The XL-sized Countryman gets some minor, yet significant, changes. So, can it still dance like a Mini?
I’ve always thought the Mini Countryman to be a bit paradoxical. It is after all an XL-sized Mini. But for those who love the quirky retro-modern design language of a Mini, and want rear-seat space for the family, the Countryman has always made a strong case for itself. And despite its larger size and added weight, the Countryman has never really lost the fun to drive Mini DNA that we've all loved over the years.
Mini has now brought in the refreshed Countryman and it gets subtle updates to the exterior and the interior, and a new transmission under the hood. Is this 2021 Countryman still true to the Mini badge on the hood? Read on to find out.
The 2021 Countryman has been reworked on the sketch board and now gets some mild changes to the exterior design that make it look a little more muscular. Not much is new on the inside too, the overall layout remains largely unchanged. From the steering wheel, vertically stacked air-con vents, toggle switches in the centre console to the circular door handles, have all been carried forward. But despite being the same, they don’t quite look outdated as they add that signature Mini touch to the cabin. The gear lever has been changed and it is now shorter and sportier. The biggest change, however, is the switch from the old analogue instrument cluster to a fully digital unit. It continues to be mounted on the steering column though. The Countryman also flaunts a longer list of features including a touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay, automatic tailgate, head-up display and more.
The seat upholstery is now quilted and it not only magnifies the style quotient but also offers more comfort. There’s good side bolstering and the under-thigh support can be adjusted too. Overall, the cabin exudes a great sense of quality, space, comfort and style that is typical of a Countryman.
Unsheathe the Sword
While in the international market, the Countryman is on offer with a range of engine options, BMW has only launched the one with the 2.0-litre turbo petrol in India. This one makes 189bhp and 280Nm. Considering that the Countryman tips the scale at over 1,500kg, it only results in a power-to-weight ratio of about 120bhp/tonne.
Although the numbers may not paint the picture, the engine is quite involving. The torque kicks in low in the rev range which gives you that initial surge, but it only starts to feel spirited when the tacho needle is pointed at its mid-range or upwards. There is linearity in the power delivery that really grows on you. It isn’t as exciting as some of the smaller Minis – the weight obviously doesn’t go unnoticed – but the typical Mini character is certainly present. Mini claims that the Countryman can do the 0-100km/h dash in just 7.5 seconds, which is just a wee bit quicker than the larger BMW X1. Although the outright acceleration is not unequalled, it does feel a lot more engaging to drive than some of the other SUVs in the class. A lot of that also has to do with the way the Countryman attacks corners.
Despite it being front-wheel drive, the Countryman is filled to the brim with that innate Mini DNA. The wider front track ensures that it remains surefooted, and there is a heft to the steering wheel that adds to the involving drive experience. Plus, the firm suspension setup makes it an absolute hoot to drive. Thankfully, it is even damped well to even out most of the surface undulations.
The only fly in the ointment is the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. While it is fairly smooth, it does feel a bit slow to downshift, especially in comparison to the 7-speed DSG that we’ve experienced in the Audi Q2 and other VW Group cars. In fact, this could very much be the factor that holds it back from delivering a better acceleration time too. Things don’t improve a whole lot when you use the paddles either. The only saving grace is that you can correct the lag by downshifting a split-second sooner than required.
And finally, the price. Mini has launched the Countryman at a starting price of `39.50 lakh for the Cooper S, and the Cooper S JCW Inspired iteration that we tested carries a sticker price of `43.40 lakh. The pricing is a bit steep, especially considering that it is locally produced in India.
The Countryman, then, is surely not for the hard-minded but for those who live a life beyond reason. It offers the practicality of a crossover, with the dominant and quirky persona of a Mini. And with that in mind, it sits in a rather sweet spot unthreatened by anything else on sale in the price range.
- 2021 Mini Countryman
Engine: 1,998cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 189bhp @ 5,000 - 6,000rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 1,350 - 4,600rpm
Price: ₹43.40 lakh (Ex-showroom)
X-Factor: The Countryman offers good practicality without losing the signature Mini quirkiness.
• Distinctive design
• Practical Mini