Two months with our Mini Countryman and it has well and truly become part of the family. The quirky and not so mini Countryman has served the needs of our small family of three and proven itself a reliable and efficient compromise between a city car and a small SUV.
There are many reasons to love the Mini, including its unique character, balance between fun and practicality as well its ability to turn heads wherever it goes. But our appreciation for the Countryman is mainly due to its spacious interior, which defies its relatively small exterior proportions.
Our two-year-old son has plenty of room in the back with his ISOFIX seat solid in the Mini’s anchor points while on the odd occasion we have easily fit four adults and the little guy without any issues.
Its leather seats have stood all that could possibly happen to them with a small child in the back. The positioning of the rear seats so close to the first row has also been helpful for quick and easy access in times of toddler tantrums, although larger passengers would obviously prefer extra knee room.
Our large pram has been housed permanently in the boot, which does take up a considerable amount of space, yet we’ve been able to still get the weekly shopping done and not be concerned with luggage space.
It even made a few trips to Ikea and with the rear seats folded down in a 60:40 split, we can still bring our son in the ‘40’ bit while allowing longer items to squeeze in the ‘60’ portion.
Where the Mini Countryman really hits home for us though, is that extra bit of ride height that is certainly necessary for inner Sydney commuting – without having to be in a proper SUV.
It makes tackling urban laneways that scrape the nose of lower cars easy, making the Mini Countryman more efficient than many sports cars we’ve had through the CarAdvice office in town. It also helps that the 18-inch wheels, though big, have plenty of rubber before the alloy is exposed, meaning no gutter scratches are evident despite my wife’s best efforts otherwise.
When the family is out, the Mini Cooper S Countryman, to give it its full name, still puts a smile on my face thanks to its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. With 135kW with 240Nm of torque (260Nm with overboost), it’s not exactly quick, but under eight second to 100km/h is more than enough to have some fun.
Its driving dynamics are helped by its go-kart-like steering, a Mini trait. Although its near go-kart-like ride comfort remains an issue.
Fuel economy remains around 9L/100km but that’s almost entirely inner-city commutes – much of which is not tailored for economy - and no highway usage.
While we’ve enjoyed our Mini Countryman so far, it is expensive. There are plenty of cheaper options out there, and a few without such expensive options that should be standard. But my wife loves it, and it’s hard to put a price on that. Now I’ll hand it over to her for some words on our current family car:
Two months in and it’s been an experience to have the Mini Countryman as our family car. It’s a good-looking car, bold and a little outlandish, helped by its contrasting black and white colour scheme.
It’s fun to play with the interior lighting colours (in the door handles, roof and around the cabin) and change them to suit my mood; the little guy loves the lights too.
Every morning the Countryman has to back out of a rather tight driveway and then drive up what feels like a 90 degree vertical climb. Where other cars have struggled either with tyre-slip or just a lack of grunt, the Mini has no problem.
It does have some annoying features, though, particularly its obsession and prioritisation of the low fuel warning, to the detriment of something as important as the digital speedometer (you have to use the giant analogue speedo in the centre console in those times, which is very distracting).
The handbrake too, has to be pulled up to before it can be released which I think is just unnecessary and something you’ll grow to dislike more and more as time goes on given the placement of storage compartments nearby.
The Mini navigation system is more intuitive than most other in-car systems but most controls are left to a little knob that can be fiddly. A reversing camera should be standard, too, in addition to the rear parking sensors.
On the plus side, its Bluetooth microphone is exceptional. It’s so clear - even on the highway at 100km/h - that Siri understands every word when routed through the Mini’s infotainment system. Back seat passengers are also picked up surprisingly well by the microphone.
Recommended retail price (6-speed manual transmission) $42,300*
Our vehicle includes the following options:
- Chilli Package $3,700: Bi-Xenon headlights (includes headlight washer system) - Automatic Climate Control - Interior rear view mirror with automatic anti-dazzle function - harmon/kardon HiFi, 10 speaker sound system
- Light-alloy wheels, 18” 5-Star Double Spoke Composite Jet Black $700
- 6-speed automatic transmission with gearshift paddles $2,350
- Roof & mirror caps in Black NCO
- Black bonnet stripes $200
- Leather gravity upholstery $1,100 Interior Surface
- Piano Black $100
- Chrome line interior $285
- Chrome line exterior $200
- Flat-load compartment floor $250
- Adaptive headlights $400
- Radio MINI Visual Boost $750
- MINI Navigation System $1,150
Total price: $53,485
Mini Cooper S Countryman
Date acquired: October 2013
Odometer reading: 2825km
Travel this month: 1732km
Consumption this month: 8.8L/100km