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21 Apr 2017 | Text and Photos by Desmond Chan
The MINI Not-very-mini
The new MINI Countryman embraces its not-very-mini reality to offer up a healthy dose of practicality, functionality and daily usability.
You see, when it was first launched in 2010, the MINI Countryman was a real oddity - a big car made by the company that was the literal embodiment of small cars.
The thing is, MINIs have something of a reputation or perceived image. They are supposed to be cute yet quirky, and pack an exciting and fun driving experience within a tiny package. Thus, you could make the case that the Countryman goes against the very ethos of the MINI brand.
And yet, in 2012, a third of the brand's global sales were the Countryman. So while it may challenge our notion of what a MINI should be, the Countryman certainly made financial sense for the company.
Now, the brand new second generation MINI Countryman has arrived, and promises big advancements for the brand within the premium compact segment.
Not very mini
The Countryman stands out for its obvious size. After all, this is the largest car that MINI has ever produced. It's larger than its predecessor, having grown 199mm in length, 13mm in height and 33mm in width.
What this means is that you get a generous helping of space. There's nothing mini about this car - legroom is more than generous at the rear, and the boot opens up to 450 litres (expandable to 1,390 litres with the 40:20:40 split folding rear bench folded down).
The boot is actually big enough to fit a compact wheelchair (this writer took his grandmother out for dinner), so this car has authentic family practicality.
Visually, we reckon the upsized MINI silhouette isn't the most pleasing. It looks like someone has taken the MINI Cooper and put it on Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's diet. Yes, it's big, muscular and imposing, but in a way that is a tad excessive.
Not very MINI
The Countryman has also shed a little of the (un)conventional MINI image. It's got five proper doors that open in the most traditional of ways (unlike the Clubman's barn-like boot doors).
The doors open up to an interior that feels more mature and sophisticated. For example, instead of the traditional circular air-con vents, the Countryman features round-edged rectangular vents instead. And for the first time, you get electric front seats in a MINI as standard, too. It feels more prim and proper, shedding a little of the typical quirky MINI character.
3-cylinder in-line 12-valve
100kW (134 bhp) / 6000 rpm
220 Nm / 4300 rpm
6-speed (A) Steptronic
Acceleration (0-100 km/h)