MINI has brought back the Countryman for another year, but in a much bigger way (and not just because it’s a compact SUV).
One of my favourite things about SUVs is that it makes me want to live a more adventurous life. For most of the week, I spend my days sitting behind a desk, working on my computer and phone (in my part-time job, or on my social media/ website). Most of my life revolves around computers, technology and being stationary. So when there is the opportunity to go out exploring, and just switch off- I really jump at it.
This being the very first MINI I have driven/ reviewed, I was pleasantly surprised. To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of thoughts around the MINI brand. My perception was purely based off the name “MINI” and what I knew about classic MINIs. As far as tech goes, I honestly thought this car would be super basic, because you’re buying the ‘fun’ more than anything else…or so I thought.
Well let’s start a fresh; this car is much about the tech as it is about the fun. Even to the point where some of the tech was far more advanced than some of the more premium cars I’ve had.
So let it be known, yes, you can ‘have your cake and eat it’.
SUVs make me feel like, ‘Hey, let’s just go somewhere, anywhere and get amongst the nature. Let’s see things we haven’t seen before’. MINI are really trying to reflect that with this SUV and part of that is why I was drawn to it…the next thing was what I learnt about the tech upgrades!
A really cool thing to note is that part of BMW Group’s plans for 2017 is to bring the MINI brand to be on par with their BMW brand. This is really great news, because it means they are really valuing the needs of what people want in their new cars- plus aligning their cars keeps it super competitive.
Going with their signature MINI craftsmanship, but of course, with some tweaks to be able to provide an SUV offering without completely ruining the overall look.
They wanted to created a car that took MINI ownership to the next level, offering an extra rugged versatility that you won’t necessarily get with a standard MINI Cooper. The shape is very similar to their regular hatch offerings, and much the same with the interior. The only thing is that it is obviously higher from the ground, and has a steep grille with powerful shoulder line. This by no means makes it ugly, but you can certainly distinguish which is the SUV and which isn’t.
Still sticking with their traditional low centre of gravity, and legendary go-kart handling, eye-catching lines, distinctive profile plus the distinguishing touches of chrome (e.g. flip switches). However, with a slighter longer wheelbase.
The MINI Cooper D Countryman has 8-speed Automatic transmission and boasts the torque of a diesel and 110 kw of engine power with also a relatively fuel consumption of 4.8L per 100KM.
- 18” Light Alloy Pin Spoke in Black with run flat safety tyres
- Anthracite roof lining
- Colour Line in Satellite Grey
- Chrome line interior
- Chili Package
- LED headlights with LED daytime running lights
- LED foglights
- Driving Modes
- Interior surfaces in Piano Black
- Metallic Paintwork
- Roof & mirror caps in Black
The first thing you notice about the interior of this vehicle is the quirkiness, but don’t let that fool you. The tech in this MINI is quite comparable to the other BMWs I have driven, and in some cases even better.
It is a little confusing at first, because, it’s really not like other cars. The fuel gauge is a measure of ‘fluorescent dashes’ with 6 bars being full. So rather than seeing physical numbers or a quarter format gauge, it’s just a couple of lights dashed out next to the speedo.
Speed limit info display, camera based
Instead of having the speed-limit integrated purely into MAPS, it is shown within the speedometer ‘circle’, and is extremely accurate. From my drive, I noticed it took less than a second, sometime 2 if the sign is a bit obscure. Essentially there are camera near the top of the windshield that scans the road for speed signs, and once they hit them it will change right in front of you. This is a great fallback, but realistically you should be paying full-attention to the road. Sometimes, it does pick up School Zones (40km/hr or 60km/hr signs) outside of the scheduled timing of these speed zones, as it doesn’t register additional writing on these signs (so do be cautious of this).
Automated tailgate function
I really enjoyed this function because it made it easier to put items in the boot. Especially if you’re hands are full, or if the ground is wet (and you don’t want to place your items on the ground). You simply kick your foot underneath the boot, and quickly step back. The sensor is then motioned, with the boot opening. This works with the proximity key, so you don’t have to physically have the key out as well- as long as you are very close to the car.
However, these functions are super sensitive. For example, if you’re washing the car with a pressure hose, you can trigger the sensor to go off and the boot will open (if you linger long enough in the one spot).
Returning to the new MINI Countryman is the iconic Centre Instrument. Conveniently located in the middle of the dashboard, the Centre Instrument provides all of your entertainment and navigation functions at the press of a button, with the interactive LED display ring.
MINI Visual Boost media interface with 6.5” monitor plus:
- Bluetooth with audio streaming, plus USB
- Digital radio tuner
- Navigation system
The infotainment screen was very cool, and I actually much prefer it to the BMW system. Mainly because it was colourful, and the icons were more cartoon-ish and fun. But that’s just preference.
The display ring of the infotainment dial additionally will change colour when you do things like alter the volume or change the temperature in the car.
In a very MINI fashioned way, they kept the interior relatively ‘old-school’ but with some updated tech functions.
For example the flip switches below the temperature settings. I really like the old-school feel of these with of course, the more current technology functions for example a switch for ‘Auto Stop-Start’ and Park Assist (see below).
Plus programmable shortcut keys, functions such as radio, multimedia and navigation.
OTHER TECH INCLUDED
- Automatic Climate Control
- Keyless start
As well as the aforementioned ‘speed-limit information display’, the car is equipped with some standard safety equipment:
Active Cruise Control with ‘stop and go’ function
Autonomous Emergency Braking
Park Distance Control: front and rear with Park Assist
Run flat safety tyres
I particularly love active cruise control with ‘stop and go’ function plus autonomous braking. It’s perfect for those long roadtrips, making sure you get to your destination safely! No matter what kind of traffic you might encounter on the way.
Given that it is a compact SUV, you should be pretty confident when it comes to space. Especially if you’re only going to be using your car for commutes to work and road trips on the weekend plus shopping trip.
As a standard feature the Countryman comes with Storage package featuring flat loading boot floor. The boot was able to comfortably fit luggage for two as well and some shopping bags and extra coats (without the seats folded). Plus, with the flat loading boot floor you can truly maximize the space in the car if you need to cart things around or go on a huge shopping trip.
After having this car for a week, I can see why people love the MINI brand so much, and why those that buy into it, stay with it. They seriously are a whole lot of fun. Super nippy and nimble, even for a compact SUV (although I am yet to compare this to their more traditional models).
With the MINI Countryman entering it’s 7th year of production, it’s just gets better. Even if you’re like me, it always pays off to do your research, and of course the best way is to see by doing! It’s highly versatile, perfect for your adventure days and your work days. No matter what day, the Countryman is built to handle it.
For it’s price range (around $45,000- $50,000 MRL Price), the tech is highly impressive, especially with the kick-boot function and it is considerably spacious, even with the name ‘MINI’.
Review vehicle provided on behalf of BMW Group Australia
Photography by Noah Esposito