I originally had a Mini Cooper S R53, the first-gen BMW models, and was wanting something bigger but still fun to drive. I was looking at Golf GTIs and the sort, and while they are all quite nice and have their positives, I wanted something different.
So I had a look at the Countryman, and as I am still on my Ps, it worked out perfectly because I was wanting a John Cooper Works for a while, so I bought my one. I was really happy as I was staying in the Mini family. I've always loved them, and the fact that when you buy a Mini it's like joining a little family.
I loved how the Mini styling was still incorporated into the Countryman, while making it of larger proportions and more space. The interior styling was nice as well, although some of the materials used can feel a bit cheap and very plasticky. Especially the dash, as it is black plastic the whole way round. One bit I dislike on the exterior are the grey accents. They would be a lot nicer in a gloss black from factory, which is what I'm going to do to it anyway.
Technology in the car is okay for 2013 – it has navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, both for audio and calling. For some reason my Bluetooth has completely cut off for audio, but works perfectly for calling and such. So this is an issue which I have to fix.
As for how it drives, the Countryman is your typical Mini with a lot more grip! Due to the ALL4 system you can power out of corners a lot more confidently than the FWD Minis. The car has two driving modes, Comfort and Sport. Comfort is amazing for day-to-day driving and sitting in traffic. The steering is very light and it still has the power when you need it. Sport mode livens the car up, making the throttle response quicker, steering heavier and the exhaust starts to pop and bang, which is Mini's trademark, in my opinion.
The six-speed manual transmission is amazing – short throws and you can definitely launch it easily. Only fault I have is that the hill start assist can be a bit intrusive at times, especially on steep hills. I prefer the good ole handbrake hill-start method, and there is no way of turning off the hill start assist as well.
So far in my ownership, the car has been amazingly reliable. Only thing I've had to replace is the clutch, and that is due to normal wear and tear as the car gets older. Practicality has been amazing, partly because I was coming from such a small car beforehand anyway. It's the perfect size to go away for the weekend with my family, fits all the luggage in the boot and seats four comfortably. It does have a middle seat, but like in most cars, it can get a bit squishy. So it is only used when I really need to.
As for improvements in future models, the new model is already out and the improvements I had in mind have already been made. The new one has much more safety technology in it, including radar cruise control and other simple options like a touchscreen nav’ screen or an electric boot.
Overall, I love my Countryman, and although it might not be the most powerful car out there, in my opinion it is one of the most fun to drive. Just like the Mazda MX-5, it doesn't have a lot of power, but is a whole lot more fun compared to its competitors.
The power delivery is one of my favourite things about the Countryman. It's a FWD-biased AWD system, but when the front wheels do start slipping, the way it takes off is great, and it's a very safe car in the wet thanks to this. It gives you real confidence while driving.