Since the 3rd gen “new MINI” arrived for 2014, its improvements have been steadily making their way through the entire mini lineup. And now that roulette wheel stops at MINI’s crossover utility vehicle, the Countryman. Well, Americans sure love their SUVs, so let’s see if they’ll also love this most biggest MINI yet!
With the latest Mini Clubman wagon growing bigger than the Countryman, you expect a size increase for the redesigned 2017 Countryman as well. And, indeed MINI delivers it; or actually BMW does, as the Countryman’s new architecture is shared with the BMW X1 Sports Activity Vehicle.
Engine choices are familiar, however. Like the rest of the MINI lineup; 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter turbos, both with available all-wheel-drive. We love the 134-horsepower 1.5-liter 3-cylinder’s responsiveness, but for this heavier, all-wheel-driver, we recommend the 189-horsepower and 207 lb-ft. of the 2.0-liter I4, despite some noticeable turbo lag.
Mini has always made cars that are fun to drive, but some have also proved hard to live with on a daily basis. So Mini has maximized space here, as well as added a host of premium features to make a kinder, gentler, more practical Mini.
A Panoramic sunroof, leatherette upholstery, keyless entry, and rear view camera are all standard on all Countryman.
As is the latest Mini Connected, BMW-based, infotainment system with a 6.5-inch high-res. display. Upgrading to the Technology Package ups screen size to 8.8-inches and adds even more features.
Countryman has indeed lost none of the fun to drive nature that keeps Mini buyers coming back. But, keep in mind that comes with a much stiffer ride than a typical compact crossover.
Optional all-wheel-drive offers plenty of grip for launching, and the 2.0-liter provides great torque to exploit it. 60 miles-per-hour comes in 7.1-seconds; while the ¼-mile trip is completed in 15.4 at 91 miles-per-hour. Power is plentiful, and there’s a pleasing exhaust note.
Standard transmission remains a 6-speed manual, but our car was shifted by the optional 8-speed automatic. It provides a nice little surge of power every time it selects a new gear. Clearly, the BMW influence is in full effect here.
Just 112-feet was our average stopping distance from 60. Brake pedal is firm, and there’s good stability when braking in full.
Like all Minis, the retro flavor is so pronounced, it takes careful study to see what actually is new.
Well in addition to everything being larger, the grille gets cleaned up a little and the front bumper smoothed out. Trademark fender flares and fender trim are still here. Still not exactly pretty, but unique and now better for the eyes.
While we will call this an SUV, there’s not enough ground clearance here to venture too far off the beaten path; 6.5 inches, which is up from 5.9 last year. Still Mini’s capable ALL4 all-wheel-drive system is more than adequate for wintery travel.
Interior space gets a nice boost, but again everything you see and touch looks very familiar. Things are highly functional as well, with rear seats sliding fore and aft, as well as reclining.
Cargo space grows to 17.6 cubic-ft. behind that rear seat. 40/20/40 split-folding seatbacks add flexibility, as well as expand the space to 47.6 cubic-ft. An optional hands-free power liftgate is new too.
Under power, Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; so our 27.3 miles-per-gallon average on Premium was acceptable. The Energy Impact Score of 12.7-barrels of yearly oil use, and 5.7-tons of CO2 emissions is only slightly better than average for all vehicles.
But, really the only thing to give us pause about any Mini, is their consistent dwelling near the bottom of reliability ratings.
Base pricing is a reasonable $26,950. The Cooper S 2.0-liter starts at $29,950; tack on another 2-grand if you want AWD. But most transact for much higher than that; our optioned out tester eclipsed $40,000.
So while there is no shortage of choices for a small crossover these days, if you’re also looking for the Mini brand of fun, it can only be found in the 2017 Mini Countryman. And, it joins the tamer-looking Clubman wagon in offering Mini-style all-wheel drive security.
We think the Countryman’s increased refinement and practicality will also attract a few more traditional SUV shoppers who are looking for something a bit more exciting in a mini-ute. And, that should mean big things for Mini.
Engine: 2.0 liter I4
Torque: 207 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 7.1 seconds
1/4 mile: 15.4 seconds @ 91 mph
EPA: 22 mpg city / 31 mpg highway,
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.7 tons/yr