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MINI Countryman

The MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 is the first ever car to get a Beating Spirit rating of 10/10

The MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 is the first ever car to get a Beating Spirit
rating of 10/10; so why does it deserve such an award? Here’s our review:

MINI Countryman

Model/Engine size: Cooper D ALL4
Fuel: Diesel
Fuel economy combined: 57.6 mpg
Beating Spirit rating:
10/10

The first criteria upon which it is judged has to be emissions and fuel economy, and the Countryman Cooper D ALL4 is class-leading in the 4×4 segment for the lowest emissions, with just 129 g/km CO2. This translates to 57.6 mpg, which is excellent for a 4×4 (MINI is calling the Countryman a crossover rather than a 4×4). These economy and emissions figures are achieved with the help of BMW’s EfficientDynamics technologies, including automatic stop-start and brake energy regeneration, although these are known as ‘MINIMALISM’ for the MINI brand.

MINI Countryman on the race track

The Road Test

The next thing we look at is whether a car good to drive. And it’s another resounding yes for the Countryman. It certainly shares the genes with the MINI hatch for direct responses. It may not have quite the same level of ‘go-kart’-like handling as the regular MINI, but the steering and chassis are sharper than most cars in this class.

The UK media launch for the Countryman took place on the road, off-road, and on the track. The Cooper D ALL4 was taken round a racetrack and it performed well. The engine is certainly geared more towards economy than performance, but the car was still entertaining to take around the track. There was also another track laid out with various coned obstacle areas for the car to negotiate, and the Cooper D ALL4 again passed the test. So it’s economical, yet it’s also capable dynamically around a racetrack. Crucially, although the car is efficient, unlike some ‘green’ cars, the performance doesn’t result in the driving experience suffering.

The launch also included an off-road course. It wasn’t the sort of off-road course that would cause any worries for a Land Rover, but the average hatchback certainly wouldn’t like it. During the previous week it rained continuously and the track became one big mud bath. We tackled the course when it was a much drier environment, however there were still patches of mud and the Countryman negotiated these with ease. The average family hatch would be going nowhere fast with its wheels spinning wildly. The Countryman was shod with standard road-going tyres, so this bodes well for the car’s capability if we have a repeat of last winter’s snow.

The off-road course also featured hills and descents, which again proved no problem for this latest addition to the MINI family. The course ended with a series of bends on a combination of dry and wet mud. This was more like a rally circuit than an off-road course, and again the Countryman proved to be entertaining, allowing a limited degree of sliding before finding traction and correcting any slippage. The suspension coped well with the conflicting demands of both the track and the off-road course.

So the Countryman offers economy, proficiency on a racetrack, and off-road ability. Yet it’s also a practical five-door hatchback. There is a decent amount of space inside, with good levels of rear legroom, and a reasonable boot (with 350 litres of space, it’s the same size as a Volkswagen Golf). The rear seats can be moved forward and backwards, and their backrests can be tilted. In the UK the standard spec is for five seats, although the car can be specified as a no-cost option with just two seats in the rear, with the MINI centre rail between the seats.

The Countryman has now become a practical family hatch with good economy , great driving manners, and off-road ability.

But there’s more. One of the most important things about this car is that it’s a MINI. In other words, it’s fun. It’s fun to drive in terms of the driving dynamics, but it’s also fun to drive in terms of its interior environment. Sitting in the car, it seems poles apart from the majority of very dull interiors normally found in this class of vehicle. Just gripping the steering wheel feels good, and everything else on the dash is so much more interesting than that found in rivals. Yet the whole experience also feels very solid. For MINI lovers, you still get the relatively upright MINI windscreen.

MINI Connected is a new feature, which allows increased levels of interactivity with the car from an iPhone, together with a web radio function, giving access to any radio station worldwide if it’s on the web. Other functions include Google local search and Google Send to Car functions, RSS news feeds, the ability to receive Facebook and Twitter posts by either viewing them on the on-board monitor or using MINI Connected voice output to have them read out. There may be some valid safety concerns with drivers viewing Facebook and Twitter posts while driving.

So it’s a practical family hatch with class-leading economy, great driving manners, off-road ability, and good design. How many other cars can claim all these things? That’s why the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 becomes the first ever car to get a Beating Spirit rating of 10 out of 10.

Of course, if you want more performance, then that’s also possible: there’s the Cooper S ALL4. Whereas the Cooper D has a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine (with a six-speed gearbox) producing 112 bhp, the Cooper S ALL4 has a turbo petrol unit with 184 bhp. This means a 0-62 mph time of 7.9 seconds compared to the more leisurely 11.6 seconds in the diesel. The Cooper S ALL4 was a completely different car from the diesel on the racetrack. Of course there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the penalty is that the emissions of the Cooper S ALL4 climb from 129 g/km to 157 g/km CO2, and the fuel economy drops from 57.6 to 42.2 mpg.

