Quick, what word immediately comes to mind when you say 'Mini'? If you say Cooper then we're not entirely surprised. Known the world over for making some of the most fun-to-drive cars, the Mini brand (under BMW) is proof that carmakers can still come out with automobiles that are enjoyable to the core.
But what if you wanted a Mini that has a bit more space, is taller, can accommodate lots of luggage, and still be fun to drive anywhere you go? Enter the Countryman. It's the biggest (if you can call it that) Mini available today and it serves as the company's sole crossover offering (the 3-door Paceman has been discontinued).
First launched in the country in 2017 with only turbo-diesels available at the time, Mini decided now was the right time to introduce a slightly different Countryman. While this may look like any diesel-powered Countryman, this one in particular has a gasoline-powered, turbocharged heart. Not only that, it also comes with new and additional features. But do these changes translate to more bang for buck? Is gasoline power still the better way to go for Mini? And what about its sticker price?
We'll get to answer those questions later, but first, let's talk about the Countryman's looks. It may be the biggest Mini to date but its looks are nothing to scoff at. Painted in Pepper White and complemented by a black-painted roof and hood decals, the Countryman Cooper S Sport (that's a mouthful) is bold, sporty, and unapologetically British.
Speaking of bold, it has huge LED headlights that are complemented by a distinct front grill and bumper design. Then there are the black alloy wheels and matte-finished fender flares that further enhance the crossover's sleek look. Finally, it has a tailgate-mounted spoiler and the signature taillights that look bright day or night. All in all, I have to commend the designers for actually making the look of the Mini Hatch work on the bigger Countryman.
Step inside and everything just feels familiar. Like its stablemates, the cabin is festooned with circular shapes and round edges that give the crossover its youthful vibe. Then there's the soft-touch plastic and leather-suede upholstery which I really liked. Sitting on the driver's seat, everything is within easy reach and the controls are laid out in an ergonomic fashion.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is smooth to the touch and it comes with paddle shifters for faster gear changes when in manual mode. I've already said it before but the aircraft-style toggle switches on the center console, as well as the changeable ambient lighting will always be a favorite of mine.
But what really impressed me with this particular Countryman is the upgraded infotainment system. While it may look similar with the previous version, the 8.8-inch display is now a touchscreen and already comes with Mini Connected. With it, wireless connectivity features can now be done by simply using the steering wheel buttons or with voice control (Bluetooth required). There's even wireless phone charging available in case you forgot to bring your cable.
Other features worth mentioning in this Countryman? It's got cruise control, dual-zone automatic control, power-adjustable driver's seat with memory function, power tailgate, a digital heads-up display, and a crisp-sounding Harman Kardon 12-speaker sound system. Did I mention the Countryman also has a picnic bench hidden at the back? Great for when you're having some quality time in the great outdoors.
As mentioned earlier, this particular Countryman is not powered by a turbo-diesel engine. Instead it gets a 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-four that is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It generates 192 PS at 5000 rpm along with 281 Nm of torque at 1250 rpm. While it's not as torquey as its diesel brethren (190 PS with 400 Nm), do remember that this gas-powered engine is essentially the same motor that powers the Cooper Hatch and Clubman models.
With nearly 200 horses and over 280 Nm of pulling power available, the Countryman in Cooper S trim has plenty of punch to deliver to the pavement. A push of a button brings to life the 2.0-liter engine. For a relatively small engine there is some rumble and grumble coming from its twin exhausts which was pleasing to the ears, especially during cold starts.
Out on the open road, there is little to no turbo lag when you put your foot down on the accelerator. Gobs of torque are quickly sent to the wheels while the speedometer can quickly rise to three-figure digits. Pair that with the car's agility and precise steering, and the Countryman is a fast and nimble thing indeed. Whether you're carving up a mountain road, whizzing through back roads, or snaking your way around the city, the Countryman will make short work of all of those.
When you're not attacking corners or zig-zag roads, however, the Countryman can be as docile as any car on the road. Ease up on the throttle and the Countryman reverts into a cool and calm demeanor. And since the steering is electronically adaptable, it loosens up when you're parking or just driving around town.
As for fuel economy, the Countryman with a 2.0-liter turbo is capable of returning about 14.0 km/L on the highway. Meanwhile, it can average at about 8.0 – 9.0 km/L in light city driving with no traffic. Expect its fuel consumption to drop to about 6.0 km/L, however, when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
While the Countryman delivered hot hatch-like performance and handling, I wished that it had a better ride quality. With its suspension geared towards delivering sharp handling, the Countryman tends to bounce at the slightest of bumps and road imperfections. The back rests on the driver and front passenger seats are comfortable but I do hope they put in softer seat cushions for the two front seats in the future.
At Php 3,850,000, the Mini Countryman Cooper S Sport's price tag is just a (literal) shade below the Php 4 million mark. Sure it's got way more equipment and features than the diesel-powered variants, but these features are the ones you can live without. Perhaps deleting several features could bring its price down to more reasonable levels. As for the gas-powered engine, it is still my preferred choice for a Mini. The diesel is punchy and a bit more economical but it sounds rough and could use a bit more refinement.
If you're the type of buyer that wants almost everything in a small premium crossover but prefers having it put in a neat little package like the Countryman, then by all means go for the Cooper S Sport. It has all the styling elements you could ever want from a Mini, there are tons of amenities and features, and the TwinPower Turbo engine will always be fun to play with whether you're out on the highway, in the city, or having fun along mountain roads.