Mini Countryman VS Jeep Compass
- More mature looks
- Safety overhaul
- Still fun to drive
- Ride can feel overly firm on standard suspension
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Inevitable price hikes
- Good looking
- Limited and Trailhawk are off-road capable
- Spacious cabin
- No AEB as standard
- Reversing camera picture isn't great
- Hard seats
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Mini Countryman Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S and Cooper SD All4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Canberra.
Mini's new Countryman is officially the least mini Mini ever made. So un-Mini, in fact, it now stretches over 4 metres in length for the first time ever. It's also taller and wider than the car it replaces, making it the biggest Mini ever produced by the brand.
But there's method to Mini's super-sizing madness, with the brand desperate to make sure its new Countryman isn't just big, but is also a big deal for the first time in its brief history.
The outgoing model makes up about 15 per cent of Mini's sales in Australia - despite playing in the most popular segment - and the brand's bosses reckon they know the problem. Internal surveys reveal more than 30 per cent of people who were considering a Countryman, but ended up buying something else, did so because it was too small and impractical to be used as a family car.
And so it's grown in every direction. Its now 20cm longer, 1.5cm taller and 3.3cm wider, and it sits on a 7.5cm longer wheelbase. And while those numbers might not sound massive, it makes a difference in the cabin, and adds an extra 100 litres of boot space.
So is a maximised Mini a good thing?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
SUVs are so ridiculously popular right now that nearly all carmakers have one, and if they don't they're scrambling to work out how to build one.
The new Jeep Compass is a small SUV along the same price and size lines as the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or Nissan Qashqai. What Jeep was keen to impress on us at its launch was that the top two specs – the Limited and the Trailhawk – were quite capable off-roaders. That is an ambitious statement, and for something to have any off-road ability in this small SUV class is rarer then teeth on a hen.
We went to the wilds of Tasmania to drive these two. The mission: Are they really any good – off and on the road?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Bigger is better for Mini's Countryman. More space, more technology and with a more mature styling treatment, the Countryman finally offers the right ingredients to appear on family shopping lists.
2017 Mini Countryman range specifications
Price: From $39,900
Fuel consumption: 6.0L/100km (Cooper), 4.8L/100km (Cooper D) 6.5L/100km (Cooper S), 5.2L/100km (Cooper SD)
Tank: 51 litres
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited
Service Interval: Condition based
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol, 100kW/220Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 110kW/330Nm, 2.0-litre petrol, 141kW/280Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 140kW/400Nm.
Transmission: 6-sp auto/8-spd auto
Spare: Run flats
Turning circle: 11.4m diameter
Dimensions: 4,299mm (L), 1,822mm (W), 1,557mm (H)
Would you prefer a Countryman to an X1 or a Q2? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The mission was to find out if the Compass – specifically the Limited and Trailhawk – was any good on or off the road. The answer is these two are excellent. Excellent for light-duty off-road terrain, but also good performers on the tarmac. It is disappointing that AEB is not standard even on these top-spec grades and if it was my money the optional safety gear would be the first thing I'd add before anything else.
Practical, spacious, and easy to drive it's great to see an SUV where the U for utility really means something.
The sweet spot in this range would be the Longitude for value, but if you're choosing a Compass give good consideration to the Limited - it has four-wheel drive, plus the bigger screen.
Check out Peter Anderson's video from the Compass's international launch early last year:
Is the Jeep the small SUV you've been waiting for that will finally take you further that the cafe on the corner? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Like an old-school Mini that's been stung by something flying and horrible, the Countryman has swollen in every direction, with Mini also smoothing out some of the design quirks of the outgoing model.
A redesigned grille and bonnet give the front end a calmer, more mature look, while the higher roof line and the fact the 18-inch alloy wheels have been positioned at the furthest corners of the car make the Countryman seem bigger but more well-proportioned than the car it replaces.
Inside, there's a half-premium, half-techy air to the cabin. All models get well-bolstered, leather-trim seats, a meaty steering wheel and some genuinely cool touchpoints including the bright-red switch that fires up the engine. The dash is still dominated by a huge and light-ringed (part of a more extensive illumination set up that also shines ambient lighting in the footwell) circular display that houses the multimedia screen, while the air-vents have now been placed vertically.
There's a new-found maturity to the cabin. Nicer materials, less in-your-face dials and a genuine sense of premium. The cabin lighting is hit and miss though, but the little Mini dial that lights up on the sidewalk as you approach and unlock the car will surely put a smile on some owner's faces.
