After three-and-a-half months, the Mini Countryman has been returned. But it’s already being missed.
The Countryman is perhaps the most practical of Mini’s seemingly never-ending range of niche products that continue to keep the brand revitalised.
Following the reveal of the all-new Mini Cooper late last year, the Mini Countryman is now technically based on an old platform, though it’s unlikely that a new Countryman based on the new platform is going to come out any time soon.
After three months of ownership, it’s safe to say the Mini Countryman has been an ideal family car for us. Though small in appearance, its interior has been more than big enough for our needs and the extra ride height has allowed for easy kerb-hopping and better visibility.
The interior’s leather quality has stood our two-year-old’s best efforts to destroy it, and after a solid clean, came out looking as good as new.
There’s plenty of room in the front and, even with the seats pushed back, rear passengers have decent leg room.
The boot, too, never felt inadequate. It could fit our large pram - just - but then still had enough space around the edges for a trip to the supermarket.
The little storage compartment underneath the boot floor was also handy for any valuables.
But despite thousands of kilometres travelled, the hard ride hasn’t exactly been something we have gotten used to. Though it rebounds perfectly fine, initial intrusion over bumps and potholes is pretty hard, so it’s not ideal to drive around poorly surfaced roads (seemingly the entirety of North Sydney).
The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine is more than enough to power the Mini and let you have some fun in the process. It’s a great balance of sporty performance and not being over the top. It can occasionally torque steer (the steering tugs as the front wheels fail to immediately grip under sudden acceleration), but otherwise it’s a great little unit.
The satellite navigation and audio system were also a positive for this car, despite their poor input interface. Once you could actually program your destination or get the music pumping, the Harman Kardon stereo system and BMW’s iDrive clone did an excellent job for what they were designed to do.
Perhaps one thing we failed to mention in previous updates was the looks the Countryman manages to get. Given Mini sold just 509 Countrymans last year, these cars are rare, and as such many commuters still find the sight of a four-door Mini odd. It’s not as bold as the Clubman, but it does get its fair share of attention.
Fuel economy is still pretty ordinary, however, at just under 10L per 100km. And the extra kilometres piled on this month haven't really brought that figure down. With 135kW of power and 240Nm of torque (260Nm with overboost), the emphasis is on performance rather than economy.
Would we buy one as a family car?
As a young family of three, the Mini Cooper S Countryman auto is ideal, but its circa-$53,000 price tag (with options listed below) is not cheap and places it alongside cars such as the super-practical Mercedes-Benz B250 or Audi’s Q3. Both are sensible family cars that offer a little more for the money.
BMW itself sells the X1 SUV, which, if you need a little more room, makes perfect sense and is around the same price.
Nonetheless this is a Mini afterall, and owning one is a lifestyle choice in itself. There’s something fun and enjoyable about this car and you only have to flatten the accelerator and throw it into a few corners to realise that this is perhaps the best of both worlds, a super compact SUV that is based on a proper go-kart like Mini. It’s hard to argue with that if you’re still young at heart.