At the moment, four turbocharged engines are available split between two petrols and two diesels. The cheapest option at the moment is the 1.5-litre petrol Cooper that has 134bhp. The other petrol motor is a 2.0-litre unit that can be found in the Cooper S and JCW. With 189bhp in the Cooper S, you might expect it to feel fast. However, the Countryman’s weight means that performance is actually quite lukewarm. It is at least flexible, making relaxed progress easy.
The range topping JCW is noticeably quicker, thanks to a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that has been uprated with a new turbocharger and additional intercooler - the net result being 228bhp, 258lb ft of torque and a 0-62mph time of 6.5sec. That said, you never quite get that ‘pushed into the back of your seat’ urgency that you expect from a hot hatch – something we suspect is down to the fact that the Countryman weighs around 200kg more than an equivalent Mini Cooper S hatch.
If you’re after a diesel, you can have a 2.0-litre unit with either 148bhp in the Cooper D, or 187bhp in the Cooper SD. We haven’t tried the SD, but the standard Cooper D offers really good performance – better than equivalent priced diesel rivals.
Mini Countryman ride comfort
Understandably, the Mini Countryman is set up to feel sportier than most rivals. Its suspension is quite firm and springy, so you do feel like you’re always being bounced up and down in your seat, and if you opt for bigger wheels or the run-flat tyres (a no cost option) then you’ll add a harsh bump absorption to that, too. At motorway speeds, it does calm down a little, but you find yourself bucking and weaving down a typical British B-road, and clumsily thumping through potholes and over ridges. You can add adaptive dampers to the Countryman for a very reasonable price, but even these don’t improve matters very noticeably. Rivals are far more cosseting.
Mini Countryman handling
Mini prides itself on offering ‘maximum go-kart feel’ (as they would say) in all of its cars. To achieve that in a taller, heavier car, the Countryman has been set up to dart in to corners with very little steering lock. While that makes sense charging down a twisting ribbon of road, it can feel twitchy on the motorway.
Not only is it a little too fast, the steering is also very heavy, especially at speeds typical of town driving. This can make manoeuvring more of a chore than it really should be. Four-wheel drive is available, helping the car feel surefooted in poor weather conditions thanks to the added traction the system provides.
That all-weather traction is even more welcome in the prodigiously powerful 231bhp John Cooper Works. Point to point the JCW is capable of troubling lighter front-wheel drive hot hatches, although that heavy kerb weight blunts on the limit feedback. Ultimately, a similarly priced Golf R or Audi S3 would be more involving on a challenging country road.
Mini Countryman refinement
The petrol-powered Cooper S revs smoothly while emitting a sporty rasp in keeping with the badge (the JCW with its sports exhaust sounds even rortier, popping and banging when you let off the throttle). The engine sounds a bit strained at high rpm, but you won’t have to stretch the motor that far under normal driving conditions. The Cooper D actually has a smoother, quieter and more free-revving diesel engine than many rivals, making this our pick of the Countryman range.
However, road and wind noise is still worse than those same rivals, and the Countryman is harder to drive smoothly regardless of engine choice thanks to a heavy, springy clutch movement and gearshift.
As for the eight-speed automatic gearbox, shifts are smooth and well timed. It’s a big improvement on the old ‘auto.
This three-cylinder turbocharged petrol should be fairly frugal, but may feel sluggish with a loaded car. Ideal for short urban hops.
1.5 Cooper S E
As well as a 1.5-litre petrol engine, you get an electric motor and battery pack. This not only makes it faster, it allows the car to run in electric-only mode for up to 26 miles. Makes sense for business users and those doing short distances.
2.0 Cooper S
With 189bhp, the Cooper S feels brisk without being outright fast. Under normal use it’s very flexible and sounds quite sporty, though. The penalty is emissions and economy that are on the high side.
2.0 Cooper JCW
JCWs get essentially the same engine as the Cooper S but with even more power. This should translate to quick acceleration but with an even greater emissions and economy penalty.
2.0 Cooper D
Despite being a fair bit quicker than the petrol Cooper, it has the lowest emissions and best economy of the range. There is a significant price premium over the petrols, so you’ll need to do plenty of miles to recoup your initial investment.
2.0 Cooper SD
It might be almost as fast as the Cooper S, but this engine emits less CO2 than the regular Cooper petrol. Tempting but pricey, partially down to the ‘auto only gearbox.