my test drive, it was very reassuring on cold wintry roads to have all wheels with drive, the ride quality on the 18” alloys was also very good.
With the 8-speed automatic transmission, you can also select, via a switch on the base of the gear selector, one of three driving modes, Sport, Mid and Green. Throttle response, steering, gearshift and suspension dynamics are sharpened or cooled according to your selection.
The JCW MINI Countryman SD All4 is quite a mouthful, which is very appropriate, as it is quite the car. A premium car offering for a premium car price - a beautiful place to be.