No surprise that it’s the Cooper S that will form the base for MINI’s return to world championship rallying in 2011. The Countryman WRC car is currently in testing by partner Prodrive, and success in motorsport will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the consumer’s image of the vehicle. Watch out for special Prodrive versions of the car in due course.

The MINI ALL4 all-wheel drive system is a key factor in the car’s ability to achieve off-road capability while maintaining relatively low emissions. When driving normally along a dry road, the car is just front-wheel drive – so reducing drag on the car from the four-wheel drive system. However if more grip is needed by the rear wheels, then power can be sent backwards – up to 100%, so theoretically, in certain conditions, this could be a rear-wheel drive MINI.

The Countryman also comes in front-wheel drive form only, when it will be more of a direct rival to the Nissan Qashqai, a car which MINI acknowledges as a huge success. In front-wheel drive form, the MINI Countryman One D emits just 115 g/km CO2.

So even if the Countryman gets 10 out of 10, surely there must be some weak points? Well, we think that the Countryman looks good, but enlarging the MINI has resulted in the exterior styling perhaps not being the most elegant of designs from some angles. The electric window switches are still in a very unintuitive place, on the centre of the dash rather than on the doors. The large central speedo, as classic and retro as it may be, means that there are lots of small switches down near the floor of the car. And the fabric hooks to pull the rear seats down really don’t look as though they’d last for very long before breaking.

A key issue to be aware of is that the Countryman shares the ability of the MINI hatch to vastly increase the basic price by specifying a huge range of options. The Cooper D ALL4 costs £19,875. But let’s look at some options. Metallic paint is an extra £385. Leather can cost up to an extra £1490. The media pack can up to £1940. Alloy wheels can cost up to £1695. You get the idea. The options on our test car came to a massive £6,555. This takes the total price to £26,430. And the option list goes on and on. However with this car MINI has gone one step beyond the normal, huge options list.

Because the Countryman has a centre rail, either just between the front seats, or in the front and the rear if four seats are specified, then this opens up a whole new world of options to sell you. Attachments for the centre rail range from a glasses case to hooks which will safely transport your curry from the takeaway back to your house. Because the rail has a power supply, it’s even possible to mount a laptop on the rail, and power it.

Just in case you thought that was everything in terms of new ideas for options and accessories, it isn’t. The Countryman has mountings in its rear chassis into which you can fit a bike rack – and of course you would buy the rack from MINI.

Although the purchase price, especially when options are taken into account, is likely to be high, in its defence, the residual value of the Countryman is predicted to be good.

The Countryman goes on sale in the UK on 18 September 2010 and all this year’s supply is already sold out.

Summary and Review of the MINI Countryman

The MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 is the complete all-round car. It’s a family hatch that is also good to drive. In addition it can provide added security in low traction conditions, and hopefully it will get you home if it snows. It has the character of a MINI and so it is much more interesting than the average family hatchback. It’s also class-leading in terms of economy and emissions. It shows that cars can be fun and green – which is what Beating Spirit
stands for, and that’s why the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 is the first ever car to get a Beating Spirit
rating of 10 out of 10. We hope it won’t be the last.

Review by Paul Clarke – Editor of
Beating Spirit

View of the MINI Countryman's dashboard and driving wheel from the driver's seat

The view from the Energy Saving Trust

The new generation of MINIs have once again broken the mould. This baby 4×4 redefines what is available to car buyers in terms of practicality, driver appeal and fuel economy. Traditionally a 4×4 drivetrain has always nudged CO2 emissions up but this Countryman shows that with the range of technology that MINI calls “MINIMALISM” you can have a car that has off-road capability and maintain a very respectable level of fuel efficiency. There is very little compromise here with a great experience behind the wheel and a fun factor that is certain to appeal. The MINI brand is very strong and the Countryman is sure to attract many buyers looking for the next stage up from a regular MINI.

The car is well deserving of Beating Spirit
‘s 10 out of 10 rating and is sure to attract large numbers of car buyers when it appears in showrooms.

Tim Anderson
Consumer Transport Manager
Energy Saving Trust

Boot space on the Mini Countryman

Car details and fuel economy data

Fuel economy extra urban: 60.1 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 129 g/km
Green rating: VED band D – first year £0
Weight: 1375 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 18%
Price: £19,875 (From £16,000 to £22,030)
Insurance group: TBC
Power: 112 bhp
Max speed: 112 mph
0-62mph: 11.6 seconds
DPF: Yes