“The biggest and most versatile MINI to be launched in the brand’s 57-year history”. This is how the new Mini Countryman was described prior to its launch and arrival on the Irish market. One thing that is for sure is that this Mini has grown and now manages to properly compete with the mainstream SUV’s which are accounting for vast margins of the overall new car market. This expanding SUV segment is what has motivated numerous car makers to claim their own piece of the action.

So, what is it that makes this new Countryman different to the previous model launched in 2010? Firstly, and probably most importantly for most is that this latest model is 200mm longer than its predecessor and 30mm wider while the wheelbase has been extended by 75mm. The result of this expansion in dimensions means that interior space is increased allowing for greater legroom for both front and rear passengers along with increased boot space as well as creating a larger vehicle from the outside. The increased ground clearance and specific off-road design details further enhance the SUV look to the new Countryman. From the front, the headlamp units differ from other Mini models having an asymmetric shape with LED lighting available as an option.

In response to customer demand for high-end features, equipment levels on the new Mini Countryman have been improved in comparison to the outgoing model. In addition to previous standard equipment the list now includes Satellite Navigation, Bluetooth, Cruise Control. Emergency E-Call and Active Guard amongst others.

Sitting inside the new Mini Countryman you will be greeted by an interior which is now more spacious and has been visually improved. As previously outlined, interior space has been increased with legroom up by 50mm. The rear seats can also be shifted back and forth by up to 130mm to maximise rear legroom or boot space depending on your requirement at any given time. Standard boot space stands at a reasonable 450 litres and the rear seats can also be folded down increasing the boot space up to 1,309 litres.

Accessibility to the various systems within the new Countryman is achieved with ease. Given the size of the display screen located in the centre of the dash all the information is readily available and can be accessed through touchscreen or a rotary dial. The materials that have been used throughout the cabin have a feel of superior quality about them whilst still being soft to the touch. The switchgear has been cleverly thought out with neat styling and the entire interior feels solid.

There is also an abundance of glass which ensures that you can easily find the optimum driving position whilst benefiting from full visibility all around. You get the feeling that the new Countryman is even bigger than it is as you take up your position in the driver’s seat and this is again thanks to the abundance of space and yet the ability to ensure that all the controls are driver orientated.

While this is now hailed as the largest Mini ever produced it certainly doesn’t feel that way when you take to the open road. Playful, energetic and engaging. All words that describe the new Countryman Cooper S All4 on the road. The steering is perfectly weighted and the four-wheel drive system which is biased towards the front provides an abundance of grip. The suspension set-up has also been done is such a way as to ensure that rougher surfaces are handled with ease and yet its cornering ability is not compromised.

When it comes to the engine choice, the subject of this review is the Cooper S 2.0 litre turbo charged engine with 192hp along with 280 Nm of torque which will get you from 0-100 km/hr in 7.5 seconds. Whilst this isn’t going to set any new world records for off the line speed it remains engaging and responsive all the same. Gear changes in the eight-speed automatic transmission fitted in my test model were seamless and while the test car was also fitted with paddle shifts to allow me to take control myself they were rarely required as the gearbox always seemed to be one step ahead of me!

So, would this be my Mini Countryman of choice. If it was down to me and money wasn’t a problem I would have no problem choosing the 2.0 litre petrol engine in the Cooper S however if I were to be sensible about it and in order to save money, I would have to go for the less powerful Cooper or the Cooper D options. As for the All4 four-wheel drive system it works perfectly fine on softer terrain but as with most models in its class I wouldn’t be heading for the full off road track in it just yet.

Standard spec on the Cooper S includes multi-function steering wheel controls, tyre pressure monitoring, performance control, alarm system, roof rails, ISOFIX child seat system which is available in two rear seats and the front passenger seat, passenger seat height adjustment, front sports seats, MINI Connected, MINI Navigation, cruise control and rear parking sensors along with several others. My test car was also fitted with a host of extras which added a considerable weight to the price tag.

Technical Specification

Engine Size – 2.0

Fuel Type – Petrol

Power – 192 bhp

Torque –  280 Nm

Acceleration (0 – 100km/h) – 7.5 seconds

Top Speed – 222 km/hour

Consumption (Combined) – 6.6 litres/ 100 kilometres

CO2 emissions – 150g / km

Road Tax – € 390

Starting Price – € 40,802

Model Tested – € 53,602.91 including options