Tl;dr It’s big, yes. But does it dart into corners like the original? Yes. Can I live with it? Yes. It does everything a modern premium family hatch does and it’s got plenty of character. And come to think of it, it’s a lot like Hard Rock Hotel on four wheels. Price? RM240,888.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Exterior

Say no more fam! You’ll know instantly that it is a Mini; the straight shoulders, the bubble roof, the round headlights and the protruding rear tail lamps, all are classic Mini traits. But the Countryman is a more stretched out of something familiar, which people do find it quite attractive and more importantly recognisable. I did manage to park this side by side with the old car and this is far larger in comparison.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Housed in a classic design are modern technology; the Mini Cooper S Countryman comes with LED headlights with cornering lights, LED daytime running lamps and LED foglamps as standard, while the signal repeaters are regular bulbs.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The Cooper S Countryman Sports can be also fitted with the Mini John Cooper Works exterior treatment including a front apron that features additional ducts for brake cooling, a rear bumper with a decorative diffuser, and the 19-inch John Cooper Works Course Spoke, which makes the Countryman subtly distinct.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

As tested, the Mini Cooper S Countryman Sports you see in the pictures is finished in Chilli Red, contrasted by black roof and mirror caps, while with other hues, this can be contrasted with white. The roof rails and side sills are finish in Silver, which can accommodate a roof rack, a roof box or a bicycle rack.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Interior

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Of course, the large size means that there’s plenty of room inside; I could still fondly remember how noisy, bumpy and warm it was in the old car, a stark contrast to the bigger and newer Countryman, which is much cosier, quieter, yet retains the classic Mini styling cues. What stands out the most is the centre stack; instead of having a speedometer like it used to, it now houses an 8.8-inch touchscreen – more on that later.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The dashboard oozes with character, and it is something that is very refreshing to look at; for a modern vehicle, the Mini still retain the classic analogue dials, but with a modern twist, where you’ll find a small LCD screen which relays current driving information such as the car’s mileage, fuel economy, Eco gauge and coolant temperature, which tells you if its cold, or “OK” when the optimum engine temperature has been reached.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Many of the switchgears are what you can expect from a BMW product, and thankfully are not borrowed from the company’s parts bin. They are tactile to the press and feels quite premium, while the plastic toggle switches is a nice touch adding to its character, but why not give them a bit more resistance like an actual toggle switch, that would make a better experience.

The other thing that is worth mentioning is the self-centring turn signal indicator, another unique feature in many BMW cars. For many non-BMW drivers like myself, I find that this is something that a lot of people can get accustomed to easily.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Like many turn signal stalk pushing it down once enables the triple turn signal useful when merging into lanes, while pushing down or up all the way after the second ‘click’ turns on the signal, which automatically cancels after making the turn. You can also push it down again to switch it off. Drivers can also find a button to browse through the LCD screen within the speedo cluster.

The leather wrapped John Cooper Works sports steering wheel feels good to hold in the hands, and the audio and cruise control buttons are not in the way when steering the car with your hands at the three and nine o’clock position. Other than that, many of the other buttons dials and toggles are within the driver’s reach.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 8-way power adjustable sport seat with memory function only on the driver side offers plenty of plush, while the tall side bolsters provide lateral support. Drivers with long legs can also benefit from the manually retractable thigh support, which provides additional leverage to keep one self against the g-forces. The steering is adjustable rake and reach manually, which is easy to lock and unlock in a single pull and push.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

At the rear, the average Asian adults will find themselves in a vast space that they can bask in and having a driver who is just 168 cm in height, there’s still plenty of room to spare and that said headroom is a definite given.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The rear seats fold down with a slight rake in a 40:20:40 ratio (the centre seat folds down to flushing with the centre front armrest), which is a through-loading system allowing long objects to be carried around.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

By default, the boot capacity of the Countryman measures in at 450-litres, and folding the second row seats down opens that room up to 1,390-litres. Another neat feature unique to the Countryman is the Mini Picnic Bench, a soft bench that seats two and comes with a fender dirt protection flap, which keeps the dirt away your pants. You can raise the tailgate by either pressing the release under the Mini badge, or kicking under the rear bumper for hands-free access.

