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Mini Countryman JCW 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7
As surely as night follows day, the Countryman now has a JCW pack. But is it more of a hot hatch than a quick SUV?

Way back in January (yes, it's August already), I was piloting a second-generation Mini Countryman through Oxfordshire's back roads and I rather enjoyed it. Partly because my perverse nature marvelled at how cranky this car makes traditionalists but mostly because it was good. Very good. 

Another reason I enjoyed it was the fact that there was clearly plenty more to come from the chassis. 

Mini agrees and as surely as night follows day, the Countryman now has a JCW pack which will no doubt make the even crankier. Mini put us to work driving the new Countryman JCW on both sealed roads and gravel for the first time in Australia.

Mini Countryman 2017: Cooper JCW All4
Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$47,960

Is there anything interesting about its design?  7/10

The Countryman is one of those cars that generates plenty of column inches. The Countryman JCW is likely to generate a few more. Traditionally, JCW bodykits are a bit on the wild, overblown side, but the Countryman's is rather more relaxed. You can still tell - red-edged side vents, honeycomb grille, new air intakes (the foglights are gone) and red brake calipers and you can spec a red roof, stripes etc. Its sheer bulk compared to the hatch is hard to hide, but I don't think Mini has tried to conceal it.

  • The Countryman is one of those cars that generates plenty of column inches. The Countryman is one of those cars that generates plenty of column inches.
  • Its sheer bulk compared to the hatch is hard to hide, but I don't think Mini has tried to conceal it. Its sheer bulk compared to the hatch is hard to hide, but I don't think Mini has tried to conceal it.

Inside is all up-spec when compared with a base Cooper. The fabric and leather combinations are all from what is usually the options range, but you've really got to like circles. The Countryman interior is more restrained than the hatch and convertible on that front, with vertically-aligned rectangular vents to break up the round theme. The garish LED lights still ring the central media screen and some controls but otherwise it's a really slickly executed cabin.

How practical is the space inside?  7/10

Front seat passengers enjoy the provision of a pair of cupholders, as do rear passengers. All four doors have a bottle holder each, too.

The five door Countryman JCW gets two-tone 19-inch alloys. The five door Countryman JCW gets two-tone 19-inch alloys.

The boot is a whopper for a car this size, cramming 450 litres into the Countryman's frame, rising to 1350 litres with all the middle row seats folded down. The boot floor conceals a deep bin where a spare might usually intrude, providing yet more storage and odds and ends can be packed away in various bins and slots. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outward positions and the rear seats also slide back and forth so you can tune the space a bit.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  6/10

I'll call it the Countryman JCW, but on the spec sheet it labours under the name Mini Countryman John Cooper Works All4 and can be had for $57,900, almost $18,000 more than the range-opening Cooper. Mini says it offers an extra $10,000 of added value over the old Countryman JCW, so that's tempting.

If you're interested, the new Countryman is already taking around a quarter of Mini sales (the hatch is still king at around 60%), but Mini reckons there's more to come from the Countryman. The brand as a whole had a record June and July, with numbers up significantly over last year.

The Countryman interior is more restrained than the hatch and convertible. The Countryman interior is more restrained than the hatch and convertible.

For your nearly sixty grand, you receive a five door Countryman with two-tone 19-inch alloys, active cruise control, reversing camera, JCW interior bits, leather interior, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, keyless entry and start, 12-speaker stereo, Mini Connected (from September), up-spec sat nav, adaptive automatic LED headlights, auto wipers, heated electric mirrors, head-up display (with JCW extras) and front and rear parking sensors.

An eight-speed automatic with paddleshift comes standard, however you can choose a six-speed manual as a no-cost option if you're prepared to wait for them to build it.

The JCW scores the up spec "Professional" sat nav which brings with it a bigger central screen, coming in at 8.8-inches and with touchscreen functionality. Controlled by a rotary dial on the console, the system is obviously based on iDrive and - wonder of wonders - comes standard with Apple CarPlay (from September 2017) and some clever integration called Mini Connected. The stereo is Harmon Kardon branded and has enough power for a small car as well as DAB+, two USB ports and requisite Bluetooth.

