What Car? says...
Strictly speaking, ‘countryman’ means someone living in a rural area. Well, take a look at the Mini Countryman. Does it look to you like it’s ever tasted a good ploughman's or smelt a thickly manured field? No, it doesn’t to us, either, but that’s actually not its remit.
Just check out those sculpted bumpers and the glitzy, Union Jack taillight design. If small SUVs wore clothes, the Countryman would be dressed from head to toe in urbanite Nike, not tweedy Barbour. Put simply, if you want a small, go-anywhere off-roader, have a look at our Dacia Duster review instead.
The Mini Countryman is more about looking good on the road and, as if to prove the point, there’s the usual massive array of Mini personalisation options to stamp your mark on your new Countryman – so (hopefully) you’ll never pull up next to one that’s the exactly the same.
It may not be a true off-roader, but as a small SUV it’s bigger and far roomier than the Mini 3-door and Mini 5-door hatchbacks or the Mini Clubman estate. And it’s in the mix with a multitude of SUV rivals, all vying for your cash, sitting at the pricier end of the class alongside the Audi Q2 and Volkswagen T-Roc. If you like the thought of spending a bit less then the Ford Puma, Seat Arona and Skoda Kamiq all deserve a place on your shortlist too.
Along with the personalisation options we've touched upon already, the Mini Countryman is available with a good selection of petrol and diesel engines, and there’s also a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option. With its official electric range of almost 30 miles and fantastic company car tax breaks, it could end up saving you a packet.
Click through to the next page to start reading our detailed 16-point review on the Mini Countryman, where we'll tell you how well Mini's biggest model stacks up against the competition as well as which engines and trims make the most sense.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
We reckon the 134bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol in the Cooper is the pick. It keeps the price sensible and offers about the same performance as a Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid 125, with 0-62mph dispatched in a creditable 9.7sec. In the real world that means enough oomph on tap for town or fast A-road driving.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model adds an electric motor (driving the rear wheels) to the Cooper’s petrol engine, making it four-wheel drive. It also boosts power to 217bhp, so the PHEV's 0-62mph time of just 6.8sec is second only to the hot JCW performance model. More pertinently, perhaps, the PHEV can run on electric motor alone for up to 30 miles – although 20 miles is more likely in real-world driving. Obviously, acceleration isn't as quick without the petrol engine helping out, but performance is still adequate for most situations and you can even cruise at 70mph for short distances.
Meanwhile, the Cooper S uses a sprightly 189bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol or, for those chasing great fuel economy, there's also a 148bhp diesel Cooper D. The latter offers lots of low-rev shove, but only really makes sense if you’re doing massive annual mileages.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Countryman has fairly firm suspension and is far from the most comfortable small SUV. It clumps over potholes, bucks about on undulating B-roads, and only stops fidgeting on motorways if they're ironed smooth like a sergeant’s shirt.
If you go for optional bigger wheels or run-flat tyres then things get worse still, and the Countryman PHEV's extra weight – due to its battery pack – also exacerbates matters.
Mini claims its cars deliver ‘maximum go-kart feel’. What the company means by this is that the steering is quick and there's minimum body lean in corners. And, yes, the Countryman does stay pretty level through fast corners, but the steering is so quick it can make the car feel nervous, a problem exacerbated by the steering not weighting up enough to give you anywhere near the degree of confidence or driving pleasure as you get from an Audi Q2 or Ford Puma.
As we said in the ride comfort section above, the plug-in hybrid PHEV version of the Countryman is heavier but it's nicely balanced though corners because the weight is spread evenly. As with all the four-wheel-drive (All4) versions of the Countryman, there's good traction in slippery conditions but still don't expect to have much fun. Then again, the Countryman PHEV is more entertaining than the Renault Captur PHEV.
Noise and vibration
The Cooper D is quiet for a diesel, and the three-cylinder petrol engine in the Cooper and Cooper PHEV thrums away but in a considered and reasonably subdued fashion. The Cooper S’s four-cylinder motor, meanwhile, has a sporty parp and, of all the engines, it transmits the least vibration through to the pedals and steering wheel. Except for the PHEV when running in pure electric mode, of course; that's as unobtrusive as it gets.
The problem with the PHEV, though – and all versions of the Countryman for that matter – is wind noise. At 70mph the wind really gusts around the door mirrors, which is a shame because road and suspension noise is pretty hushed relative to most small SUV rivals. The T-Roc is the quietest car in the class to travel up and down motorways in.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox is a little notchy but easy to use, and the Countryman's brakes – even the regenerative brakes fitted to the PHEV – are progressive, so it’s simple to master the art of stopping gracefully. There are two types of automatic gearbox: an eight-speed auto 'box comes fitted to everything except the PHEV, which has a six-speed 'box. From our experience, both slip through their gears without fuss.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
As with a lot of small SUVs, you don't feel that high off the ground in the Countryman – it's certainly no Range Rover. Still, you feel farther from the road than you do in the more hatchback-like Skoda Kamiq. All Countrymans come with a well-bolstered driver's seat that is not only comfortable to sit on for an hour or more, but offers excellent support in corners, too. The Exclusive and JCW trims come with adjustable lumbar support as standard, otherwise it's an option, but all models get driver's seat height adjustment.
