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The second-generation Mini Countryman SUV is nearing the end of its model life. It’s been on sale in Australia since 2017 and there is a new one coming in the next two years. It will be electric and grow in size, leaving space for the new Aceman to slot into Mini’s line-up.
Until then, Mini is doing what it can to maintain interest in the quirky small SUV, and that means special editions. There are a bunch of them in the Mini stable at the moment, including the Resolute edition, available with the three- and five-door Hatch, Electric Hatch and Convertible, and then there’s the Clubman Untold.
Like these variants, the Mini Countryman Untamed edition tested here adds some visual flair to an already handsome model.
We road tested the Countryman SE Hybrid Untamed on a recent trip to Germany to attend the reveal of the Aceman concept. So while the same model is available in Australia, note that the driving conditions differ from a local review.
Mini does limited editions a bit differently to other brands. It usually adds new grades to the model line and then eventually, it disappears. Unlike other carmakers that often add a special-edition model that is limited in number.
The Untamed will continue on in the Countryman line-up until Mini Australia says it’s done. It’s not based on another grade - it is a unique grade in the Countryman line-up.
This is a little more than the price of the regular Hybrid, the Classic ($64,000) and Yours ($69,000).
That $70,000 price tag isn’t cheap, even among its premium rivals. Some other offerings you could get for similar money include the all-electric Lexus UX300e (from $74,000), an Audi Q3 40 TFSI quattro Sportback (from $66,100), or a Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV (from $66,990).
The Untamed adds visual flourishes inside and out including two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels, the exclusive 'Momentum Grey' paintwork, lower air intake, side skirts and rear apron all in the body colour, Mini badges using the signature grey, black roof rails, headlight housing and mirror caps, and an 'Untamed' inscription on the rear three-quarter window and side sills.
Inside, the Untamed adds 'Highland Green' trim with blue and green contrast stitching (although carbon black trim is also offered), Untamed mountain logo on the seats and bottom of the steering wheel, and other visual tweaks.
Other features that are standard in the Cooper SE Hybrid Untamed include keyless entry and start, power heated exterior mirrors, heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic tailgate, a 5.5-inch digital instrument cluster, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a wireless charger and an 8.8-inch touchscreen multimedia with sat-nav, voice recognition, wireless Apple CarPlay and digital radio.
Five years into its life and the second-generation Countryman still looks good. It was only through seeing a first-gen model a couple of days ago that I realised how fresh the current model still looks.
It’s got that unmistakable Mini look with signature headlights and grille, and the exterior mirrors that pop out at a very specific angle. But given the Countryman is a small SUV, it’s got chunky wheel arches with cladding, roof racks and the dimensions expected of a vehicle in this segment. It’s a more successful execution of a retro-inspired SUV than something like the Fiat 500X.
The exterior colour and flourishes of the Untamed don’t exactly transform the Countryman, but they are visually appealing.
Inside, the Highland Green trim with the contrast stitching is just gorgeous. It’s such a perfect match for this car.
Some people don’t care for Mini’s busy interior design, but it’s certainly unique. The brand-specific switchgear is appealing, especially as most brands ditch the switch in favour of controls housed in digital screens.
In the driver’s seat, you will find a nice upright driving position, helped by reach and height-adjustable steering column and a comfortable seat that adjusts multiple ways.
Even with a smallish rear windscreen, visibility is surprisingly good in the Countryman, thanks to lots of glass and a big front windscreen.
The chunky Nappa leather steering wheel looks and feels high-end, and the controls are easy to understand. I love the use of manual air-con controls and the switches for other vehicle functions sitting just below.
Being a Mini, the multimedia screen lives in a circular housing towards the top of the centre stack. It’s another way Mini stands apart from its rivals - no other brand has an interior like this.
While I like the overall vibe, the 8.8-inch screen is small by today’s standards, and it shows the Countryman’s age. Also, the system is a little fussy and not the easiest menu to navigate.
The wireless Apple CarPlay is glitchy and drops out frequently. It also cuts out when the vehicle’s proximity sensor detects that the car is too close to an object and shows where the obstruction is on the screen. It takes a while for CarPlay to reset.
Storage wise there’s space for larger bottles in the doors and plenty of nooks to hold personal items.
