2021 MINI Countryman
Back in 1959, the British Motor Corporation introduced a small car that would bring basic transportation to the masses. It was one of the first vehicles to switch to a transverse engine layout, driving the front wheels. This is a format that is now commonplace in today’s automobiles.
They called it the Mini. It continues in production today.
Today, BMW owns MINI. It is no longer just a small two-door runabout. Today’s lineup includes five different body styles, along with a battery-electric version of the two-door Hardtop.
The most popular MINI may not be what you expect from this brand. It is actually what MINI calls a Sports Activity Vehicle. It is also called the Countryman.
Now in its second generation, the MINI Countryman predates its segment by several years. Recent shifts towards SUVs and Crossovers lifted the Countryman’s popularity of late.
We were curious how this maxi MINI fared as not only a pioneer of this segment, but for today’s consumer.
At first, you might think this is some sort of enlarged MINI that does not fit with the rest of the lineup. It’s a good observation, but let’s go deeper. The Countryman shares its architecture with the current BMW X1 and X2. To fit a crossover body onto this platform, the designers at MINI had to shape the Countryman by following some of the brand’s styling language.
The result is a maxi-sized MINI with a friendly disposition. That starts with an updated grille and bumper skin for 2021. The headlights are full LEDs with daytime driving lights switching to turn signals. The chunky body is tall, but very stylish. The liftgate opens high and can be opened by using your foot, as on this tester. Let’s not forget the taillights, fashioned as half of the Union Jack to let the world know that this vehicle was developed in Great Britain.
Our tester, a Cooper S, sported a black racing stripe, along with a black roof, side mirror caps, and 18-inch alloy wheels. All standing out with a very sporty red primary paint color.
In all, the MINI Countryman definitely stands out in a crowd.
This mix of MINI’s signature design and modern touches continue inside. The center dial is large and houses the infotainment system powered by the MINI Connected system. This system can connect with your device wirelessly for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument pod is behind the steering wheel is now fully digital. The readouts are clean and clear. You start the Countryman with a toggle in the lower middle of the center stack. In fact, every control is easy to use and good to the touch – including MINI’s version of BMW’s latest iDrive controller.
The seats have deep bolstering that will yield to most body shapes over time. The leather is great to the touch and the front seats offer power adjustments for rake, recline, and lumbar support. Rear seat space is great with good head and leg room. In all, four average-sized adults can fit inside the Countryman without much fatigue.
Cargo space is flexible. It starts with 17.6 cubic feet behind the second row that is flat to the liftgate opening. Fold the second-row down, and you have 47.6 cubic feet to carry home the shopping in. There is a nice underfloor storage in the rear cargo area to hide valuables in.
The MINI lineup has a very easy way to tell which power source is underneath its hood. The engines are usually the same across the lineup. In our Cooper S Countryman, we got the 189-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. This is a powerful motor that takes off right from the stop and cruises very nicely. Our tester came with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. Fuel economy-wise, MINI states that it can earn an average of 26 MPG.
The ride quality is really smooth. It was unexpected surprise that we liked very much. Handling was fine, though we detected some roll on some maneuvers. You can sharpen things up by clicking the drive mode toggle button to Sport. Curves are run flatter in this mode, yet you will feel a slightly firmer ride overall.
Steering wheel weight is solid overall. You can also tighten this up by putting the Countryman into Sport mode, where the weight increases. Still, the steering system is precise with a tight turning radius. As for the brakes, the pedal feel is excellent. The result was great stopping power and good response in panic situations.
The Countryman lineup starts with a front-drive Cooper model and its three-cylinder turbocharged engine. The base price of this model is $29,100. Our tester with the Signature interior trim came with a sticker price of $42,085.
The MINI Countryman is actually one of the first small premium SUV/crossovers in the market. It has since gained some competition. Its rivals include the BMW X1 and X2, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, Buick Encore and Encore GX, Lexus UX, Mercedes-Benz GLA and GLB.
Make no mistake, this larger MINI is a fun vehicle to play with. This is why we always had a smile on our face when we got behind the wheel of this 2021 MINI Countryman.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors