First Drive : MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4

Adam Sloman

The new five door MINI Countryman had its international launch in Hamburg, Germany last week. AROnline Contributor Adam Sloman was there to try it out.

MINI Countryman

The maxi-MINI, the new Countryman

At over four metres long, the Countryman is the biggest MINI yet, and it’s the first to be built away from the famous Oxford plant, with production being based at Magna Steyr in Austria. 

The styling isn’t the car’s strongest point – it’s a further dilution of the MINI design formula and we’re still unsure if it works. Inside, it’s much the same as any other MINI, with the retro-style central speedo that houses sat-nav, DAB radio and the new MINI Connected system, which allows anyone with an iPhone to stream thousands of web-radio stations to the car’s impressive stereo system.

There’s a fair amount of space for four adults, while the new centre-rail storage system offers all sorts of options for sunglasses, music players, drinks and more. Boot space remains poor, offering less than that of the likes of the Ford Focus. Prices start at £16,000 for the cheapest 98bhp Countryman One, while the Cooper S with optional ALL4 4×4 system pictured here will set you back £22,030. Diesel versions will feature BMW’s new 110bhp engine.

With 184bhp on board, the Countryman is no slouch but, in comparison to its slinkier sibling, it can’t cope with the bends as well, the taller body meaning there’s evidence of bodyroll if you push on. Steering is artificially heavy and can become twitchy if you ask too much of it – it’s too keen to behave like the two-door and with the extra weight and that’s a tad unnerving.

MINI admits the Countryman is a soft-roader and the four-wheel drive system only really comes into play when the electronics detect a loss of grip. The test route included an off-road section through woodland but that didn’t really challenge the car’s four wheel  drive abilities, truth be told.

It’s a pity BMW didn’t take more chances with the Countryman – bar the new centre-rail storage system and the optional four wheel drive, there’s little different to the regular MINI.

Boot space is still poorer than its rivals and it’s not as engaging to drive as some of the cars it will be pitched against. MINI are clearly keen to increase its customer base, but it would be great to see more innovation from the brand, should the Beachcomber concept (think new Moke) see production.

Despite its oddball styling, the Countryman will almost certainly be a huge success for parent BMW. The extra two doors are bound to bring people back to the brand or attract those who wanted a MINI with a bit more space. It’s not as much fun to drive as other MINIs, but it does offer something different to the normal family five-door.

Exits are located here, here, here and here…

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51 Comments on "First Drive : MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4"

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  1. Bwaaaaaak!

    A very ugly car. I’m proud I have a real Mini and not that Mini want to be from BMW. This has nothing to do with the real Countryman from the Sixties. Can BMW not choose new names instead of shaming themselves by using the names from the Sixties?

    Grtz from a real Mini lover in Belgium.

  2. I think I marginally prefer the look of the Austin Allegro but, for sure, it’s not as good-looking as a Ford Edsel. It would be a close shave though with a Renault 9… narghh… sooner look at the 9.

  3. JON says:

    Not a Mini… a BMW .05 Series.

  4. Allen says:

    Expect the usual raft of complaints: it’s not a Mini, it’s a betrayal of the Mini legacy, Alec Issigonis will be spinning in his grave, it’s ugly etc.

    This is missing the point. It will sell. If people are prepared to buy a Porsche Cayenne or Panamera just because of the badge, then they’ll buy anything.

  5. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    I don’t like the styling of the roof. I’m ignoring the badge; it’s a brand new car for sale now and what matters is how it stacks up with similar cars.

    Truth be told, I think I’d rather have a Skoda Octavia Scout.

  6. Brian says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s a complete farce. BMW must be going mental and be undertaking a process to stretch every brand and concept as far as it can – past breaking point. As a Mini, this has no credibility at all – they might as well have called it something else…

    However, as said above, it’ll sell like mad because of the ‘cool’ cachet it has. It’s not cool and it’s not clever.

  7. Leslie says:

    How large can a car be and still be called “MINI”?

