The MINI brand has been known for its small cars from the sixties where the original was considered a British icon. Nowadays, the badge is more associated with fun and active lifestyle. As their vehicles are now nowhere near the sizes of its predecessors, the seemingly limiting brand name could be trying to break out of its mold... even if just by adding two more doors.
This is the Countryman. Historically speaking, the Countryman is actually not new to MINI, tracing its roots back to 1961-1969 under the Austin name. The Countryman then just had two doors but a longer chassis and barn-style wooden doors to mimic the “Woodie” of 1950s Americana.
Fast-forward forty years after 2010, MINI now under German ownership announces the revival of the Countryman in crossover form. This time it comes supersized with four full doors and a rear hatch, decent cargo space and significantly increased ride height. It still resembles a MINI, however it really takes a bit of getting used to. Our loaner came in a bright Chili Red finish that grabbed more attention than any car on the road during our test.
Under the hood is a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated engine that is not more powerful than that of the Cooper; a car that weights 200 kilograms less. The engine is paired to a 6-speed speed automatic. It boasts of a 0-100km/h figure of 10.5-seconds and tops out at 190km/h. For city driving duties in Metro Manila traffic, it is more than enough power in both standard and sport modes. When taken to the expressway, it gave decent power for overtaking and weaving through traffic (provided of course you switch the “Sport” mode on). However, we had difficulty getting up to the top speed with two people on board.
Inside, the instrumentation and controls are pretty much the same as any other MINI. The rear seats are adjustable to slide up-to five inches forward or backwards to accommodate taller passengers or more cargo. However the uniquely distinct feature is the center rail inside which comes with optional attachments for cupholders, mobile phone holders or iPod holders which snap on the rail that can be pushed from back to front.
In normal drive (Sport Off) mode, it felt as if it has lost the MINI touch. However with the Sport mode switched on, the Countryman becomes a different machine, going back to its inherently MINI traits of sharp and precise handling capabilities with the expense of ride comfort of course.
The Countryman is definitely not your car if you're looking for something to have a spirited driving experience. What it is though is a fun car that fits five adults comfortably with a decent cargo space for a trip to the countryside.