Our biggest gripe is the spring-loaded backrest, which is fiddly to adjust in small increments; if you go for the optional electric seat adjustment this problem disappears. Regardless, the steering wheel has lots of reach and height adjustment so drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to find a comfortable seating position.
There are digital dials behind the steering wheel that are easy to read – apart from in strong sunlight. That's because there's no cowl to shade the screen. If you prefer, there's also the option of a head-up display. We also love the retro toggle switches and large air-con dials, not because they look good but because they’re dead easy to use while driving along.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Forward visibility is okay; the windscreen pillars are a little chunky but positioned in such a way that allow you to see around them easily at junctions and roundabouts. Looking over your shoulder, the view is better than it is in a lot of small SUVs, perhaps with the exception of the Skoda Kamiq, although the shallow rear screen makes it tricky to see what’s directly behind the car.
Rear parking sensors are standard, though, and you can add sensors to the front and a rear-view camera if you add the expensive Comfort Pack Plus (standard on the JCW). Night vision is advanced by the standard LED headlights, which you can upgrade to adaptive Matrix LED headlights that can stay on main beam without dazzling other road users.
Sat nav and infotainment
All versions of the Mini Countryman have a high-definition, 8.8in touchscreen, which you can also operate using the iDrive rotary controller between the front seats. Using the latter method while driving is far easier than looking at the screen to find the icon you want and then pressing it, and the setup plays a big part in us voting the Mini's as the best infotainment system in the class. The other reasons are that the operating system is intuitive and the software responsive.
The downside is that you get Apple CarPlay only and not Android Auto, so iPhone users can mirror their phone’s apps to the car's screen, but Android users can’t. If you add the Navigation Pack Plus you get Amazon Alexa voice control and wireless phone charging, and for audiophiles there’s the optional Harman Kardon stereo, which has more power and 12 speakers, instead of the standard system's six.
There are some well-finished cars in the class, including the Audi Q2 and Nissan Juke, but the Countryman knocks them all for six. Why? Well, the Mini makes good use of tactile soft-touch plastics around its dashboard and on the tops of its doors, and you'll only find harder, scratchier materials lower down out of sight. If you want to pay extra there are some high-grade leathers available, too, that add to the Countryman's luxury feel.
The Countryman retains Mini’s trademark toggle switches in the centre of its dashboard. As with all the switches and knobs, these feel solid to use and their bright chrome finish looks great.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Mini Countryman is big by small SUV standards and makes good use of every inch. Its high roof gives even the tallest of drivers plenty of head room, plus there's lots of leg room and, thanks to a broad interior, you shouldn’t be rubbing elbows with your passenger, either.
As well as the two cupholders in front of the gear lever, there's a decent-sized glovebox, a couple of small cubbies for loose items and reasonably large door bins. The optional Comfort Pack adds a front armrest with extra storage underneath.
The Countryman is one of the biggest small SUVs in the rear, too, although not quite class-leading. That honour falls to the Skoda Kamiq, which has a few centimetres more leg room, but the Countryman still space to comfortably accommodate two tall adults in the back, behind a couple of similar-sized people sitting in the front.
Head room is also extremely generous, but be warned: the PHEV has a bit less of this because the rear bench is raised to accommodate the battery pack beneath. Even so, though, head room is fine unless you're really long in the body.
The middle rear passenger in the Countryman has a much lower floor hump to straddle than in a lot of rivals, including the Kamiq and Volkswagen T-Roc.
Seat folding and flexibility
The Mini Countryman’s rear seats split in a handy 40/20/40 configuration, which is more useful than the 60/40 split in most rivals because it’s easier to carry long, narrow items, such as skis and snowboards, with two rear passengers on board. Folding down the rear seatbacks is simple, even though they don't lie completely flat.
If you add the Activity Pack, the Countryman is one of the few cars in the class to offer both sliding and reclining rear seats – the Volkswagen T-Cross, for example, has just sliding rear seats. The PHEV isn't available with the sliding feature, though.
The Countryman's boot isn't quite a match for the Ford Puma's when it comes to outright carrying capacity, but it's a close match for rivals including the Kamiq and Volkswagen T-Cross. The fact the boot entrance is fairly low to the ground helps when heaving heavy items in or out, and if you raise the variable-height floor, there's no lip to negotiate.
The PHEV loses some capacity over regular petrol and diesel versions of the Countryman, but the boot is still big enough to be useful and there's enough under-floor storage left for the car's charging cables.
Accessibility & Motability
Usability for people with disability or their carers
Motability - Access
You might see the name Mini on the Motability list and think, “Really?”. Minis are good to drive, but they’re not renowned for being easy to get in and out of.
Well, the Countryman SUV is perfectly acceptable in that respect. For a start, it has doors that open to an angle of 66 degrees (it’s 63 degrees on its main rival, the Audi Q2). That makes the interior more accessible because the door is less likely to get in the way. If you have mobility issues, that could make a big difference.
The Countryman’s driver’s seat is a minimum of 624mm from the ground, and a maximum of 682mm, so it’s pretty much an ideal height for getting in and out of the car.