    Also, how ugly can a car be and still have bimbos call it “cute” (as I am sure they will)?

  8. KC says:

    The problem is that they are calling it a Mini – however it may be spelt, capital letters or not.

    If it had been given another name it could be judged in its own right, rather than this constant referring back to “the good old days” (and I’m not saying that makes it any better).

    Remember, back in the 1950s when the original Mini first appeared, it was called, among other things, the Morris Mini Minor. I wonder if people back then complained about destroying the legacy of Morris cars and Morris Minors and were saying how dare this new (for 1950s) model ruin the history of Morris cars…

  9. Ian says:

    If you are looking for a better name than MINI, then you should know that an Austin Maxi was 4.013 metres long. Does that give you any ideas?

  10. Vavavoom says:

    Hah! Another car for Estate Agents with poor taste. It’s a disgrace what is being done to the original concept of the Mini.

    This bulgy-eyed monster is vile, but we can’t expect modern day customers to be concerned with heritage – I expect it will sell to sad yummy mummies.

  11. David McKenzie says:

    All I’ll say is that it begins with s and ends in t and it’s not soot !!!!!!!!!!

  12. KenS Ken S says:

    BMW knows what will sell – and at a profit (at those prices, it certainly should have some margin). BMC had no idea whether it was profitable and wasn’t all that sure what would sell (Austin 1800 and 3-litre, Allegro, Maxi, VDP 4-litre R…. the dealers didn’t help much).

  13. Alex Mathias says:

    It’s a product designed to sell and make a profit – is that such a bad thing?

    That way, the company making it might just be around for a while longer! I think that’s what business is all about, isn’t it?

  14. Dr Bobby Love says:

    I think your all missing the point of the “MINI” in today’s car scene.

    The first “NEW” MINI was the most Mini-ish it was ever going to be as, if it had gotten more Mini-ish from that point, it would have been going backwards.

    MINI is a brand now and we have to accept that it incorporates a group of smaller cars sold by BMW in a mildly premium or, at least, style-orientated market sector… It’s not meant to be anything like an original Mini, just kinda look a little like the first NEW MINI.

    How can you knock a car for being 4m long (Fiesta-sized) and having the boot space of a Focus? I’d say that was fantastic myself.

  15. JohnnyZero says:

    I really don’t like the BMW MINI for much the same reasons that many have highlighted on this thread.

    However, the success of the MINI keeps alive a significant manufacturing facility in this country. This is a good thing, despite none of our major auto facilities in this country being British-owned.

    This variation of the MINI branded SUV-type vehicle is dreadful but, if it helps the success of the brand overall, it’s a good thing though. That said, it is a little alarming that its manufacture has drifted away from Cowley (or BMW Oxford if you are that way inclined). Hopefully, this is just a case of a niche market product being produced by a specialist in that field…

    It IS a pig though, isn’t it?

  16. Paul says:

    @Vavavoom
    I know. I am appalled that anyone should use the MINI name to build a high quality, well-developed car that is just what the market wants, will sell in huge numbers and make vasts profits for its maker. Just not British at all!

  17. Adam Sloman says:

    @Paul
    It’s not British at all. The development team was entirely German and production is based in Austria, with Magna Steyr, so, name aside, there’s no British connection.

  18. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Dr Bobby Love :
    How can you knock a car for being 4m long (Fiesta-sized) and having the boot space of a Focus? I’d say that was fantastic myself.

    Ker-rist. 161.3″ for the MINI Countryman, 160.1″ for the Ford Fiesta, though that is 5″ longer thanks to Federal spec equipment.

    Compare that to 140″ for the original Mk 1 Fiesta and 120″ for the original Mini or the way I like to see it – a handful of inches (between 4 and 6) shorter than an XJ Jeep Cherokee; a car which I liked a huge amount and got 32mpg from the 4.0 petrol (on a good run, obviously) and yet was frequently held up as a horrible thirsty SUV that was killing the planet.

    I used to make the point that the XJ’s footprint was not much bigger than a Ford Escort estate and much smaller than many big estate cars (height-wise, they’re also not as tall as people think). Now I can say the Cherokee is only a few inches longer than a MINI and be right!

  19. Shep says:

    The fashion sheep have a new darling.

  20. Simon Woodward says:

    @Shep
    Ha Shep!! Very good.

  21. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    How bizarre – the MINI Countryman will probably compete with the Range Rover Evoque.

  22. Darren says:

    BMW seem to have a knack of making UGLY cars these days.

  23. Paul says:

    Adam Sloman :@Paul
    It’s not British at all. The development team was entirely German, and production is based in Austria, with Magna Steyr, so name aside, there’s no British connection.

    I meant British attitude that seems to despise success but go all gooey eyed over abject failure. Explains everything really!

  24. Ayd says:

    I saw one of these at Goodwood. If you’re going to make a big fat MINI, why complicate the front with a miserable looking grill mouth and odd shaped lights? Whoever designed this also designed the new fatlek Daleks.

  25. Alex Scott says:

    Definitely a case of Japaneseitis here i.e. what can we do with it rather than what should we do with it?

    I agree with most of the comments and editorial elsewhere here – there are other choices around which are probably better pitched and, as I’ve said before, BMW would be better to address the short comings rather than making more short comings i.e. it still doesn’t have 5 seats.

    I would buy the Focus or maybe an MG (I’m not convinced MG are there yet either but the price is bound to better and they’ll probably have 5 seats).

    Like most cars on the market (except the Range Rover range) I don’t like the head lights. Manufacturers seem to have this weird obsession for really ugly head lights at present. To prove that I’m not disrespectful, I would be tempted to buy a Corolla and put a body kit and agressive wheels on it before buying the above car. Alex.

  26. Simon Woodward says:

    @Jonathan Carling
    I don’t think JLR have a lot to worry about. This new MINI is the ‘Fat Bird from the Tanning Shop trying to be 18 again after years of Pukka Pies and holidays in Ibiza’. In other words there’s a bit of a ‘Muffin Top’ thing going on around its midriff, whereas the LR Evoque, despite its bulk, looks a lot sharper.

  27. Tim Collis says:

    I think it’s alright and, as somebody has mentioned, it will sell. It’s just a shame it isn’t being manufactured here in the UK.

  28. Darius says:

    It’s all very well to slate BMW and I agree that it is an ugly car that is only a Mini in name and does not share the original’s spirit.

    However, there it is, ON SALE. The same can’t be said for Austin or Morris, who have nothing to offer in 2010.

  29. Karl says:

    21st century Maxi, except you won’t be able to make a double bed in the back…

  30. Ianto says:

    Brilliant, this must be the best MINI yet!

  31. Darren says:

    The Countryman will sell and be bought by a “certain type” of person who tries very hard to look cool but never quite pulls it off.

    Like the potential buyers, it could do with a trip to the gym to lose a few pounds…

  32. Mike C says:

    Not BMW’s best effort, but there is a market for such a product, hence Nissan not producing the new Micra in the UK and instead producing the oddball Juke, another soft roader.

    Personally, I think it’s a MINI too far and that the Designers are in danger of losing the essence of the BMW MINI, which is cute looks and sporty handling.

    Shame it’s not built in the UK, but it’s normal for manufacturers to use contract assemblers for these niche products – if it takes off, the next generation may be made in-house but, if it flops, then they haven’t expanded the plant for nothing.

  33. Chris Kirman says:

    School Report:

    Could do better!

  34. John says:

    @Dr Bobby Love
    I loved my MINIs but needed more space. I looked at the Countryman and absolutely hated it and bought a Focus RS instead. I can tell you that there is absolutely no comparison between the boot space (or anywhere else for that matter) in the Focus and the much more cramped Countryman. This car is only spacious when compared to other MINIs.

  35. Richard Kilpatrick :

    Dr Bobby Love :
    Also, How can you knock a car for being 4m long (Fiesta Sized) and having the boot space of a Focus.. I’d say that was fantastic myself.

    Ker-rist. 161.3″ for the MINI Countryman, 160.1″ for the Ford Fiesta, though that is 5″ longer thanks to Federal spec equipment.
    Compared to 140″ for the original Mk 1 Fiesta and 120″ for the original Mini.
    Or the way I like to see it – a handful of inches (between 4 and 6) shorter than an XJ Jeep Cherokee; a car which I liked a huge amount and got 32mpg from the 4.0 petrol (on a good run, obviously) and yet was frequently held up as a horrible thirsty SUV that was killing the planet.
    I used to make the point that the XJ’s footprint was not much bigger than a Ford Escort estate, and much smaller than many big estate cars (height wise, they’re also not as tall as people think); now I can say the Cherokee is only a few inches longer than a MINI and be right!

    Actually, the Jeep Cherokee is the greenest vehicle on the planet all factors considered such as production run. Weird but true.

  36. Dennis says:

    Regardless of what I currently drive, that is one ugly looking car!

  37. Marcel from Holland says:

    Over the top… Hopefully, MG or Roewe will bring out a real ONE! What names have they left over for them?

  38. Martin says:

    A great addition to the MINI range. I look forward to seeing MINI back in rallying soon with WRC MINI Countryman 4×4 currently being developed by Prodrive with BMW. Also the Coupe, Roadster and the new city car the MINI-Minor are on the way, so exciting times ahead for MINI fans!

    Like it or not BMW run a successful and profitable car factory in Oxford which exports 80% of the 800 MINIs produced each day to around 80 different countries and have, at least, done it (so far) without moving it all to India or China.

    Yes, the Countryman is made in Austria but then that well-known British company BAe sold off and destroyed half of the original Cowley Car Plant in a short-sighted asset stripping property development back in the early 1990s – it is now a Retail Shopping Park, Tescos, etc and BMW are running short of space for expanding MINI production at Oxford as a result. However, I believe permission has just been granted to build a new bodyshop facility for the Coupe/Roadster within the current site.

  39. Steve McGill says:

    Not only hideously ugly and too contrived, but not built in the UK so this is a pointless car that is nothing more than a waste of the world’s resources…

  40. Jemma says:

    It doesn’t get any better second time round – a bit like ‘reheated’ sprouts just without the wonderful flavour…

    It’s pointless since, in every field of endeavour, there is something that does it better… the BMW 1 Series is better for the ubertosser – the “look at me I can afford to waste money not because I have it, but because I work for a bank and nicked yours” set. The Fiesta and Focus are better for the ‘I like to/can actually drive’ set – even the Kia Rio has something going for it in this company…

    And what is with those ridiculous back seats?! You sit on them and they’re uncomfortable, you put them down and everything you put in the boot that is smaller than a welsh dresser falls down the gaps – you couldn’t put dogs (the ‘woof’ variety) in there with the seats down – poor things would break ankles so often you’d be going through more 9mm ammo than the SAS & SWAT combined putting the poor things out of their misery…

    I think it would be fitting to name this Maxi II – after all we’ve have Vietnam II and Wall Street Crash II (and are heading towards III with gay abandon if you read the financials). We’ve even managed Exxon Valdez II – let’s go with the flow…

    And as I leave the smiling happy ranks *cough* – have a look at these year reviews to cheer you up (slightly americanised)… I would love to see what they manage for 2010…

    http://sendables.jibjab.com/originals/2008_year_in_review

    http://sendables.jibjab.com/originals/never_a_year_like_09

  41. Ianto says:

    I am surprised at the amount of bile and hatred directed towards this lovely little car. Under BMW this brand has gone from strength to strength, which contrasts with the forty years of doing very little under BMC, BL, Austin Rover and Rover Group. Furthermore, I am not sure it really matters where it is made as, after all, for much of its life the Moke was made outside of the UK, but that did not make it any less a Mini.