The garish LED lights still ring the central media screen but otherwise it's a really slickly executed cabin. The garish LED lights still ring the central media screen but otherwise it's a really slickly executed cabin.

You can specify a series of packs. The $3120 Climate pack adds a sunroof, tinting and heated front seats. Convenience ($1105 on the JCW) adds an alarm and auto anti-dazzle mirrors. The Road Trip ($650) adds a picnic seat hidden in the boot, luggage net and tyre pressure monitoring.

Metallic paint is a searing $1170 (with two colours, Lapis Blue and Rebel Green for $1690), extra sports striping ($455 per set)... the list goes on.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

As the name suggests, all four wheels are supplied with drive via a ZF eight-speed automatic (or no-cost option six-speed manual). Power comes from BMW's modular engine range, this time the 2.0-litre four cylinder delivering 170kW and 350Nm. 0-100km/h arrives in 6.5 seconds for the slightly tubby 1540kg machine.

How much fuel does it consume?  7/10

The official combined cycle figure sees the JCW swallow 95RON at the rate of 7.8L/100km for the manual and 7.4L/100km for the auto. As this was a launch drive that included track and gravel, our fuel figures are meaningless.

What's it like to drive?  7/10

It's unexpectedly firm. I put that down to two things - the stiff-sidewalled, low-profile run-flat tyres and the need to rein in body roll owing to the higher ride height necessitated by its SUV-ness. That said, it really only gets fidgety on terrible surfaces and on the loose stuff it soaks up the bumps if you're not in Sport mode.

The fabric and leather combinations are all from what is usually the options range. The fabric and leather combinations are all from what is usually the options range.

If you dial the driving mode back to Comfort, it smooths out on the bad stuff with a small sacrifice in cornering prowess, but no Mini is a plush-rider, base-spec Countryman excepted. Even on the wet, slippery roads we traversed, the Countryman changed direction really well and cut into corners with great enthusiasm and reassuring security.

On the gravel section we covered, you could feel the power shuffling about to stop the car understeering off the mud and muck into the boonies. It's quite at home on a reasonably maintained gravel road - even in this sporty spec - and handled a couple of nasty washouts quite well.

There are ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outward positions and the rear seats also slide back and forth. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outward positions and the rear seats also slide back and forth.

The 2.0-litre twin scroll turbo is substantially different to the Cooper S engine, with a new turbo, new pistons and extra cooling behind the lower left bumper intake to cope with the extra grunt and heat. It's a strong engine, but you always feel like it could do with a few more revs before the eight speed shifts up with a trademark fart. It doesn't quite have the knife-edge throttle that I'd like in a JCW, but you can't have everything.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

The JCW comes with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, speed sign recognition and forward AEB. As with the rest of the Countryman range, ANCAP awarded five stars, the highest available, in May 2017.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  7/10

Minis come with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty and the Countryman JCW is no exception. You'll also get roadside assist for the duration.

You can also pre-pay your servicing for five years/80,000km with two levels of car - Basic and Plus. Basic covers, well, basic service items and labour and will set you back $1240 (works out at $248/year) and the Plus covers fluids and other items and costs $3568 ($713.60 per year)

Pricing Guides

$40,260
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$25,410
Highest Price
$55,110

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cooper 1.5L, PULP $30,470 – 36,740 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $27,830 – 33,550 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $31,460 – 37,950 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $25,410 – 31,350 2017 MINI COUNTRYMAN 2017 Cooper Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features6
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership7

“The Countryman John Cooper Works was a bit of an oddity in its first generation but with the fundamentally better base of the second generation, it makes more sense. While it's closer to $60,000 than perhaps we might all like, the extra cash does go on considerable upgrades to the engine and chassis. The outlay also goes on a full-fat interior that's lovely to be in and now comfortable for four people and their stuff. Does a mini-SUV need to go this fast? Who cares. It's fun, like a car wearing the Mini badge should be.”

Is the Mini Countryman JCW the fun you're looking for? Tell us in the comments.