Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Of the various engine options, we’d suggest 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 cross-country driving.
The SE PHEV All4 model combines an electric motor, driving the rear wheels, with the Cooper’s petrol engine, making it four-wheel drive. It also boosts power to 217bhp combined, so the PHEV's 0-62mph time of just 6.8sec is second only to the 300-plus-bhp JCW performance model. More usefully, perhaps, the PHEV can run on its electric motor alone officially for up to 30 miles. Obviously, it’s not as quick without the petrol engine helping out, but its performance is plenty for around town and the top speed's still over 70mph.
The Cooper S uses a sprightly 189bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol, or, for those chasing the best fuel consumption, there's the 148bhp Cooper D. Being a diesel it's got great mid-range shove, for added flexibility, but generally only makes sense if you’re doing massive annual mileages.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Countryman has a firm suspension set-up that aims to make it agile in corners, but as far as the ride is concerned, 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 the ride is even worse, and the Countryman PHEV's extra weight – due to its battery pack – also exacerbates the ride issues.
Adaptive suspension is a reasonably priced option on certain versions, but even they don’t make the ride anywhere near as cosseting as the class best, which is the title we'd bestow on the Skoda Kamiq and T-Roc.
Mini prides itself on offering ‘maximum go-kart feel’ with all of its cars. What they mean by that is minimum body lean in fast corners and quick steering, so the car feels agile. And yes, the Countryman does stay pretty level through tight corners, but the steering is so quick that it can feel twitchy and doesn't weight up enough to give you anywhere near the degree of confidence or driving pleasure as the Ford Puma's. If you really enjoy your driving, the Puma's the car we'd recommend you buy instead.
As we said in the ride section, the plug-in hybrid PHEV is heavier but it’s nicely balanced though corners because the weight is spread evenly. Like all the All4 four-wheel-drive Countrymans, there's good traction in slippery conditions but it's still the least thrilling version to drive; that's the true of most plug-in hybrids, though, and the Renault Captur PHEV is certainly no more fun.
Noise and vibration
The Cooper D is quiet for a diesel, and the three-cylinder petrol engine in the Cooper and Cooper SE PHEV thrums away but in a considered and reasonably subdued fashion. The Cooper S’s four-cylinder motor has a sporty parp and, of all the engines, it fires the least vibrations through its pedals and steering wheel. Except the PHEV, that is; when on battery power, it's as unobtrusive as a stealth fighter.
The problem with the PHEV, and all the Countrymans 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 the small SUV class. The T-Roc is the quietest car in the class to travel up and down motorways in.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox and clutch are 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.
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