With extra length and two extra doors, is the Mini Countryman still a Mini? Priyadarshan Bawikar investigates...
We have mentioned earlier how surprisingly spacious the back seats of this two-door hot hatch are. But let’s face it, you’re still going to be hard pressed to fit two regular sized adults in there. If you do want to make a car dedicated to the task of carrying four to five people about regularly, you need a longer wheelbase and two extra doors. And that’s exactly what the Mini Countryman is.
Now Mini bills the Countryman as a crossover SUV, but you’d have a very hard time believing that once you see the car in the flesh, especially in the Cooper S trim. Yes, it’s bigger than the hatch, and the ground clearance has been bumped up a bit (although not significantly so), but there’s nothing on the car to indicate that it would handle any of the rough stuff.
Some might like to argue that the Mini Countryman won the Dakar Rally this year and has been going great guns in the WRC as well. But the rally version of the Countryman bears as much similarity to the road car as the current Mini hatch bears to the original Mini, which is to say not much at all.
Maybe the ALL4 four-wheel drive equipped Countryman might have better luck at tackling a bit of off-road use, but the Countryman Cooper S (Also Read:MINI launches its Cooper and Countryman model range) with its revvy turbocharged engine and stiffened suspension is best suited for tarmac use. That being said, where the Countryman does excel is in terms of space – there’s a huge amount of it in the back of the cabin as well as the boot.
Get in the driver’s seat though, and you’ll be hard pressed to figure out what the difference between this and Cooper S is really. It’s got the exact same funky, yet functional interior, the same mad “look-at-me” speedometer in the middle of the dash around the multimedia display. The only tiny differentiators are the two buttons to control the rear power windows flanking the central locking switch.
In the back, the extra leg room and the extra head room are welcome additions. And on top of that, having your own doors to get in and out of the car is the best part. Flexibility is the Countryman’s middle name, with a 40-20-40 split folding rear seat and a 350-litre boot, which can be upped to a whopping 1,170 litres with the rear seats folded flat. When it comes to the exterior looks, it’s a little difficult to describe the Countryman as conventionally pretty – quirky comes close, especially with the new headlight and grille design. The added bulk though does add to the car’s on-road presence, without looking disproportionate from any angle, and yet maintaining that quintessential Mini design language.
Under the hood, the Countryman Cooper S packs the same 1.6-litre inline-4 petrol engine with a twin-scroll turbo for some extra oomph - with 184PS of power on tap, performance isn’t a big problem. The 100km/h mark comes up in 9.4 seconds and top speed is well north of 200km/h – not bad for a 4-door, 5-seat hatchback (yes, this is more of a hatchback than an SUV)! Compared to the regular Cooper S though, the Countryman’s handling is just not as sharp, but this is easily the best handling 4-door hatchback in the Indian market today.
Though the price to pay for this nippiness is a rather hard ride which feels completely out of place on Indian roads and is rather spine-damaging if you happen to be sitting in the back when the driver is trying to negotiate bumpy roads at any sort of speed.
Overall, at Rs 35.9 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai, the Countryman Cooper S isn’t what you call affordable, and for those who want to fulfil their long-standing desire for a Mini, they can easily do that at Rs 7.3 lakh less with the Cooper S hatchback. But on a practicality scale, four doors do score significantly more than two, and if you like the cars you always dreamed about garnished with a good sprinkling of sense, then the Countryman is the one for you.