What's the used Mini Countryman hatchback like?
Let's face it, there are loads of used SUVs out there, but very few have that extra panache to make them stand out from the masses. Apart from the Mini Countryman, which is stuffed with so many retro styling cues that you couldn't mistake it for anything else.
Naturally, the Countryman is an awful lot bigger than the original Mini the designers have tried so hard to imitate, but among SUVs, it's actually in the smallest class of all – and goes head to head with the Audi Q2 and Fiat 500X.
You get a choice of turbocharged engines in the Countryman; pick between a 136bhp 1.5-litre and 192bhp 2.0-litre petrol, or a pair of 2.0-litre diesels in 148bhp Cooper D or 187bhp Cooper SD forms. All were made available with the option of four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox (although the automatic was only available on four-wheel-drive models).
There’s also a plug-in hybrid called the Countryman Cooper S E, which comes with four-wheel drive as standard and combines the 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor that can operate independently, giving you a short burst of 25 miles of electric-only range if the battery is fully charged.
There aren't many different trim options you can go for with earlier Countrymans, but there are, of course, numerous packs to look out for. The Chili Pack adds dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, LED headlights, additional storage and an adjustable boot floor. The Comfort Pack has heated front seats and rear parking sensors, while Comfort Plus has all this and a reversing camera. The Navigation Pack adds (you've guessed it) sat-nav, while Navigation Plus includes a bigger, 8.8 infotainment screen. The Tech Pack includes Comfort and Navigation Plus while also throwing in an uprated Harman Kardon sound system. The Driving Assistance Pack has automatic emergency braking.
This changed somewhat in late 2018 with the introduction of 'style' tiers to Cooper and Cooper S models: Classic, Sport and Exclusive. Think of them as Classic being the standard version, Sport having the more athletic styling inside and out (and also a firmer ride, because most had sports suspension fitted; it became a no-cost option from the 2020 facelift), and Exclusive being the posh one with a bespoke alloy wheel design and fancier leather seats inside. The various optional packs continued as before.
Minis have a reputation for terrific handling, and the Countryman is certainly sharper than most SUVs to drive, with minimal body lean if you throw it into a corner and a responsive front end that turns in sharply, making the whole car feel agile and nimble.
However, it isn’t perfect; for one thing, the steering doesn’t offer the same incisive feedback as smaller cars, and it’s far too heavy, making the Countryman a bit of a chore when the time comes to park it.
You also pay the price for that tight handling the instant you go over a bump. Well, actually, you don’t even need a bump to tell how firm the Countryman’s suspension is; the slightest imperfection in the road surface will communicate that to you. Even the regular models suffer from a bouncy ride, while the hot Cooper S model is firm enough to jiggle your teeth around.
The sit-up-and-beg driving position won’t be to everyone’s taste, meanwhile, but at least the seats are welcoming and supportive, and there’s a reasonable amount of space for four people, too. Squeezing in a fifth won’t be a popular move with your rear seat passengers, though, because shoulder room in the outer two seats is pretty restrictive.
They’ll be happier to know that you should be able to fit their luggage in the boot, mind you, thanks to a sizeable load area that’s larger even than those of some cars from the class above. This is further enhanced on cars fitted with the optional Storage Compartment Pack, which gives you a lockable, height-adjustable boot floor and some other neat additions such as netting, load straps and tie-down eyelets.
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