MINI Countryman

Cooper S ALL4

MINI Countryman, 2017, front
MINI Countryman, 2017, front, action
MINI Countryman, 2017, side
MINI Countryman, 2017, rear, off road
MINI Countryman, 2017, dashboard
MINI Countryman, 2017, boot, maximum
MINI Countryman, 2017, picnic bench

SO, what exactly is the MINI Countryman - an SUV, a crossover or a hatchback?

Well, most probably it's a bit of each, but if you like what you see and more than half a million British buyers have done in the last seven years, it's hardly going to matter, much.

Until the second generation Countryman emerged earlier this year it struggled to match rivals in terms of space, particularly room in the rear.

But with a 20mm lengthwise stretch, the current version largely addresses that problem. Rear seat passengers can straighten their legs and luggage space has benefited with an increase to 450 litres.

BMW, MINI's owners, fit a sliding rear bench for various luggage/passenger permutations and there's now the option of an electric opening tailgate.

A fold-out picnic seat that can be pulled out from the boot is a useful option for getaway families.

The Countryman comes with a generous choice of diesel and petrol engines.

This one is the 189bhp, 2.0-litre petrol Cooper S unit, which is pretty racy when fitted in the smaller, lighter MINI hatchback. The extra weight and height of the Countryman make it somewhat less spirited but it still has enough clout to see off many rivals.

Fitted with the optional eight speed, twin clutch automatic transmission transforms the car's nature into something more relaxed and grown-up. But if you want to bring back some of the renowned MINI verve just floor the throttle and flick the steering wheel paddles and enjoy that familiar sportiness.

The auto box is well matched to punchy turbo engine and allows smooth, seamless changes and acceleration is as swift as the manual - 62mph comes up in just over seven seconds and max is 138mph.

Despite the increase in girth, the Countryman still possesses the same taut responsiveness as the original article. Steering is sharp and high geared with a satisfying weightiness, if not very much actual feedback.

Cornering for a family car is surprisingly roll-free and the ride verges on firm, possibly partly because of the 18-inch alloys shod with chunky low profile tyres. Over indifferent surfaces, the passage tends to be a trifle nervous and joggly.

Four wheel drive is an option on the Countryman - £1,675 - and will appeal to some rural dwellers. Obviously it adds some weight which has a slight adverse effect on fuel consumption and acceleration in return for the boost in traction.

Considering the strong performance and reasonable size, its thirst is far from greedy. My average over 520-miles was 36mpg. The official combined figure is 44.1mpg.

One of the big attractions to the MINI brand is its unique styling - both externally and internally. The cabin's fascia is dominated by a huge round central screen incorporating sat-nav system which is a standard fit feature.

To most eyes, the interior is attractive and distinctive, if a bit quirky...but that's what MINI is about. Materials used are high grade and mainly soft touch lending the car a premium feeling.

FAST FACTS

MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4

Price: £26,165

Mechanical: 189bhp, 1,998cc, 4-cyl petrol engine driving 4-wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 138mph

0-62mph: 7.2sec

Combined MPG: 44.1

Insurance Group: 22

C02 emissions: 150g/km

Bik rating: 29%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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