There are too many cute SUVs on this planet, which is why Jeep's unapologetically tough exterior styling is always welcome in my books. The Compass is more a mini Grand Cherokee than the Cherokee, with a high, broad and flat bonnet, squared-off headlights, signature seven-slot grille, bulky, strong wheel arches and the rear spoiler. This is a darned good looking SUV. The Trailhawk with its tough body kit gives the Compass an even more hardcore presence.
American cars tend to have less refined cabins than European and Japanese cars, but the Compass's interior has a premium feel. That said, we were only given the top-spec Limited and Trailhawk to drive, with their leather seats, large screens and all the fancy trimmings.
The Compass's dimensions are interesting because at 4394mm end-to-end and 1819mm wide, it's a big-small SUV like the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Nissan Qashqai.
The height varies from the Sport and Longitude, which are 1629mm tall, to the 1644mm Limited and the Trailhawk at 1657mm.
The Compass also has small design elements you'll adore or abhor. They the 'Easter egg' surprises Jeep loves so much – tiny design features hiding around the car. I'm a fairly cynical bloke but even I liked discovering the lizard, the Loch Ness Monster, the Morse Code and the Willy's Jeep grille hidden around the car.
Growth is good for Countryman buyers, with more room for passengers and luggage. Shoulder room and leg room have both grown (albeit by about 5cm), and the interior never feels cramped no matter whether you're sitting in the front or the back.
Boot space has increased, too, growing from 350 litres to 450 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seat in place, and from 1,170 to 1,390 when it is folded flat.
Standard fit includes two cup holders for front seat passengers, plus room in the doors for bottles, but both the S and SD models also get a pull-down divider in the rear seat that houses another two. There's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
It's been a long time since I've squealed with delight (in a car), but until I pulled the little tab on the Trailhawk's front passenger seat, I had no idea its base folded forward to reveal a huge storage compartment underneath.
Under-seat storage space is rare, and while the entry-level Sport doesn't have the secret stowaway compartment every Compass has a decent sized centre console bin, two cupholders up front and another two in the back, plus bottle holders in all the doors.
A boot with a cargo capacity of 438 litres makes it one of the biggest in the class, although it can't quite beat the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross's which can go from a luggage capacity of 341 to 448 litres thanks to a sliding rear row – no such thing with the Compass. Still you won't find many small SUVs with boot space dimensions this generous. The Compass's cargo cover (liner) is the no-retractable type.
How many seats in a Jeep Compass? There's seaitng for five and the room is excellent with a spacious cockpit for the pilot and whoever called shotgun, while rear legroom for me was great with about 40mm of space between my knees and the seat back which was in my driving position (no easy feat with me being 191cm tall).
Headroom is good, too – even with the optional sunroof fitted to the Limited and Trailhawk I tested.
I also liked the chunky, tough-looking, all-weather (standard) floor mats in the Trailhawk.
Price and features
The bad news first: there's pricing pain right across the streamlined Countryman line-up, with the like-for-like cost of entry into an automatic model climbing by $3,400, and the cheaper still manual option banished from the line up altogether.
The range now kicks off with the entry-level Cooper, now starting from $39,900, sitting below the Cooper D at $43,900. The first of the fun-flavoured variants arrives next, the $46,500 Cooper S, with the 2017 line-up topping out with the $51,500 Cooper SD (Sport Diesel) All4 - the only model to get all-wheel drive.
You do get a heap more kit for your money, though, even if some of the items really should have been included on the outgoing model, too. You get a reversing camera for the first time, for example, but you'll also find front and rear parking sensors, an auto-parking system, cruise control, 18-inch alloys and a powered boot you can open by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
Elsewhere, expect leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a 6.5-inch screen (still not a touchscreen, but you can option one) paired with a six-speaker stereo and an admittedly cool light system that illuminates the Mini logo on the footpath when you unlock the car.
But the big news is the standard safety equipment that makes an appearance even on the entry-level Cooper. But more on that under our Safety heading.
Spring for the Cooper D and you'll find the same kit, but add two gears to your automatic gearbox, now an eight-speed. The Cooper S adds a sports transmission, a rear centre armrest, LED headlights and the steering wheel from the John Cooper Works models. You also get a drive-mode selector, but adjustable dampers are a cost option. The SD model gets the same as the S, only with all-wheel drive.
