Mini as they say, it is not in reality! Here, we are talking about the Countryman, which is neither compact nor small as the brand name says. Recently we got on our hands on the Mini Countryman JCW inspired Cooper S and it looks and is sporty on the outside yet it seems practical to have one with its huge size and will give you fun to drive factor when out for short trips. The cabin is big too and now gets more upmarket material in use. Nonetheless, the boot is big to load up huge luggage and more practical. This Mini is way bigger than any that have come to be known, be it oldest of the old that was small indeed or its predecessor.
The very phrase that will come to one’s mind at first glimpse is ‘fancy yet practical’. Yes! It has an unmistakable new styling. It is bigger, bolder and taller than the previous one. The chrome touch on the face adds more taste for the Indian buyers, especially the ‘S’ slapped on the grille. Oval headlamps and even the taillamps are now all set with LEDs.
The fancy bit here in the styling are the strips running down the bonnet in a slanting manner that also adds sportiness to the design. Larger than the previous one but still not letting go-off, of its classiness and still speaking out loud that ‘I am Mini’. With a hard top, it comes with a dual-toned white roof, even the wing mirrors come in white tone, better matched to the JCW packaging and JCW badging on the door strips, thrill spoke with JCW logo on it. If we talk about the overall design part, it seems relentlessly ritzy when on the road.
Matching its sporty touch on the outside, the cabin still gets the circular theme. The dash has been centred with round infotainment display, surrounded by a light strip and you can also change colours. Toggle switches are something that will make one feels as if in a cockpit, but limited switches like the start/stop switch make it more flamboyant and not messy that a cockpit usually looks like (filled thousands of controls). Both speedo and tachometer are in a circular dial and move along the steering wheel when adjusting the rake. The steering has been stitched with leather and so is the gear knob with a red contrast stitching, adding to its sportiness and so does the stainless steel pedal covers. What makes it more of panache is when a tinted screen pops out as soon as the fuel kicks in. Unlike the convertible, this one is more practical and door bins can hold your litre bottles. The rear seat can easily seat three passengers, could be a bit of a squeeze but can be easily managed within after all it is a frivolous play toy with some practicality.
Boot space is huge and you can stuff in your luggage in the square-shaped big aperture boot, and it has an unbelievable space of 450 litres. The grained leather seats are comfortable, whether it’s the front or the rear seats we speak of.
Engine, performance and gearbox
Just like the Mini convertible, the Countryman also comes with a 2-litre petrol engine that makes 190bhp. An eight-speed automatic helps in cranking out the power, though using paddle-shifters is more fun, as it feels nippy but starting does feel that it is swaying to come in a mood, undoubtedly shifts do feel smooth when driving in auto mode. The growling exhaust note of the twin-turbo can be heard inside as well thanks to the speaker channelling that adds more to package of sportiness when driving on Sport mode. Green mode can be used if you are really in a need of saving the fuel, but are you when driving a Mini. The acceleration is good but not like icing on a cake per se could be due to the more added weight for practicality.
Ride and handling
The stiffness of the suspension is what Mini offers and that is what adds more to its sportiness. On tarmac it is smooth but if on a rough road you will feel a bit of bump (better to keep it on the tarmac, it’s not an off-roader). Steering gives a nice response and gets weighty even as you pace up the Countryman, so manoeuvring a hot hatch like this one gives more sense of confidence, just punch the paddle and push it through corners and it will hold the apex line that you are planning to be on.
It has sporty essence in it with practicality, looks great, bigger in size than the convertible and also its predecessor, feels classy when you are in it and is fancy as it gets and good add-on to your huge line-up in your garage. Though, you need to shell out a lot for a toy like this one. That said, you will never get such fun to drive feel from any other small car in the market.
Photography By: Mohd Nasir