This “not so mini” Mini is the biggest model in the brand’s lineup. The Cooper S Countryman All4 is the brand’s only crossover SUV but it is in one of the most crowded automotive segments. So how does it compare against the likes of the Mercedes GLA & BMW X1?
Engine – The Mini Cooper Countryman can be equipped with a base 3-cylinder engine, a 2.0L 4-cylinder (as equipped) or a plug-in hybrid variant. This Cooper S has the 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque (141 kW & 280 Nm). There is also a JCW variant available with the same engine but more power. This Cooper S Countryman can get off the line and to 100 km/h in around 7.3 seconds. It’s not blindingly fast but it’s more than enough for most people’s needs. Thing is though, it feels pretty peppy from behind the steering wheel thanks to the low end torque of the engine. So it feels like you’re going a million miles an hour but when you look down at the speedometer, it’s just at the speed limit.
Fuel economy is Ok with a highway fuel economy rating of 7.5 L/100km (31.4 MPG) and city fuel economy being 10.4 L/100km (22.6 MPG). During my time with the crossover, I averaged 9.4 L/100km (25 MPG). However, Mini does recommend premium fuel with this engine.
Transmission – Switching gears is an 8-speed automatic transmission however it is not the usual ZF 8-speed automatic that is found in nearly all BMW products. Instead it’s an Aisin sourced 8-speed but you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference because it’s just as smooth and quick as the ZF 8-speed. Unfortunately the 2021 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 does not have steering wheel mounted paddle shifters but you can use the gear selector to manually change gears if you wish.
Braking – The Mini Countryman has a tremendous amount of stopping force from the relatively small looking but powerful brakes. The brake pedal has a firm and confidence inspiring feel but it’s still easy to modulate for smooth stops during daily commutes. Forward collision alert is a standard feature on the 2021 Mini Countryman.
Handling – While this is not the “hot” version of the Mini Countryman – the John Cooper Works – it is still a joy to drive on twisty roads. From the dimensions, it’s a pretty sizable crossover but from behind the steering wheel, it feels much smaller. It feels nimble and like as though you can reach out and almost touch the front bumper. The steering response is quick with a good amount of heft to it when driving enthusiastically. The suspension is stiffer than in other non-sporty crossovers of the same size which aids in reducing body roll. Adaptive dampers are available as an option on the 2021 Mini Cooper Countryman All4.
Ride Comfort – As mentioned, the suspension of the Cooper S Countryman is a bit stiffer than in other non-sporty crossovers. This results in a noticeable firmer ride than other cars such as the Mercedes GLA 250. However, it’s not unbearable or discomforting for commuting with the Countryman on a daily basis. If anything, the stiffer suspension makes you feel more connected to the road.
Interior Space – The cabin is actually quite spacious. You do sit fairly close to the passenger in the front but headroom and legroom is plentiful even for tall adults like myself at 6’4”. In the back, there’s still enough space for tall adults. Sitting behind my driving position, my knees gently brush up against the back of the front seats. There is more room than it looks in pictures thanks to the indentation on the back of the front seats.
You’d think then that the remaining space for cargo is tiny since there’s so much space for passengers. But not so. The trunk volume with the rear seats up is 450 L (15.9 cu-ft) which is more than the GLA 250. But fold the rear seats down and the cargo capacity is a bit less than the GLA 250 at 1,390 L (49.1 cu-ft).
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The Mini Cooper S Countryman has a few nice noises intruding into the cabin from the engine. It’s not the full sporty sound of the JCW variant but on a Monday morning on the way to work, it’ll be enough to put you in a good mood. On the flip side, there’s also a few road noises that intrude, primarily from the tires. It’s only more noticeable at higher highway speeds and thankfully it’s nowhere near as bad as the Mercedes GLA 45 AMG tire roar.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2021 Mini Cooper S Countryman starts at a very reasonable $35,990 CAD ($33,900 USD). However, on Mini’s website you have to equip it with either the Premier or Premier+ packages (Signature & Iconic in USA). They cost $5,700 CAD & $8,500 CAD respectively ($3,600 & $8,500 USD). You can talk to your local Mini dealer to see if you can get the Countryman without the packages to keep the cost down. But even so, if you opt it with just the Premier package, it still costs less than the starting price of the Mercedes GLA 250 and is only $1,700 CAD more expensive than the starting price of the BMW X1.
At the other end of the spectrum, you can fully equip the Countryman with a lot of gadgets. HUD, Navigation, 8.8” touchscreen, automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, Harmon Kardon sound system, heated seats, memory driver’s seat, power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, and more. Of course there will be a price to pay for all the goodies and that is around $47,000 CAD ($42,200 USD)as this demo vehicle is equipped.
One thing to note, while it does have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto is not available for the 2021 model year.
Interior Design – The 2021 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 looks pretty much just like any other Mini vehicle. It has the big, round center dash ring that is reminiscent of the classic Mini. Back then it used to be a speedometer but now it houses the touchscreen & a few quick access media controls. For the 2021 model year, those media buttons are flush and made out of piano black to give them a more premium look. I personally preferred last year’s design with the physical, black plastic buttons. Another change for 2021 is the driver display. It is now a full digital display but with a matte finish. It’s supposed to reduce glare in direct sunlight but it doesn’t really work. In certain harsh sunlight conditions, the display is not legible unless you move your POV around.
Exterior Design – The 2021 Countryman received a few minor tweaks to the exterior design but overall it looks pretty much the same as last year’s model. It has a boxy but “curvaceous” silhouette and you can never go wrong with Union Jack LED tail lights. They just look cool.
Warranty – Mini vehicles are covered by a 4 year / 80,000 km new vehicle and powertrain warranty with a 12 year rust perforation warranty. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For USA Warranty information, click here.
So does the 2021 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 stand out in a crowded luxury crossover market? I think it does. It’s not a traditional crossover. It has a lot of character from the way it looks to the way it drives. Best of all, it’s less expensive than the closest rivals and you’ll have a crossover that really stands out.
Thank you to Mini Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mini.ca