Review: Mini Countryman John Cooper Works - "Maxi Toy"
Mini is a brand that everyone knows. Since it was taken over by BMW it can be accused of a lot, mainly because their cars are not as small as originally, which was the idea behind the "mini" name. However, they cannot be denied the character and pleasing looks.
The newest generations of models dominate in this. Today's third generation of Hatch, popularly known simply as Cooper, is at the forefront of this matter and in my opinion is the best-designed car of this manufacturer in years but the new generation Countryman is not going to give up.
The car made its debut at the beginning of this year at the Geneva Motor Show. Relative to its predecessor it does not differ significantly, but its appearance was closer to that of the base model. If you compare them side by side, Countryman looks just like an enlarged 5D Cooper by approx. 15%. Previously the car had a slightly more unique character and it was easier to identify.
On the one hand, this can be considered a disadvantage, as there is no untypicality that was previously visible in every model. On the other hand, Countryman's appearance does not seem to be so large, and its looks are not too massive.
The situation is similar with the interior of the vehicle. They are almost indistinguishable at first glance. People unfamiliar with the offer will not indicate any change and people who are changing from another model will feel at home. The difference is only small details and the whole is simply proportionally larger.
The dashboard is almost the same as we know from Cooper or Clubman. Circles dominate here and the most noticeable thing is the central console with a touch screen of the infotainment system. It is surrounded by a multifunctional LED semi-circle which, depending on the situation, indicates engine speed, air-conditioning temperature, driving mode or section of the infotainment system.
The steering wheel is simple and easy to use, and behind it we will find a very minimalist speedometer with on-board computer, a tachometer on the left and a fuel display in the form of eight diodes. There was also room for a redesigned computer control panel known from BMW models, a unique driving mode switch on the gearbox housing and two beverage handles.
Countryman is not a small car, so there's plenty of space inside. At present, it is the biggest car in the history of the brand, and the increase of the wheelbase by 7.5 cm in relation to the predecessor causes the middle of the car to accommodate adults. Sitting behind the wheel makes it easy to adjust your position for a comfortable journey.
In the second row the amount of space is not sensational, but it is not bad either. Adults should expect rubbing on the front seats, but this does not cause high discomfort due to the specially profiled backrests. If you are planning to transport a child restraint system, we have special IsoFix handles at your disposal, which will facilitate its installation. There was also air conditioning supply, 12V outlets and armrests.
With regard to the trunk, Mini Countryman offers as much as we expect from a large hatchback. The capacity is 450 litres and can be slightly enlarged by moving the rear sofa by 13 cm. By folding the backrests, the capacity rises to 1390 litres, which allows you to transport even large purchases from IKEA. On board you will find a double floor, 12V lighter, special partitions and handgrips for shopping bags.
By choosing the JCW sporty version we get a slightly changed look of the interior. By default, it is a combination of black and red, and... we can't change much on this matter. Due to the fact that in the first row there are special sport chairs, which appear only in this colour variant, we can decide only about the colour of the dashboard finish and whether we will order ambient backlighting as an option.
Nevertheless, I feel that this is one of the best color combinations we can have in a car, especially when it comes to sports cars or at least sporty cars. It should be noted that these seats are comfortable in everyday use and have a much better lateral holding when driving faster than the standard version. People with lower growth may complain about the integrated headrest and its decorative insert.
From the outside, the Mini JCW version becomes much more aggressive. At the front, a bumper has been completely redesigned with special airflows, the attractor has a honeycomb texture and a red frame. At the back we also have a new bumper, but with a diffuser and centrally located exhaust system, and a delicate spoiler crowns the lid of the trunk.
And don't forget about the lowered suspension, the 18-inch rims offered exclusively in this version, the Brembo brakes, the two-tone colour of the bodywork and the optional sports stickers. There were also special edition stamps on the barbecue, trunk lid and wheel arches.
The most important changes in John Cooper Works is the engine. Currently, the same motor is used in all models with this logo. We are talking about a 2-litre unit with 4 cylinders, which generates 231 hp.
The engine has the B48B20 code and can also be found in the BMW 2 Active Tourer Series and the X1 in the 25i variant, but it only generates 320 Nm. The situation is similar with the base Mini model in 3D and 5D versions. For Mini Countryman and Clubman, this is a version with a maximum torque of 350 Nm.
You can choose from a classic 6-speed manual transmission or 8-speed automatic transmission. In my test car I had the pleasure of testing the automatic box and I have to admit that it works superbly. It changes gears very quickly and reacts promptly when you suddenly decide to change your driving style.
When it comes to Countryman's performance, JCW offers plenty of fun. The sprint of 0 to 60 mph is only 6.5 seconds and the maximum speed is 145 mph. The choice of gearbox type on this model does not affect performance compared to other JCW models. It is worth mentioning that Countryman is the slowest of all because of its high weight of 1630 kg. The quickest is the 3-door Mini, which accelerates to 60 in 6.1 seconds, but is more than 300 kg lighter.
In the case of the basic model of the brand, the powertrain used here generates an incredible experience, mainly due to the wheel base and low weight, but in Countryman it works very well especially because of the combination with the four-wheel drive All4.
While driving, the car holds on to the road very well and brilliantly enters corners. Although Countryman's dimensions are no longer so "mini", the experience produces like a car smaller by two segments. Joy is also provided by the extraordinary exhaust system, which occasionally gives us a loud shooting.
In order to customize your car we can choose from three driving modes called Mini Driving Modes. The gear knob on the gear lever allows you to choose between Mid, Sport and Green configurations. According to the nomenclature, they influence the operation of the adjustable suspension, steering resistance, engine and automatic transmission characteristics and change the engine sound.
Combustion of sports cars is secondary. A 2-litre petrol engine likes to drink and you have to expect a real range of less than 25 mpg. Riding a little calmer will allow you to reach about 35 mpg, while riding on the motorway means approx. 31.5 mpg.
A couple of days with the new Countryman John Cooper Works made me very happy. In spite of three other cars in front of the office car park, I was most willing to take a circular key with the Mini sign and look for further excuses to drive somewhere and travel one more mile.
The car is not small and is the complete opposite of the original Mini Morris. However, when compared to the current cars, it is a little smaller than them and, most importantly, it seems to be small. Not only from the outside but also inside and while driving. Is it the Mini magic?
Text and photos: Michał Śniadek / CarTests.net