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MINI does fine tuning to Countryman’s looks and driving experience

06:36 06 November 2014

A few subtle tweaks have improved the way the MINI Countryman looks and drives.

A few subtle tweaks have improved the way the MINI Countryman looks and drives.

MINI

Having been refreshed last year, the MINI Countryman has had one or two more upgrades, so Matt Kimberley, of the Press Association, checks it out.

What’s new?

If you’re getting a faint sense of déjà vu, it’s because the Countryman was only given a few tweaks last year. It’s much the same story once again, with MINI bolting on a few goodies that were up to now unavailable on this car.

You’ll find lighter alloy wheels, for better ride quality and performance, and a slightly revised front end – although you might need to put the old and the new side by side to notice the differences. The clues are in the light clusters.

Mini Countryman Cooper 1.6D

Mini Countryman Cooper 1.6D, from £19,740 (range from £16,990)

Engine: 1.6-litre, 112hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 10.9 seconds; top speed 115mph

MPG: 67.3 combined

CO2 emissions: 111g/km

Looks and image

The Countryman has come in for a pounding over its very un-MINI looks, but these days MINI is a brand rather than a specific car, so the executives are sticking to their guns as far as aesthetics are concerned. Arguably the Countryman has some of the best proportions of any current MINI, and while it hardly looks cute, it does look stylish and upmarket.

Space and practicality

This is also the most practical MINI, with space for four adults to stretch out a bit into unexpected legroom. The seats are quite short under the thigh, but there are Isofix child seat mounts and a decent glove box to add practicality to the interior.

Don’t put too much stock in MINI’s marketing regarding the boot, though, because while it’s bigger than the hatchback MINI’s, it’s still a long stone’s throw short of the class leaders. When it comes to pushchairs and carrycots you might have to get creative.

Behind the wheel

The lighter wheels on this model inevitably make it easier for the suspension to react and make bumps just a tiny bit smoother, although without a back-to-back test there’s no perceptible increase in responsiveness at the throttle pedal.

There’s something strange afoot with the steering, though, which has a strange and disconcertingly elastic resistance around the straight-ahead. It dissolves into nicely direct, accurate and consistent inputs once you push through the initial muddiness.

It’s a nice thing to drive, striking a good balance between body control and comfort, and with the diesel engine up ahead of you there’s an inherently relaxed character that suits the overall package.

Value for money

As a family car the Countryman is pretty questionable value, simply because the boot is too small for the price. The options packs get expensive, too, so if you’re plumbing the depths of the accessories lists then keep an eye on the bottom line.

It’s only fair to say, though, that for some buyers only a MINI will do. Those drivers will find a likeable all-rounder with strong residual values that make finance pretty affordable.

Who would buy one?

A family looking for a second car to run the kids around town without too much luggage in tow will like this car very much. It feels a cut above the more utilitarian options out there and can be customised to taste. That last reason is why MINI expects lots of new parents to switch from a MINI hatch to a Countryman.

But given that hundreds of thousands of Countrymans (Countrymen?) have found homes across the globe so far, it’s safe to say that whoever wants one will probably just go ahead and buy one.

This car summed up in a single word – confident.

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Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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