Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

Mini Countryman 2021 review: Cooper S LCI


Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5

MINI has always been about bucking trends, going against grains and sticking it to the man.

Case in point: The Countryman. In the face of their inexorable rise to total domination, this is one small SUV that is handsomely outsold by its hatchback sibling. Last year, the regular Mini was ahead by nearly 60 per cent.

Now there’s a facelift version of the second-generation (F60) Countryman launched back in early 2017. Released late October, it has ushered nearly-inextinguishable changes to the grille, bumpers and (despite being only-ever built in Austria, now Union Jack-addled) tail-lights, along with redesigned instrumentation, more equipment, greater efficiency, better safety and inevitable price rises.

Are Australian Mini fans missing a trick, then? We take the Countryman to the city (and beyond) to find out.

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

Objective value judgements generally fly out the window when a Mini is involved. This brand is steeped in very specific nostalgia-fuelled ‘60s Carnaby Street-themed fashion sphere, and so is often purchased with the heart, not the head.

This is especially so in the Countryman’s case – which starts from $44,500 before on-road costs and any of the myriad personalisation options for the Cooper – since it is essentially the size of a $26,000 Kia Seltos, and sails well past $70,000 if the flagship John Cooper Works (JCW) pocket-rocket is requested.

With all this in mind, our muscled-up Cooper S automatic – kicking off from $52,900 but tested in loaded-up Signature guise with no added options from $58,200 before ORC ­– must instead be assessed against equally salubrious sporty small SUVs, where it actually starts making fiscal sense. These include the closely-related BMW X2 sDrive20i from $55,900, Audi Q3 40 TFSI quattro from $54,450, Jaguar E-Pace P250 R-Dynamic S from $63,900, Lexus UX200 F Sport from $55,750, Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 from $66,500 and Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design AWD from $56,990. A riches of choice.

Objective value judgements generally fly out the window when a Mini is involved. Objective value judgements generally fly out the window when a Mini is involved.

This is a fertile hunting ground for the iconic Brit, and it must be said, the Countryman Cooper S Signature really makes a compelling case for itself when you dig further into its specs. 

For starters, being an ‘S’, it junks the normal Cooper’s 100kW/220Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo for a 141kW/280Nm 2.0-litre four-pot turbo, driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. If you want an all-wheel drive Countryman, you’ll need to find $60,900 for the mouthful (and somebody’s future password) Cooper S E Classic ALL4 PHEV plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Or another $1K on top of that for the JCW Pure ALL4. Both smash the S for torque, FYI.

Even the cheapest Countrymen includes a powered tailgate, digital instrumentation, wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay, digital radio, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, keyless entry/start, AEB with pedestrian detection, speed-limit display, traffic-sign recognition tech, a rear camera, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, auto high beams, light-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, sliding/reclining rear seats (a rarity in this class) and auto parking with front and rear sensors.

The S adds a trio of driving modes (Green/eco, Mid/normal and Sport), forward collision warning and braking pre-conditioning, pleated-look leather trim, heated front seats, a JCW sports steering wheel, piano black interior trim, 18-inch alloys on run-flat tyres (so no spare) and – not least of all – heaps more oomph.

Even the cheapest Countryman includes digital instrumentation with Apple CarPlay. Even the cheapest Countryman includes digital instrumentation with Apple CarPlay.

Finally, selecting Signature for another $5300 (that’s 10 per cent of the total price, folks) doubles the number of colour choices (to eight) combined with four rather than a single (black) interior hue options, as well as a Nappa leather steering wheel, Anthracite headliner, illuminated interior trims, contrasting exterior mirrors, a Harman Kardon audio upgrade, electric front seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, heavier glass tinting, an alarm and those evocative 19-inch alloys dubbed ‘Turnstile Spoke’.

Unfortunately, for a Cooper S with adaptive dampers that promotes better ride comfort, you need to – rather ironically – choose the Sport Package from $59,700.

Our feeling is that Signature (in particular) is more in keeping with the spirit of Mini’s trend-setting personalisation capability, but it’s a mistake not being able to configure adaptive dampers only on the Cooper S’ Sport Package.

By the way, beneath that Mini styling is BMW’s UKL2 architecture that also underpins the X1 and X2 SUVs, as well as the latest front-drive/AWD 1 and 2 Series (coupe/convertible excepted).

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The biggest Mini in history ought to be called the Maxi, but that name is already steeped in BMC-era folklore. Actually, so is Countryman, given it was actually the name of the original two-door wagon (never sold in Australia) right through the 1960s.

Anyway, chunky styling, a lofty ride height (with a handy 165mm ground clearance) and an animated face give the spruced-up Cooper S Signature a fair degree of presence, if not grace.

Chunky styling, a lofty ride height and an animated face give the spruced-up Cooper S Signature a fair degree of presence. Chunky styling, a lofty ride height and an animated face give the spruced-up Cooper S Signature a fair degree of presence.