Want to get into a Jeep Compass model for as little money as possible? Go the Sport grade, which lists for $28,850 and you'll also instantly become more attractive because it has a manual gearbox. Can't shift on your own? Don't stress there's an automatic, but you'll pay another $1900 for the privilege. Just to be clear the Sport is not a Sport edition - there really is no sportier slant here compared to the rest of the range.
Standard features at the Sport level are fairly ordinary but, no, Jeep hasn't been stingy. There's a 5.0-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, six-speaker stereo with digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity, leather wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control (not the adaptive type), daytime running lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Want more? There's the Longitude, which would come close to being the best value in the range but further up the price list at $33,750, and comes with all the standard features of the Sport grade but adds auto headlights and wipers, roof rails, tinted rear glass and passenger seat storage.
Yup, a 5.0-inch screen is small, so if size matters to you, you'll be impressed by the 8.4-inch display in the $41,250 petrol version of the Limited.
This grade also comes with a massive haul of standard feature such as sat nav (GPS navigation system), Apple Carplay and Android Auto for iPhone and Android users, nine-speaker Beats Audio sound system with digital radio, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats (but no heated steering wheel), leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto headlights and wipers, roof rack, tinted rear glass, auto parking (park assist for parallel and perpendicular parking), passenger seat storage and 18-inch alloys. Want diesel with that? Then you'll pay another $2500.
The Trailhawk sits at the top of the range at $44,750 but misses out on some of the Limited's standard features. This might seem like some type of scam, but it isn't because while it doesn't get a proximity key, push button start and the fancy stereo, it comes with off-road components such as red recovery hooks and under-body protection, there's also different 18-inch rims to the Limited.
I'm not a fan of the reversing camera picture quality. I can tell the screen is excellent from the clarity of the maps in navigation, but the camera itself must be letting things down with not capturing the best quality image. Not a deal breaker, though.
The Compass comes with two USB ports and two 12-volt outlets (one of each in the front and in the back), while the Limited and Trailhawk also come with a 230-volt outlet.
A power tailgate can be optioned on the Limited and Trailhawk through the purchase of a $2450 tech pack. A panoramic sunroof is $1950, and if you like the two-tone black roof that'll be $495 please.
The sport and Longitude come with halogen headlights, while the Limited and Trailhawk get bi-Xenon. There are no LED headlights in the Compass range, sadly.
All come with hill assist, but only the Trailhawk has hill descent control. I know what you're thinking - no CD player. Yes, outrageous.
Only the 'Colorado Red' colour is the standard paint, the rest are optional and includes 'Minimal Grey' which is really silver, 'Brilliant Black', 'Vocal White', 'Hydro Blue', 'Grey Magnesio', 'Mojave Sand' and 'Bronze Metallic' a sort of orange or as I like to call it Electric Brown. No yellow or army green unfortuantely. How cool would a Trailhawk look in a matte green? That would be special.
The genuine accessories list isn't huge for the Compass and doesn't list a bullbar, nudge bar or a snorkle - it would be best to speak to Jeep before fitting these through another provider.
What other SUVs would you compare the Compass to? Well, as a model comparison the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross matches the price and size, while the Nissan Qashqai would be another rival. That said if it was Qashqai vs Compass off the road - the Jeep would win hands down.
Engine & trans
Things kick off with a less-than-exciting three-cylinder engine housed within the entry-level Cooper. The 1.5-litre power plant produces 100kW at 4,400rpm and 220Nm from 1,400rpm, fed through a six-speed automatic before being sent to the front wheels. It'll squeeze a 9.6sec zero-to-100km/h sprint out of the cheapest Countryman.
Step up to the Cooper D and you'll find a 2.0-litre diesel under the bonnet producing 110kW at 4,000Nm and 330Nm from 1,750rpm. It will reduce the sprint time to 8.8secs, using the first of the eight-speed automatics in the Countryman line up.
The sporty Cooper S squeezes 141kW at 5,000rpm and 280Nm from 1,350rpm from its 2.0-litre petrol engine, channeled to the front wheels via an eight-speed sports automatic, which is enough to produce a 7.4sec sprint to 100km/h.
Finally, the Cooper SD All4 gets a 2.0-litre diesel donk producing 140kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 400Nm from 1,750rpm, fed to all four wheels through an eight-speed sports automatic. The 100km/h sprint takes an identical 7.4 seconds, however.