There’s a surprising amount of space in the rear of the Countryman. For a Mini, it's kind of maxi. Headroom won’t be a problem for taller folks and there’s more rear legroom than some models in the segment above it.
The second row features lower air vents, two USB-C ports, map pockets and heaps of space in the door cavity to store big bottles and other tall items. There’s also a centre fold down armrest with cupholders.
That rear pew is best described as flat and on the firmer side of comfortable. It split-folds 40/20/40 and has top tethers and ISOFIX on all three seats.
Open the rear hatch and you’ll find a boot that can swallow 405 litres with all seats in place (1275L with the rear seats folded), which is 45 litres less than the Cooper S. That’s due to the plug-in hybrid hardware impacting boot space.
That 405L might not sound massive, but it’s more space than in the petrol-electric hybrid Lexus UX (334L), and it’s not far off the dimensionally larger Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV (414L).
The seats fold almost flat and there are a few little nooks, luggage straps and a 12-volt outlet.
The Countryman SE Hybrid is the brand’s sole plug-in hybrid model.
The drivetrain combines a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with a 7.6kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor on the rear axle.
According to Mini, the combined power and torque output is 165kW and 385Nm.
It has a 0-100km/h dash time of 6.8 seconds.
The plug-in hybrid Mini has an official combined fuel use figure of 2.4 litres per 100 kilometres, and emits 54g/km of CO2.
It has a 36-litre fuel tank and requires premium ULP. The electric only driving range is 51km on the WLTP test cycle.
Our brief drive through the Bavarian countryside was not conducive with monitoring fuel use, but we did notice the regenerative braking adding charge back into the battery as we drove.
The Countryman PHEV has a CCS Type 2 plug and can be fully recharged in about two-and-a-half hours at 3.7kW.
The Mini Countryman has not been rated by ANCAP for crash safety.
It comes with standard safety gear like six airbags, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, an emergency call button and a run-flat tyre indicator.
Countryman PHEV also comes with front and rear parking sensors, a rear parking camera, a speed limiter and a pedestrian sound activation when in electric mode.
There’s no active lane keeping aid or blind spot monitor, and it lacks the front centre airbags of more modern competitors, but that’s down to its age.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Mini warranty is still just three years and unlimited kilometres, down on the five-year/unlimited km term of most rivals.
Unlike most other makes, Mini (and parent company BMW) have ‘condition-based servicing’, which is when the vehicle’s computer will inform you when the car needs a service.
All Minis are available with a five-year/80,000km capped price servicing plan, the basic level starting at $1640 for standard models, rising to $1700 for JCW variants.
It’s been a while since I’ve driven a Countryman so it was nice to reacquaint myself with it in PHEV guise.
As is the case with many hybrid and EV models, the Countryman takes off nicely from a standing start using electric power. Because of this, there is no lag from the engine because it hasn’t kicked in.
Once it does, it’s an incredibly smooth transition from electric to petrol propulsion - unlike some other PHEVs out there.
Mini says it will do 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds (quicker than the sporty Cooper S by 0.7s), which is hot hatch quick, but it hits triple digits without much fuss at all, thanks in part to the AWD traction and excellent smooth-shifting six-speed auto.
If you want even more urge, switch to 'Sport' mode, but 'Mid' (normal) mode offers more than enough poke. There’s also 'Green' and 'eDrive' modes if you want a calmer drive experience that avoids the petrol engine altogether.
Given the Countryman’s size and heft, it’s never going to bother its smaller Hatch sibling when it comes to handling and dynamic performance. But, it’s much more sprightly in tight corners and on winding country roads than I remember. You can have a great deal of fun in this car.
Given we were driving on flawless German autobahns and Bavarian country roads, I won’t go into too much detail on the ride quality. In this environment, there was little to fault, but that is almost certainly going to be different driving on Australian pockmarked back roads and highways.
The Countryman is expensive when compared with some premium small SUV rivals, and the model is showing its age when it comes to in-car technology and safety specification.
But there is nothing else like it in its segment and people with a love of the Mini brand will likely forgive these points.
It ticks the green box, offering decent, usable PHEV range, and it maintains that all-important Mini fun-to-drive factor. It’s a funky city-centric SUV with a big personality.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.
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