In truth, this is a caricature of the Sir Alec Issigonis original, fused awkwardly on to a contemporary small-SUV shape. All the Mini tropes are there – from the circular (ish) headlights and open-mouth grille to the upright pillars, wheel-at-each-corner stance and contrasting roof panel.

Interestingly, the R60 original of 2010-17 was more akin to a jumped-up hatch/wagon crossover, and is prettier for it; perhaps that’s because it was paired to the failed Paceman three-door SUV/coupe curio. What was BMW thinking?

How practical is the space inside?

If you’re an owner or a fan of the earliest Countrymen, you might ask what became of its novel/gimmicky front-to-rear rail system that allowed for options like an armrest, storage cubby or even sunglasses holders to be slid back and forth. Interesting in concept but cheap and tacky in practice, it was largely discarded by the R60’s 2014 facelift.

The F60 falls in no such trap. The twee cartoonish elements of previous BMW-era Minis are thankfully being diluted with each successive update. For 2021, a 5.5-inch digital cluster with a matt finish look takes over from the old analogue dials, for a more contemporary appearance. But don’t worry, post-modern traditionalists, rows of toggle switches have survived this round of cultural culling.

Speaking of culture, if British label Burberry stylised a Mini interior, then surely the Signature’s would be it.

As for the Countryman cabin basics, they’re as conventional and functional as any BMW-era Mini’s has been. As for the Countryman cabin basics, they’re as conventional and functional as any BMW-era Mini’s has been.

Pleated stitching, patterned textured dash trim, brushed metal door spears – it’s as opulent as it is garish if you decide to forego black for no-cost cream, caramel or (a personal favourite) blue.

As for the Countryman cabin basics, they’re as conventional and functional as any BMW-era Mini’s has been. Big doors open wide into an interior that’s cosy yet roomy, aided by lofty seating and deep windows providing ample light and airiness, backed up by a solidity to most touch points that corresponds with this Cooper S’ premium pricing.

While the multimedia system’s buttons look a little childish, they function beautifully – it’s basically BMW iDrive rebranded. The centre circle is actually a thin touchscreen with a narrow view of maps, multimedia and vehicle settings, but it’s colourful, configurable and of quality substance.

Both front and back have excellent seat comfort, support and adjustability. Both front and back have excellent seat comfort, support and adjustability.

Kudos, too, for excellent seat comfort, support and adjustability –both front and rear, since the 40:20:40 back bench splits, folds and slides for added versatility – as well as superb ventilation and heaps of storage options.

The view over the bulbous bonnet is redolent of classic-era Coopers too – a nice touch – as are the various toggle switchgear in the lower console and overhead ceiling areas.

But the upright windscreen pillars block vision out as mentioned earlier, the offside door mirror doesn’t seem to have a dip function to stop alloy kerbing, the Signature’s standard twin sunroof set-up (the forward bit opens) has a blind of insufficient sun-blocking capability, and for some people, the whole car’s solid, heavy feel and bulk are off-putting.

  • The 450-litre (VDA) bi-level boot layout makes for a deceptively big cargo area. The 450-litre (VDA) bi-level boot layout makes for a deceptively big cargo area.
  • That’s expandable via those sliding and reclining rear seats, as well as a sizeable under-floor storage compartment. That’s expandable via those sliding and reclining rear seats, as well as a sizeable under-floor storage compartment.

Further back, the 450-litre (VDA) bi-level boot layout makes for a deceptively big cargo area, and of course that’s expandable via those sliding and reclining rear seats, as well as a sizeable under-floor storage compartment. It’s all very pleasingly finished and presented as well.

A rock-solid cabin from Mini, then, and one worthy of the premium BMW charges. Because, as we’ll see a bit later on, everything other than what you can see is pure German.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Cooper S employs BMW’s award-winning B48 1998cc 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, and is part of a modular family of engines that also includes the B38 1.2 to 1.5-litre in-line three-cylinder and B58 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol units. The diesel-powered alternatives of these are coded B47, B37 and B57 respectively.

It features an aluminium block and head, a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection, variable valve lift (Valvetronic) and variable valve timing (Double VANOS), to deliver 141kW of power at a heady 6000rpm and 280Nm of torque from just 1350rpm, right up to 4600rpm.

The Cooper S employs BMW’s award-winning B48 1998cc 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo. The Cooper S employs BMW’s award-winning B48 1998cc 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo.

In the Mini’s case, the B48 is mounted transversely, and drives the front wheels via a seven-speed DCT. Along with a floor shifter, there are paddle shifts mounted to the steering wheel.

Followers of the Countryman may notice that BMW ditched the excellent old eight-speed torque-converter automatic for the DCT in 2018. The main reason was that the latter transmission is considerably more efficient, resulting in lower fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions – vital in the carbon-tax-driven EU markets.

How much fuel does it consume?

Running on 95 RON premium unleaded petrol, the Mini displayed an indicated 9.4L/100km, though at the pump we managed a more credible 8.6L/100km.

Such fuel economy justifies BMW’s move to a DCT, especially as much of this was driving in urban/heavy traffic scenarios – though there was also a bout of performance testing and fast rural-road driving, that tends to slurp the juice.