    This is a fantastic little car and perfect for today – unlike a late 1990s Mini which had prehistoric levels of comfort and safety in comparison. I am sure that this car will sell really well and will spawn further variants of the MINI.

    A big thumbs up to BMW!

  42. DaveH says:

    Bloody awful in my opinon. The roof line is all wrong – why are the doors higher than past the C-pillar? The front looks like a gawping Porsche.

  43. Marty B says:

    MINI? Get a grip BMW. Anyone with half a brain will buy the Fiat Panda 4×4 – or two judging by the stupidly over-inflated price.

    The MINI brand is so heavily tainted now as an ‘Estate Agent’s hack’. It is not UK made, so shouldn’t have the MINI badge on it at all and, at 4m long, perhaps should be called the MAXI, or the ‘Ugly Lardarse Mutant’?

    Fancy launching an ugly heap like this when the world economy is knackered. Hope it fails, as it will teach the Germans a lesson not to mess with the MINI brand. They would have been better off spending the cash on designing this on a hybrid/eco drive version of the standard car that has 4 seats…

    It is a Skoda Yeti rival and I know which I would buy, especially as the Yeti is cheaper and no doubt better made.

    Ze Germans have really lost the plot with cars now… It started with the Porsche Cayenne, through several dodgy BMW’s, Audi’s & BMW’s take on the 1970s SD1 (sorry chaps, us Brits beat you to the sunbeds in the 1970s with that design, the V8 5-door ‘execuhatch’) and the new Audi A1, which looks very iffy and shares loads of parts with the Fabia/Polo/Ibiza, but will be sold for about £2k more…

  44. Ianto says:

    @Marty B
    It will sell loads.

  45. Martin says:

    The MINI Countryman’s production allocation is already 50% sold without production even starting and that’s without the US market even launching the vehicle…

  46. Dr Bobby Love says:

    Marty B :
    MINI? Get a grip BMW. Anyone with half a brain will buy the Fiat Panda 4×4 – or two judging by the stupidly over-inflated price.

    No they won’t – if that was how the world worked, the original Mini would never have been a runaway success and we’d all drive Skodas.

  47. Dr Bobby Love says:

    Opps… by “original Mini”, I mean the BMW one! This is all far too confusing, lol..

  48. Honorary Swede says:

    Marty B :It is not UK made, so shouldn’t have the MINI badge on it at all,

    It’s hardly the first thing to carry the Mini badge and/or brand that has been made abroad. We have the Belgian and Italian ones, plus all those made from CKD kits.

  49. Martin says:

    Honorary Swede :

    Marty B :It is not UK made, so shouldn’t have the MINI badge on it at all,

    It’s hardly the first thing to carry the Mini badge and/or brand that has been made abroad. We have the Belgian and Italian ones, plus all those made from CKD kits.

    Also Australian Mini’s & Mokes, South African Minis, Spanish Authi Mini’s, Portugese Minis & Mokes not to mention fibreglass Mini Cords in Venezuela, etc……….

  50. Martin says:

    MINI is making a comeback on the international rally circuit. From 2011, the brand will compete at selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and will go on to contest the entire season from 2012 onwards. This involvement is planned for several years.

    The car charged with this task is the MINI Countryman WRC, which is being developed by Prodrive, in close cooperation with MINI, and is based on the production model. The powerful heart of the racing car is a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-charged engine from BMW Motorsport. The car complies with the new Super 2000 regulations put in place by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), which stipulate the use of turbo engines with 1,600cc displacement and four-wheel drive combined with an increased emphasis on road-relevant technologies. The result is a significant 25 per cent reduction in overall costs.

    The first test drive for the MINI Countryman WRC, which will also be available to customer teams, is planned for autumn 2010.

  51. austin-towers says:

    A face not even a mother could love. SICKENING.

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