The Compass is available with a 2.4-litre 129kW/229Nm four-cylinder petrol engine or a 2.0-litre 125kW/350Nm turbo-diesel. Yup, the diesel motor is smaller in engine size but that turbo makes up for it, while the petrol feels like it needs more horsepower. Those are fairly simple specifications to get your head around, which is good.
The catch is the Sport and Longitude only come with the petrol engine, in front-wheel drive (FWD) (4x2) with a six-speed auto or six-speed manual offered on the Sport, and auto only for the Longitude. There's no rear wheel drive only Compass.
The Limited comes with a choice of the petrol or diesel, with four-wheel drive (4WD) (4x4 or 4 wheel drive, which is different to most all wheel drive systems) and a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Jeep does not recommend towing in the front-wheel drive petrol variants, while it advises the braked towing capacity of the 4x4 petrol Limited is 1000kg and 1500kg if you're in the Trailhawk. That's not terrific pulling capacity, but remember this is a small SUV. A tow bar kit is available through Jeep's accessories department.
During test we didn't experience any automatic transmisison problems or general transmission issues.
Gross vehicle weigh ranges from 1905kg for the Sport to 2189kg for the Trailhawk.
The Trailhawk is diesel only, which is the better engine, with its higher torque all rushing in as low down as 1750rpm (idle is about 800rpm). The petrol isn't bad, it's just not as grunty.
Thank the auto gods that Jeep hasn't chosen a CVT auto. The nine-speed auto is great – quick and smooth, although, with so many gears, it can sometimes feel indecisive about where to shift next.
The entry-level Cooper will sip a claimed/combined 6.0 litres per hundred kilometres and produce 138g per kilometre of C02. The Cooper D is the most miserly of the Countryman family, returning 4.8 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, and will produce a 126g per kilometre of CO2.
The sportier models will predictably cost you more at the pump, with the Cooper S drinking 6.5 litres per hundred kilometres (claimed/combined) and emitting 149 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the Cooper SD need 5.2 litres on the same cycle, while emitting 138 grams of C02 per kilometres.
Quite a lot or not much depending on which engine you choose. The petrol is the thirstier one, and when teamed up with the six-speed manual in the FWD Sport is claimed to consume 8.6L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads, while the six-speed auto in that grade and the Longitude lowers that mileage to 7.9L/100km.
That petrol engine in the 4WD Limited with the nine-speed auto uses 9.7L/100km according to Jeep, but the trip computer was telling me it was necking 12L/100km, which isn't bad fuel economy considering there was a stack of off-roading going on, too.
The diesel in the Limited will only need 5.7L/100km and Jeep says you'll get the same from that engine in the Trailhawk, although our trip computer was reporting an average of 10.1L/100km. But again, that was after highways, country roads and a lot of off-road work.
If it came down to diesel vs petrol, normally I always go for petrol, but not in the case of the Compass. The diesel engine makes the driving experience much better.
The Compass has a fuel tank capacity of 60 litres - both for the petrol and diesel versions.
There's s reason F1 cars don't offer much boot space, and that's because bigger is rarely better in the slippery world of aerodynamics and performance. So the model we were most excited about driving - the overgrown Cooper S - was also the one we approached with the most trepidation.
Happily, it still feels the most urgent of the current crop (a JCW version is still en route) with a zero-to-100km/h time that doesn't set the world on fire, but equally doesn't feel anything resembling slow. The optional variable dampers ($700) make a different on rougher road surfaces, with the harsh and jarring ride of old banished in favour of something a little more smooth, but no less connected.
Equally important, though, is that its weight gain hasn't hurt it in backroad hillclimbs. While the tired old "like a go-kart" description can't be applied to something now the the genuine size of a small SUV, it still feels constantly planted to the road, with direct steering and plenty of feedback fed through the meaty steering wheel.
Step up to the range topper, the diesel-powered SD All4 and things take a turn for the weirder. On paper, the all-wheel-drive model should kill it. A mere kilowatt less power than the Cooper S, but a bucketload more torque, along with the ability to channel that power though a clever all-wheel-drive system should see it devour the sprint. But with that extra kit comes extra kilos (1530kg versus 1460kg), and so the offical time is bang-on that of the petrol-powered S.