Better still, there’s 766mm between the seat cushion and the top of the door aperture, so you won’t be forced into contortions as you access the interior. To give context, an Audi Q2 offers just over 710mm, so the Mini has quite an advantage here.
The tops of the door sills are a competitive 415mm from the ground (pretty much the same as the Q2), so while it’s a bit of a step up, it’s not too bad. The floor of the Countryman is 110mm below the level of the sill, which is a fair bit better than the Citroen C3 Aircross and others.
Motability - Storage
The carrying capacity of the Countryman certainly gives the lie to the name Mini because it’s a rather spacious car.
The boot area is 760mm long and more than a metre wide, which is more than enough for a folded-up wheelchair, and the variable-height boot floor should make sliding one in much easier. The load lip is a low 685mm from the ground, which will also help matters.
It is possible to fit a wheelchair in the boot without collapsing it first, but the Countryman’s rear seats will need to be folded down first. The seats fold down in a 40/20/40 split, which makes them much more practical than 60/40 split seats you get as standard on the Q2.
A range of cubbies and decent-sized door bins means there’s plenty of space for odds and ends, and the glovebox is a generous size.
Motability - Ease of use and options
If you’re a diesel fan, we’re afraid there’s nothing for you here, because Mini doesn’t do them. You can have your Mini Countryman with all manner of other configurations, though, including a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine in Cooper models, or a hotter 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in Cooper S cars.
You can also have an automatic gearbox on every engine, as well as the option of two or four-wheel drive. The 1.5 is the sweet spot in the range because it’s punchy enough and shows a pleasing aversion to the sight of petrol stations.
All Countryman models have a comfortable driving position once you’ve found the setting that suits you, although the spring-loaded seat backrest makes that more difficult than it should be.
Parking is made much easier by the presence of rear parking sensors as standard, although the decent view out also helps. Front sensors and a camera are available if you get the Comfort Pack, but that can be expensive.
The infotainment system is based on the excellent iDrive set-up developed by parent company BMW, and is superbly easy to use with the rotary controller between the seats. It’s good to see Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring fitted as standard too, but the Countryman doesn’t cater for Android Auto, which is a shame.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Countryman's starting price is quite a bit higher than even well-equipped versions of the Ford Puma, Nissan Juke and Skoda Kamiq; it also nudges past the Volkswagen T-Roc. That's for our favourite Cooper engine, and if you want more power, four-wheel drive or an automatic gearbox, you'll be spending considerably more.
That's not made up for by strong resale values, either. After three years, the Countryman (including the PHEV) is expected to depreciate faster than many of its non-premium rivals, including the Puma and T-Roc. Discounts are available, though, no matter whether you're paying cash or signing up to a PCP finance agreement, so head over to our New Car Buying service to find out how much you could save.
There are also more efficient cars, like the Puma 1.0 Ecoboost, which uses mild-hybrid tech to beat the Countryman Cooper on CO2 emissions and fuel economy. If you're a company car driver, though, the Cooper PHEV takes advantage of tax breaks to smash its petrol and diesel rivals, including the Puma, when it comes to benefit in kind (BIK) tax. That said, the Renault Captur PHEV sneaks into an even lower tax band. The Countryman PHEV's battery takes around 2.5hrs to charge from a 7kW home wall box.
Equipment, options and extras
We'd stick to entry-level Classic trim because, otherwise, the Countryman's price starts to match those of larger (and better) family SUVs, including as the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq. And besides, the Classic trim comes with all the infotainment and parking aids we've already covered, along with keyless start, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, air conditioning and 16in or 17in alloy wheels, depending on which engine you choose.
If you're going to spend more money, spend it on some of the useful option packs, of which we'd point you towards the Activity Pack, which adds sliding rear seats, a powered tailgate and picnic tables, or the expensive but feature-laden Comfort Pack Plus, which includes climate control, heated front seats and power-folding door mirrors. Adding option packs can make your car easier to sell on, but they doesn't necessarily guarantee it'll be worth more.
Mini deserves praise for finishing in 4th place (out of 31 manufacturers) in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey, and the Countryman itself was reported to be the most dependable car in the small SUV class.
Hopefully that means you won't need to call upon the three-year, unlimited mileage warranty. Three years is par for the course, with Kia offering seven years of cover, and both Hyundai and Renault offering a five-year warranty as standard.
Safety and security
Euro NCAP awarded the Countryman five stars (out of five) for safety in 2017, but the tests back then weren't as stringent as they are today. Even so, the Countryman still didn't perform brilliantly for adult or child occupancy crash protection, and while the results aren't directly comparable with today’s, newer cars, like the Puma and T-Roc, tested under the tougher rules, are likely to be safer options.
Every Countryman comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB) and an emergency call function (e-Call) as standard. The outer rear seats having Isofix mounting points, and you can pay a bit extra to have them on the front passenger seat, too.
All versions of the Countryman comes with an alarm and immobiliser as standard.
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|RRP price range||£29,335 - £56,180|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||electric, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||36.2 - 46.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£84 / £3,376|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£168 / £6,753|