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Mini Countryman Cooper 2017 review: weekend test

Does this Mini Countryman do practicality and still put a smile on the face? (Image credit: Dan Pugh)
EXPERT RATING
8
I used to be a Mini tragic and proud owner of a 2002 Cooper S. With these fond memories in mind I regarded the second-generation Mini Countryman – an SUV no less. How un-Mini.

I used to be a Mini tragic and proud owner of a 2002 Cooper S. It was mountains of fun to drive with the looks to match. With these fond memories in mind I regarded the second-generation Mini Countryman – an SUV no less. How un-Mini.

To see if this perception matched reality I spent the weekend with the entry level Cooper, which lists at $39,900 with the Chili LED light package for an additional $1,500 (it's worth getting). For the money there is a surprising amount of standard kit included, all of it tastefully packaged in sophisticated Mini style.

This latest Countryman is the largest car Mini has ever produced and it definitely looks it. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) This latest Countryman is the largest car Mini has ever produced and it definitely looks it. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

With three kids under the age of 11 my days of driving 2 door hot hatchbacks like the 2002 Cooper S are long behind me (or at least until they're grown up). Qualities I used to looked for such as 'fun to drive' have now made way for 'practical', while 'cute looks' and 'perfect proportions' take a back seat to 'reasonably good looking' and 'roomy boot'.

This latest Countryman is the largest car Mini has ever produced and it definitely looks it – giving the impression all the fun has been sucked out leaving a sedate grown up version in its place. The kids' first impressions of the car though could not be more different.

For the money there is a surprising amount of standard kit included, all of it tastefully packaged in sophisticated Mini style. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) For the money there is a surprising amount of standard kit included, all of it tastefully packaged in sophisticated Mini style. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

So, does this Mini Countryman do practicality and still put a smile on the face?

More: Read Andrew Chesterton's launch review here.

Saturday

Saturday morning was a stunner and the beach was calling. Upon unlocking the car we are greeted with a cool LED lighting system that illuminates the Mini logo on the driver's side. Once the novelty of that wore off, my three kids piled in with boards, towels swimmers and immediately zeroed in on the cool cabin features.

my three kids piled in with boards, towels swimmers and immediately zeroed in on the cool cabin features. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) my three kids piled in with boards, towels swimmers and immediately zeroed in on the cool cabin features. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

My old 2002 Cooper S had more cheap plastic than the entire cast of Beverly Hills Housewives but this new Mini has matured in a far more tasteful manner - blending fun with sophisticated design.

All eyes were drawn to the light-ringed circular display and the accent light illuminating areas of the door trim and floors – a stand out feature for the kids. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) All eyes were drawn to the light-ringed circular display and the accent light illuminating areas of the door trim and floors – a stand out feature for the kids. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

Upon getting in the car all eyes were drawn to the light-ringed circular display and the accent light illuminating areas of the door trim and floors – a stand out feature for the kids. A favourite of mine from Mini's of old, the toggle switches, feature prominently with the red start button being the attention grabber. If you like tactile materials this car over delivers.

Leaving the beach to head home I had lost one of my kids to a play date but picked up two additional passengers. I suspect all four had their ears painted on for no matter how much I pleaded they still managed to bring a vast amount of beach sand into the cabin.

It never felt cramped or failed to put a smile on the dial of anyone (who all happened to be under the age of 11) who rode it in.

For the purposes of taxiing kids around the 1.5 litre three-cylinder engine performed well and for mine was the surprise packet of the car. Matched with the six speed automatic gearbox it felt capable and even at times more spritely than I imagined possible.

Once home I proceeded to grab the vacuum cleaner before spending a good portion of the afternoon trying to remove the sand. Painfully it was in every single corner, nook and cranny of the car. This is where the floor mats came in handy – removing these helped rid most of the beach debris.

Sunday

Sunday morning was spent picnicking and ferrying more kids around for play dates and shopping. The biggest Mini handled it with ease. It comfortably fit the four of us, our picnic gear and shopping bags.

The boot space is ample (with seats upright) and generous with seats folded flat. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) The boot space is ample (with seats upright) and generous with seats folded flat. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

The two front cup holders saw plenty of takeaway coffee cup action as did the door pockets – providing a temporary home to the kids drink bottles, hair brushes, hair bands and iPads. It never felt cramped or failed to put a smile on the dial of anyone (who all happened to be under the age of 11) who rode it in.

  • The two front cup holders saw plenty of takeaway coffee cup action. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) The two front cup holders saw plenty of takeaway coffee cup action. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)
  • The door pockets provided a temporary home to the kids drink bottles, hair brushes, hair bands and iPads. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) The door pockets provided a temporary home to the kids drink bottles, hair brushes, hair bands and iPads. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

The electric tailgate with foot motion sensor was a welcome feature which given the amount of gear normally lugged around,  and was used often. The boot space is ample (with seats upright) and generous with seats folded flat (40:20:40) and there's also further nifty storage space with a compartment under the boot floor.

  • The boot space is ample (with seats upright) and generous with seats folded flat. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) The boot space is ample (with seats upright) and generous with seats folded flat. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)
  • The electric tailgate with foot motion sensor was a welcome feature and was used often. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) The electric tailgate with foot motion sensor was a welcome feature and was used often. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

The shopping centre carpark provided the opportune time to test the reversing camera (standard on this model) and the front, rear and side parking sensors. For street parking, one handy feature (or party trick when entertaining three kids) is the automatic parking system to help you parallel park in those tight spots.

  • The shopping centre carpark provided the opportune time to test the reversing camera (standard on this model). (Image credit: Dan Pugh) The shopping centre carpark provided the opportune time to test the reversing camera (standard on this model). (Image credit: Dan Pugh)
  • The shopping centre carpark provided the opportune time to test the front, rear and side parking sensors. (Image credit: Dan Pugh) The shopping centre carpark provided the opportune time to test the front, rear and side parking sensors. (Image credit: Dan Pugh)

It was a classic sunny Sydney Sunday afternoon and Dad called up to suggest a trip to watch the local rugby match. Taking my son along for the ride I made a slight detour on the way to test out the Mini's driving capabilities a little more. Most SUVs leave me wondering why the 'S' stands for 'Sport' rather than 'Suburban'. Not so the Countryman, the car was both self-assured and fun to drive.

The three-cylinder engine had surprising performance chops – particularly the acceleration. On the flip side the speedo needle moves decidedly slower when pushing it above 70km/h where you feel every one of it's three-cylinders working overtime.

Engine aside the steering and feel is decidedly Mini (particularly in Sport mode) and can make you forget you're driving an SUV with kids along for the ride. The seats up front are super comfortable and shaped to keep you snug and well supported. From the design to the materials used, there is a premium feel to the cabin that invites driver and passengers to test every button and switch.

Verdict

The Mini Countryman has grown up in all the right ways with more sophisticated tech, safety equipment and practical features. It's a nifty number that will put a smile on your face and should be considered as a genuine small SUV contender.

Would the Countryman suit your family? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$38,830
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$24,530
Highest Price
$53,130

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cooper 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $24,530 – 30,250 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper Chilli 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $28,490 – 34,320 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper Chilli Pricing and Specs
Cooper D 1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $26,510 – 32,670 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper D Pricing and Specs
Cooper D Chilli 1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $30,030 – 36,190 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper D Chilli Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Dan Pugh
Marketing Director

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