But it never feels as quick in the real world. It lacks some of the free-revving fun of the petrol, instead choosing the next gear early in the rev range in automatic mode, and flat-out refusing to shift down a gear as you approach a corner should you take over the shifting via the manual paddles. It feel no less planted than the Cooper S, and it grips and sits beautifully on the twister stuff, but the fun factor just isn't the same.
While we didn't sample the Cooper D, we spent some time in the fun and frugal Cooper. Its three-cylinder engine offers enough power to keep you entertained in the city, but things get a little less fun out on the open road where the climb from 80km/h to 100km/h can feel eternal. The ride, too, feels rougher, with the suspension set to a sportier ride which allows harsher bumps into the cabin.
But all of that stuff will fade into obscurity when you're off the twisting roads and back in the city - and let's face it, that's where the Countryman will spend the bulk of its time. And it's here where Mini's changes make the most sense. The cabin feels light and airy, you can fit more stuff in the boot, the interior treatment is first-class and the addition of crucial driving aids will make day-to-day driving so much easier.
Jeep had the two highest spec grades of the Compass saddled up for us to drive – the Limited and the Trailhawk. Both are 4WD and have the nine-speed automatic, but because the Trailhawk runs on diesel and the Limited we had was a petrol variant, the personality differences were apparent from the get-go.
The Limited's four-cylinder petrol is the slightly more powerful of the two engines, but the Trailhawk has far superior grunt thanks to the extra torque from that turbo-diesel engine.
The Trailhawk idles at about 800rpm, and by 1750rpm all 350Nm is under your right foot – great for towing and the low-end torque suited the slow off-road component in our test where a slow crawl and low-range gearing was needed.
That off-road section wasn't the most challenging terrain I've seen, but the elbow-deep ruts and the soccer ball sized rocks on the dirt road we climbed up would have stopped just about everything else in the current small SUV class in its tracks.
The Trailhawk's 225mm of ground clearance combined with the 30.6-degree approach and 33.1-degree departure angles are impressive. This combined with a low-range, lockable 4WD system make for a competent light duties off-roader.
Sure, it's no body on-frame Wrangler, but I challenge you to find something from another brand in this segment that is this adept off the road.
The Limited doesn't have a low-range 4WD setting, but it does share the Trailhawk's selectable terrain feature for snow, mud and sand. We took the Limited off-road, too, and while the course wasn't as gnarly as the Trailhawk's route, you'd be mad to take a regular city-focused SUV where we took the Limited.
On the road I found myself drawn to the Trailhawk for its extra grunt and ride comfort (higher profile tyres and off-road suspension make life comfier), while the Limited felt a little too firm. Handling in both is good for the class.
Some road noise from the tyres in both found its way into the cabin, while wind noise was minimal.
There's good visibility out the windscreen, thanks to thoughtfully designed A-pillars, while the view out the back and rear quarters is also unobstructed.
Steering is my only main complaint – while accurate, there's a lack of feeling and feedback through that wheel. An 11.0m turning circle is getting big for a small SUV, too.
No Compass is super quick with the 0-100km/h time ranging from 9.3 seconds to 10.1 seconds. An SRT compass would be great. Hint, hint, Jeep.
The Trailhawk's wading depth is 480mm, while the rest make do with 405mm.
The Countryman has gone from one of the worst in show (no reversing camera?) to one of the strongest standard safety performers. The now-standard reversing camera joins front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parking system that will take over the steering for you when manoeuvring into a tight spot.
But you'll now also find Mini's Driver Assistant Package, which includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and AEB, and street-sign recognition that reads the signs as you pass them and displays that info on the in-car screen. You can add to that active cruise that will come to a complete stop with traffic before accelerating to speed again, and five airbags (dual front airbags, a side airbag for the driver and two curtain airbags covering both rows of seats).
The Jeep Compass scored the maximum five-star ANCAP score when it was tested in 2017, and while the Longitude does have seven airbags, traction and stability control and ABS it does not come standard with advanced safety equipment such as Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) – you'll have to option that feature.
The $2450 'Advanced Technology Group' package is available to option on the Limited and Trailhawk and adds AEB, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, blind spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. I'd buy that package before I even though about any other option.
There are three top-tethers for child restraints across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
Where is the Jeep compass built? The Jeep Compass that is sold in Australia is made in India.
The Mini Countryman is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires what BMW calls "condition-based servicing", meaning your car is serviced when it needs to be, rather than after a predetermined amount of kilometres. Owners can prepay their maintenance costs for five years or 80,000km for $1,240.