For some time now, several variants of the Mini haven’t been quite mini-sized. So, it’s no surprise to discover that the latest Countryman, redesigned for 2017, is the biggest Mini yet. Like its predecessor, the Countryman offers space for up to five passengers, four-door convenience, and vastly more cargo space than the basic Mini Hardtop. Though available with all-wheel drive, the Countryman doesn’t match the capability of small crossovers, but Mini fans clamor for its spirited handling and beguiling appearance.
What's New for 2017
Totally redesigned for 2017, the Countryman is about eight inches longer than its predecessor, 1.3 inches wider, on a wheelbase that’s 3.1 inches longer. Base Cooper models now get a three-cylinder turbocharged engine, with eight-speed automatic transmission available, while the Cooper S holds a more potent turbo four-cylinder. A power tailgate is new for 2017. A plug-in hybrid version, called the Cooper S E Countryman All4, will arrive during the 2017 model year with standard all-wheel drive. As before, Mini will offer a hot John Cooper Works variant with a 228-horsepower, 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Choosing Your MINI Countryman
For a car with such a petite footprint (though bigger than before), the Countryman offers bountiful rear-seat room. Two full-size adults fit comfortably, with 3.8-inches more legroom than the previous model. Front shoulder room has grown by two inches. As before, the back seat slides and reclines. Folded down, cargo volume totals 47.6 cubic feet (a gain of 6.3), which ranks with the smallest crossover models. Folding the seatback up reduces space to 17.6 cubic feet (versus 16.5 before).
The base Cooper now holds a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that makes 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque (versus 118 lb-ft in the previous base Countryman). A six-speed manual gearbox remains available, but Mini is complementing the stick with two automatic transmissions. Front-drive models use a six-speed automatic, while the all-wheel-drive Countryman runs with a new eight-speed unit. Acceleration to 60 mph is 1.6 seconds quicker than the prior Countryman.
In the Cooper S, a new turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder develops 189 hp and 207 lb-ft. A six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic transmission are the only available transmissions. The John Cooper Works edition gets a turbocharged four-cylinder that generates 228 hp and 258 lb-ft, driving a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. Cooper and Cooper S Countryman models can have either front-drive or all-wheel drive; the John Cooper Works comes only with all-wheel drive. Manual shift is available with either configuration.
The new Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 plug-in hybrid, which combines the 134-hp three-cylinder engine with an 87-hp electric motor, is only available with all-wheel drive. Total system output is 221 hp and 284 lb-ft, for 0-60 mph acceleration in a brisk 7 seconds. The plug-in hybrid can travel up to 24 miles on electricity alone, at speeds up to 77 mph.
Selectable driving modes are standard. Every Countryman gets a panoramic sunroof.
As is Mini tradition, every packaged option is available à la carte. The options catalog complements an extensive array of stylish visual cues. In other words, the only way you can get a more personalized vehicle is by going to Porsche, or one of the world's ultra-pricey boutique automakers.
With its abundant power and available all-wheel drive, the midrange Cooper S is likely to be the logical choice for everyday driving. Previously, the base model seemed a bit underpowered, but the new turbo engine cuts 0-60 mph acceleration time by 1.6 seconds – we'd suggest at least taking it for a test drive before committing to the Cooper S. Though tempting to enthusiasts, the more costly John Cooper Works version typically rides too firmly for most people's tastes.