Still, officially, Mini says the combined average is 6.7L/100km, for a CO2 figure of 153g/km. Theoretically, with a 51-litre tank, that would give the Cooper S a range of over 760km.

Not bad for a hot-performing small-SUV – as you shall see.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Tested under the 2017 crash-test regime, the F60 Countryman scores a top five-star ANCAP rating – but this only applies to the now-discontinued diesel versions only.

A solid suite of driver-assist systems is fitted, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, Forward Collision Warning, lane-keep warning and assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go and speed limiter, auto high beams and traffic-sign recognition.

A solid suite of driver-assist systems is fitted for the Cooper S. A solid suite of driver-assist systems is fitted for the Cooper S.

There’s also automatic parking, front and rear parking sensors, Emergency Assistance, six airbags (driver, front-passenger, front seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain), stability and traction controls, ABS, two rear-seat sited ISOFIX child-seat anchorage points and a trio of child-seat tether points behind the backrest.

Note that the tyres are run-flat items, which are designed to be driven on straight after a blow-out or sudden pressure loss to safety.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Like BMW and Audi, Mini offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which trails Mercedes-Benz’s five-year item and is well behind the industry-best seven-year unconditional warranty pioneered by Kia.

Additionally, the car tells the owner/driver when it needs servicing, meaning it is condition-based rather than time-based scheduling. In the UK, it is generally recommended every 12 months or 10,000km is a good rule of thumb, just to be safe.

Owners can also purchase up-front a five-year/80,000km service plan to help save money. This is structured as either a ‘Basic Cover’ or ‘Plus Cover’. The former costs $1595 and includes oil top-up, replacing filters, fluids, spark plugs and such, while the latter at $4155 adds the renewal of brake discs and pads, hoses, wiper blades and clutch disc and plate and other perishables.

What's it like to drive around town?

Despite what the name implies, the Countryman is really still aimed at urbanites, though ones that seek compact yet high-riding motoring. Just beware that the wide A-pillars and elephant-ears exterior mirrors do their best to conceal whole cars through roundabouts. It’s a good thing that camera is nice and wide.

The Cooper S badge carries with it the weight of pocket-rocket performance, and for all its raised small SUV/crossover packaging, this Countryman does not disappoint.

Acceleration is brisk from the get-go, building effortlessly up to the 6000rpm red line, before changing up seamlessly through the seven ratios on offer. For a DCT, the Mini is comparatively lag free, relying on the prodigious power provided by BMW’s B48-family of engines.

As also mentioned earlier, there are three modes – Green, Mid and Sport – with Mid being the default setting. Green results in measured, smooth responses that are a little pared back but by no-means slow compared to Mid – and that’s something that many drivers and passengers might actually prefer, since the relaxing, laid-back performance makes this Mini quite agreeable. Relaxing, even.

At the other end of the spectrum is Sport. Yep, this is a full-fat, deep-lunged, high-output setting that brings a hefty performance kick right up to the 6000rpm limit, making the Cooper S a seriously speedy small SUV. And with a soundtrack to match, it’s in keeping with the legendary badge too.

Quality tyres help. Ours wore Pirelli P Zero 225/45R19 rubber. Quality tyres help. Ours wore Pirelli P Zero 225/45R19 rubber.

While in manual mode the DCT will change up to the next ratio once the engine hits the redline, turning the stability and traction controls off allows the driver to extend the revs out until the rev limiter is hit in each ratio. Aiding progress are a set of paddle shifters that work a treat.

The 2.0-litre turbo is ultra-sweet and seems almost indestructible; there’s also a feeling of solid, substantial engineering going on underneath the Countryman. Combined with weighty, direct steering, tenacious handling and hungry roadholding, it must rank as one of the SUV world’s most driver-focused options. The sports suspension set-up includes struts up front and a sophisticated multi-link arrangement – again helping justify the Mini's considerable price tag.

Quality tyres help. Ours wore Pirelli P Zero 225/45R19 rubber. Surprisingly, the round-town ride, while firm, remains cushioned and controlled, though rougher and bumpier surfaces do result in a constant, jolty patter.

As such, adaptive dampers ought to be made available beyond the Cooper S Sport spec.

Otherwise, this particular grade of Countryman's combination of compact proportions, rapid acceleration, crisp handling, lofty ride height and sumptuous refinement make it a reassuringly suitable urban companion.

Since its inception a decade ago, the Countryman has been the small SUV to have when it absolutely and positively has to be a Mini or nothing else. It was compromised because the concept of the original British motoring icon was stretched too far.

Which, in its own way, is typically rebellious of the brand.

That changed when BMW twinned the Mini with the X1 SUV and its offshoots, bringing properly practical packaging as well as greater depth of dynamic capability. The MY21 facelift builds on this with comparatively competitive specification, luxury and performance.

The premium small SUV segment has never really been big on value, but within this context, the Cooper S’ dynamic character makes it one of the more-enjoyable choices, especially in sumptuous Signature guise.

Something for the head then, as well as the heart.

$52,900

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5