Mini Countryman Cooper 2017
Engine: 3cyl, 1499cc, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 134bhp at 4,400rpm
Torque: 243lb ft at 1400rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1265kg
Top speed: 126mph
Economy: 51.4mpg (official average)
CO2, tax band: 126g/km, 24%
The high-riding, small SUV style of the Countryman pushes the concept of a Mini pretty much to the extremes, and yet it’s proven a solid seller. In this entry-level model it may not have the clout of the Cooper S or JCW models, but it still has a light and turbocharged 1.5-litre engine. With prices starting at a smidge over £23,000 that looks vaguely tempting.
There’s 134bhp and a more useful 243lb ft of torque, but this isn’t a lightweight car and the outcome is a performance that is basically adequate rather than anything more. The six-speed manual box (the auto is an option) keeps things stirring quite well but you’ll need to work those gears to make much progress if you have a car full of people and gear.
It’s then that you are aware that you have a three-cylinder engine, with 500cc per pot. It’s not totally smooth and sounds a touch raucous when you, necessarily, have to row it along quite hard.
But the handling can easily cope with the performance. Even though the centre of gravity is fairly high, the suspension keeps things tracking true, in genuine Mini style. By the standards of this sector, this is a sporty vehicle, yet the ride quality is still comfortable. That’s a decent trick, and not even all the other Mini models can always manage the balance of the two quite so well.
The cabin is also true Mini, a mix of retro style and chic touches. However, in practical terms there is plenty of space front and rear for most people, and the car comes fully equipped – something which helps offset what is still quite a high entry price. The standard infotainment is a 6.5in screen, but there’s sat nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth and much more.
Where does all this leave the Countryman Cooper? Somewhere and nowhere to be honest. Compared to the Cooper S version it feels underpowered and not smooth and slick enough. Yet it also rides better thanks to smaller wheels and softer suspension.
The issue is that this is such a compromise from the original idea of the Mini, or even the ‘new’ Mini. It’s a stretch and this feels a stretch too far unless you’re really sold on the ‘character’ of the car. If you’re after a small SUV we’d advise you to look elsewhere, and to focus your gaze on the Seat Ateca instead, which is in the same price area.