MINI Countryman Review 2019

Find out more about the MINI Countryman in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Stylish looks
  • Good to drive
  • Great family car

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as practical as the standard car
  • Small fuel tank
  • MPG

    43 - 117

  • CO2

    43 - 156 g/km

Model Review

Mini’s first Countryman crossover sent shockwaves through the industry, when unveiled in 2010. It’s not exactly the best start when your company prides itself on its small cars (and has done for over 50 years) to then start building SUVs.

But once it was accepted that the Countryman was the first Mini to work as a proper family car, with good drivability, decent practicality and five-door layout, the Countryman could get on with the job in hand.

The same trim levels and engine choice remained as the standard car — including a hot John Cooper Works version.

By 2016, Mini had sold nearly 500,000 Countryman’s across the globe, and the second-generation looked to continue with that. It was the biggest Mini yet, which offered more versatility, safety tech and the same charming looks which the firm’s offerings are known for.

Latest model

The long-windedly named Countryman Cooper S E All 4 made its debut at the same time as the standard crossover in October 2016 and was Mini’s first plug-in hybrid model.

A combination of a 1.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor creates an efficient, yet powerful setup, which has an electric range of 25 miles and can do up to 78mpg before the combustion engine kicks into action.

There is very little difference between the standard petrol and diesel Countryman and the plug-in model either.

Value for money

The standard Countryman is hardly cheap, so it’s little surprise that the plug-in hybrid version isn’t a particular bargain. That said, aside from the racy John Cooper Works version, the plug-in hybrid is the second quickest Countryman in the range.

While it might cost £7,000 more than a Countryman S, it does come with an extra 30bhp on top of that car, although a starting price of £31,895 is a lot for a Mini.

Standard equipment isn’t overly generous either, with the base car coming with satellite navigation, rear parking sensors and keyless start, but little else in the way of luxury. This means that customers often end up dabbling into the optional extras list, which can soon make the price rise alarmingly.

But high prices haven’t stopped a wave of demand for the plug-in hybrid model, with long waiting lists for the new Countryman. This has helped keep used values high. At the time of writing, the cheapest on the market started at £27,000, for an 18-month-old Mini Countryman PHEV, which is still a chunk off the list price, but not as much money as you might imagine. Expect savings of between £2,000 and £3,000 on nearly-new models less than a year old.

Looks and image

While Mini loyalists turned their noses up in the air at the thought of the Countryman, a bigger model, the crossover, has been a huge success for the British brand.

And while it’s not quite as charming to look at as the three-door-hatch, it’s still a stylish crossover that stands out in the crossover segment. The choice of trim levels also helps to differentiate the models, with the ‘Sport’ version coming with a John Cooper Works styling kit and the ‘Exclusive’ with a chrome styling kit and 18-inch alloy wheels. It’s a bit odd to brag about being the largest ‘Mini’, but it’s a worthwhile claim with the Countryman’s stylish looks.

The interior also looks just like the rest of the range with its large central touchscreen with a circular trim surround, which is clearly an attempt to keep the spirit of the old centrally-placed speedo alive. It’s one of the funkiest dashboards in its class, with lots of toggle switches to play around with whilst still managing to appear simple . The interior quality is also excellent, with lots of premium-feeling materials and a durability to the cabin, which is ideal for a car aimed at families, and also for something costing over £30,000.

Another big bonus of the Countryman PHEV is that it’s just as good to drive as the standard petrol and diesel models. It’s one of the most fun plug-in hybrid models to drive, and even with the additional weight from the electrification, it’s still a lot of fun behind the wheel. Sharp handling helps the Countryman feel stable, while the performance is also rather surprising, with 0-60mph achievable in under seven seconds. Compared to models such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which is admittedly not angled as a sporty model, it’s pretty brisk. It also rides well even on rougher surfaces with a good suspension setup, and it doesn’t feel anywhere near as harsh as other plug-in hybrid models. The only downside is that the switch between electric and petrol power could be smoother and more refined.

Space and practicality

There is a slight offset in practicality with the Countryman to cope with its additional batteries, but it’s not particularly noticeable.

Minis are not known for their spaciousness, but the larger Countryman helps to rebuke these stereotypes. The plug-in hybrid’s boot might be down 45 litres on the standard Countryman, but it still leaves 405 litres of luggage space available which is similar to the boot sizes of other family hatchbacks. To accommodate the batteries, the fuel tank has shrunk quite heavily from 51 to 36 litres, which could mean more fuel stops than normal if you don’t take advantage of the Countryman PHEVs electricity.

The rear seats are placed slightly higher than those in the standard car, but a high roofline ensures that there’s still plenty of headroom for adults in the rear, even if the seats no longer slide.

It’s also proven to be a safe car, with the Countryman scoring a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating in 2017, with high scores for adult and child protection. Standard safety aids include autonomous emergency braking, although it’s lacking in much else unless you add the optional extra kit.

Engines

Just one option is offered on the Countryman PHEV — a 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol paired with an electric motor to produce 221bhp and 385Nm of torque in total. The engine sends power to the front wheels and the electric motor directs its shove to the rear wheels, which creates the ‘All4’ four-wheel-drive system, that allows for impressive traction — 0-60mph in 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 123mph. The sole gearbox option is a six-speed automatic transmission.

Running costs

Depending on the type of driving the Countryman Plug-in hybrid can be a very cheap car to run. Its electric-only driving ability is greater than other similar cars, with Mini quoting a claimed range of 26 miles; this makes ideal for those with small commutes or regular access to charge points.

Mini also says that the Countryman hybrid can manage 97.4mpg on the combined cycle, with low CO2 emissions of 55g/km, although in real-world driving you’ll rarely achieve those figures.

Charging times take around three hours using a standard domestic socket, or around an hour with a wallbox or faster public charger.

The Countryman has a huge amount of appeal to fleet managers, too, as it sits in a low Benefit-in-Kind bracket, which could reap big savings compared to the standard Countryman.

Just be aware that if you treat the Countryman like a conventional car and rarely charge the batteries, it will hardly be any more efficient than a standard petrol Countryman.

Things to look out for

The latest Countryman is still a new model, with a certain unknown around its reliability, although no issues are yet to affect more than individual cars. Mini has a middle-of-the-road reputation for its cars’ reliability, which could be worth noting for when the plug-in Countryman gets a few years older.

Rivals

There’s still quite a limited number of options in terms of plug-in crossovers, but the closest rival to the Countryman is the Kia Niro, which can be had with a plug-in hybrid, traditional hybrid or all-electric powertrain. The larger and more expensive Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is also a worthy option.  In terms of conventional hybrids, you should look at the Toyota C-HR, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and the new Lexus UX.

Depreciation

As mentioned earlier, long waiting lists, limited supply and high demand for the Countryman hybrid has led to the model holding its value well, and better than the normal petrol and diesel versions, which new customers don’t have to wait as long for. There’s still small savings that can be had from buying nearly-new models, though.

Which Countryman to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

1.5 Cooper Classic 5dr

Most MPG

1.5 Cooper S E Classic ALL4 PHEV 5dr Auto

Fastest Model (0-60)

2.0 [306] John Cooper Works ALL4 5dr Auto

Summary

  1. Distinctive Mini styling
  2. Plug-in hybrid is powerful and efficient
  3. Ideal for business users
  4. Long waiting lists
  5. High-quality and quirky interior
  6. Electric range of around 20 miles in real-world conditions
  7. Small compromise on practicality next to the standard Countryman
  8. High list price…
  9. And the options are also very expensive
  10. An expensive, but highly recommended plug-in hybrid crossover

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