Multimedia

Touch screens are getting bigger, and the 8.8-inch Touchscreen MINI Connected Navigation Plus is quite a large, but being encased around the interactive LED ring on the centre stack does make it look quite small, but relays a simplistic, yet effective user interface (UI) design featuring mostly monochromatic 2D graphics colour coded assigned to many of its features.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

It comes with a split-screen function, Mini Connected XL for mobile phones, second USB port and the Mini Touch Controller below. This controller provides intuitive eyes off operation, which the driver or the passenger can use to navigate and interact with the Mini Connected interface.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

It also comes with a touch sensitive pad in the middle which drivers can draw the letters to search or to input the address into the navigation system. However, this requires a lot of practice to get it right. But besides that, I have been using the Mini Connected interface without touching the screen throughout my time in the Countryman.

This works very well, especially in a car catered to drivers who are young at heart. For instance, the Mini Connected and communication related menus is colour coded in baby blue and the My Mini menu in green, and the colours are also reflected in the interactive LED ring.

The interactive LED ring may seem quite gimmicky at first glance, but it’s the little things that make the big difference. There are three modes to choose from: Ambient lighting, Driving mode and Engine speed.

Ambient lighting is self-explanatory, where the ring matches itself with the interior ambient lighting, which can be selected at the toggle switch above with the reading lights. Driving mode indicates the driving mode selected, for example in Eco mode, the ring is in green, normal in amber, while sport turns it red. And in Engine Speed mode, the ring turns itself into a rev counter, which it’s hard for drivers to miss how much revs the engine is doing.

It does other things too, like air conditioning airspeed indicator, air conditioning temperature, audio volume, and functions as the navigation system’s countdown ticker when approaching the next turn. It’s a very clever function indeed, and one that is native to Mini cars.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Another feature I’d be more than happy to report is the Harmon/Kardon 12-speaker sound system is one of the best I’ve experienced so far, and sometimes it’s not the output, but it’s where the speakers are placed in the car. All 12 speakers are hooked up to a Class-D DSP amplifier with a total output of 360 watts, which doesn’t sound like much considering that its rivals have close to 600 watt and pales in comparison with the Bowers & Wilkins 1,400 watt systems.

In a nutshell, the sound is crisp and provides a massive punch, almost quite literally as the woofers are located right under the front seats! And if you’re a fan of acoustics, rock, soundtracks, jazz, and vocals, then you’re in for a treat; its faithful down to the small details which you could hardly hear on anything else unless through a pair of good pricey headphones and high-end home systems. Tested on both Bluetooth audio streaming on Spotify and FLAC files in a USB flash drive.

Drivetrain

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Power comes from a 2.0-litre Mini TwinPower Turbo (and no, it’s not twin turbocharged) engine that makes 192 hp and 280Nm of torque from 1,350-4,600 rpm. The all-aluminium B48 engine features an undersquare design featuring a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection, variable valve lift (Valvetronic) and variable valve timing (Double VANOS).

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol mill is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which sends power to the front wheels only. The Cooper S Countryman reaches the centennial in just 7.4 seconds and with a long enough stretch of tarmac, touching 224km/h is the best it could do. When going fast is not for you, then you will get frugal fuel economy numbers as low as 6.1 l/100km combined.

These low numbers are possible with the GREEN driving mode which is part of the MINI cooper countryman three selectable drive modes: MID, SPORT and GREEN. As mentioned, the latter is suitable for leisurely drive and fuel economy, SPORT is good when you’re in the mood for responsive acceleration and handling, and while the MID driving mode is good if you want a mix of both.

Driving

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Hopping in the drivers’ seat, you’ll notice immediately that the sitting position here much taller and upright than the smaller Mini models, however this doesn’t hinder much with the driving experience. As mentioned, everything is within reachable and adjustable, which the ergonomics is pretty on point.

