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 ground than you do in the more hatchback-like Skoda Kamiq. All Countrymans come with a well-bolstered sports seat that is not only comfortable to sit on for an hour or so, but offers excellent support in corners, too. The Exclusive and JCW trims come with lumbar adjustment as standard, otherwise it's an option, but a height-adjustable driver's seat is fitted to all models.
Our biggest gripe is the spring-loaded backrest adjustment, which is tricky to adjust in small increments; if you go for the optional electric seat adjustment that issue disappears. The steering wheel has lots of reach and height adjustment and, in combination with the seat adjustments available, drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to find a driving position that works well.
There are digital dials that are easy to read – apart from in strong sunlight. That's because there's no cowl to shade the screen, but the pod for the dials is attached to – and moves with – the steering column, so they’re never blocked by the steering wheel. If you prefer, there's also the option of a head-up display. We also love the retro toggle switches and large heater control knobs; 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, because ,while the windscreen pillars are a little chunky they're positioned in such a way that allows you to see around them easily at junctions and roundabouts. Looking backwards, the view is better than it is in a lot of small SUVs, perhaps with the exception of the Skoda Kamiq, because the Countryman’s side windows are large enough to let you see diagonally, although the shallow rear screen makes it tricky to see what’s directly behind.
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. 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 get a high-definition, 8.8in touchscreen, which you can also control using the iDrive rotary dial between the front seats. Using this while you're driving far easier than looking at the screen to find the icon you want, and the setup plays a big part in us voting the Mini's as the best infotainment system in the class. The other reason is that the menus are easy to work out and the software is responsive.
The downside is that it comes with 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, like the Nissan Juke and Skoda Kamiq, but the Countryman knocks them all for six, including the similarly expensive rivals, such as the Volkswagen T-Roc. Why? Well, the Countryman makes good use of tactile soft-touch plastics around the dashboard and tops of doors, and you will only find harder, scratchier material lower down. If you want to pay extra there are some high-grade leathers available, too, that add to this car's luxury feel.
The Countryman retains Mini’s trademark toggle switches in the centre of the dashboard. As with all the switches and knobs, they feel classy to use and their bright chrome finish sets off an interior that not only looks great but also feels sturdy.
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