The thing about driving Minis is the unique experience that this brand can offer; it’s special in a sense that when you look out the windscreen and the side windows is that there’s nothing hindering your view, however you have this feeling of being cocooned, a lot like sitting in a pillbox.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

This in a way does provide a sense of security, considering the amount of metal and plastics all around you. There’s no apparent issue in navigating through tight parking spaces as not only you can look around, but also the proximity sensors and the reverse camera provide all the information you need.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Another thing I love with the Countryman is the side wing mirrors; they are positioned slightly closer to you, which does free up some room between it and the A-pillar that allows you to have a better view of where you’re turning into, or look at the apex of the corner ahead. You know they are there and remain within the line of sight without getting in the way.

Plus, without having large LCD screens protruding out screaming for attention, this leaves the top part of the dashboard completely unobstructed and without any immediate distraction on sight. The only thing that is within sight is the heads up display, which relays driving speed, navigation cues, cruise control and music tracks – only when you’re browsing through the audio buttons on the steering wheel.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Ride quality is pretty good, you won’t hear plastics knocking or rubbing on to each other, with minimal wind and road noise intruding into the cabin space. However you’ll feel things when going over speed breakers or blemished surface, which is due to the run-flat Pirelli tyres and the sport suspension fitted. It’s not that harsh though and it’s bearable for daily use.

Performance

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

Yes, it is pretty quick, especially during initial acceleration, however, the 1.5-tonne kerb weight is a little hard to hide, and it will require some persuasion for it to reach its top speed. You could use the paddle shifters to go down or up a gear or two and pretty fun to do with plenty of gears to do it, just that you can’t touch the rev limiter on every gear, so might as well leave it in full auto and let it do its thing. The gear ratios are spread evenly which makes full use to the 280Nm torque output.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The thing is, the Countryman isn’t a car for you to drag against on straight line, but rather it is one you enjoy driving through the bends. I love the feel of the steering wheel, which responds to every minor adjustment and feels almost telepathically. It doesn’t feel light off-centre, but consistently weighted without feeling unhinged. It handles with vigour that is rare among other full-size hatchbacks and only matched in the warm hatch territory.

And of course, its pretty darty and energetic while body control is fidgeting and excitable over uneven trunk roads, while the run-flat tyres do provide good amounts of lateral grip, enough to carry the car through corners in fast and poised and certainly gives the confidence and encourages you to do more.

The Mini has a stepped electronic stability control system that is subtle enough, but can be switched half out or fully out. When fully on, you can still drive the car up to the limit without too many interventions, and switching if off the system provides a bit of adjustability to the handling on the limit, but only when the car feels threatened is when the nannying begins.

Conclusion

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

The Mini Cooper S Countryman Sports is a practical and worth as much as it looks and drives. It’s a BMW product and one thing is for certain is that there were efforts taken that it doesn’t obviously look and feel as if it’s under the parent company, right down to the buttons and dials which you’ll probably never find in many of the BMW badged cars similarly to Rolls Royce, but you’ll know in the back of your head that there’s definitely German inputs present in the engineering.

The 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman looks just as good as it drives

It’s never going to be the same as the British Leyland and the Rover Minis; there’s loads of refinement, usability, practicality while retaining the little quirks and the best qualities the little cars have. It does everything you would expect from a modern premium family hatch does, and it does oozes a lot character. And come to think of it, it’s a lot like Hard Rock Hotel on four wheels.

[Bryna Au]

Tester’s Note
+ Loads of character
+ Practical
+ Fun to drive
+ Highly refined
+ Agile and darty handling
– Feels heavy

Technical Specifications
Mini Cooper S Countryman Sports
Price Msia:
RM240,888.00
Engine: 2.0-litre direct-injection, single twin-scroll turbocharger, 16-valves
Power: 192 Hp
Torque:
280 Nm
Fuel Economy: 6.1 l/100km (Tested)
Transmission: 8-Speed automatic transmission

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