By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 6.9
The 2016 Mini Countryman is the British premium brand's take on a crossover SUV. The Countryman combines the taller height, available AWD and cargo utility expected in a crossover SUV with the flair, retro-cool looks and fun driving manners for which Mini is known. Like its siblings, the Countryman is offered in a choice of three power outputs, including the high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW). The Countryman also grants access to the school of cool that are Mini owners, enthusiasts who routinely gather for rallies like Mini Takes the States. With an all-new Countryman around the corner, this current model is showing its age compared to fresher, more advanced rivals like the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X and Subaru XV Crosstrek.
If you want the looks, premium appeal and frisky attitude of a Mini in a larger package, the 5-passenger Countryman could be the ticket. The 2016 Countryman is also available with AWD, which provides extra traction in inclement weather and light off-roading.
The Countryman was the epitome of cool utility when it debuted several years ago, but fresher, more technologically advanced rivals like the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Subaru XV Crosstrek, Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade have arrived. While not offering all-wheel drive, the 2016 Mini Clubman is also roomy and all-new.
KBB Expert Ratings
With an all-new Countryman based on the latest Mini platform slated to arrive soon, the 2016 model sees only minor changes. New this year is the Countryman Park Lane package with two new colors and unique trim, while the JCW Countryman can now be had with the Fully Loaded package.
Sharp cornering ability, firm steering and zippy acceleration are all part of the Mini DNA. Consider it an extension of Mini's legendary racing exploits and that it's a sub-brand of...
... BMW. The Countryman shares much of the original Hardtop's grin-inducing handling characteristics, dialed down a notch. This isn't surprising, considering the Countryman's taller ride height, larger proportions and added weight. But given this 4-door Mini's added practicality, the trade-off is worth it. Models with the base, 121-horsepower 4-cylinder have just enough power to feel entertaining. For real thrills you'll want to step up to the Countryman Cooper S with its 181-horsepower turbocharged engine. The deviant remains the 208-horsepower John Cooper Works Countryman (JCW). If you're a save-the-manuals type of driver, know that Mini's manual transmissions have much to savor. Otherwise, the 6-speed automatic is an easy pleaser. The Sport mode, standard on all models, livens throttle response and steering feel.
A REAL REAR SEAT
If you've ever had to sit in the back of a 2-door Mini Cooper Hardtop, you know it's a confining place. In the Countryman, though, adults can actually climb in and not feel like they're in automotive purgatory. No, it's not a limousine, but 33.8 inches of legroom is respectable.
COOPER S VERSION
For our money, this mid-trim version of the Countryman is the one to get. With 60 more horsepower than the base model and a price tag $9,000 less than the JCW, the roughly $27,000 Cooper S Countryman has a good blend of power and value.
Sometimes more whimsical than functional, the Mini Cooper Countryman's cabin is still a charming place. Regardless of how fast you're going, how can that massive speedometer in the center of the dash not put a smile on your face? In models with navigation, the screen for maps and other information is smartly integrated in the center. Some of the controls below, though, are awkward to access while driving. The front seats are supportive, and the 3-across bench is suitable for two adults – three of any-size human is a pinch. Rear cargo capacity can be expanded by folding the seats.
While clearly a Mini thanks to visual cues like its elongated headlights, squat "bulldog" stance and long wheelbase, the 2016 Countryman is clearly the utility player in the brand's lineup. Its beefier stature, muscular lines and improved ground clearance indeed make this the crossover SUV of Minis. The Countryman's four side doors provide good access for passengers, and its upward-rising tailgate makes it easy to load cargo. All-wheel-drive ALL4 Cooper S models have under-ride guards that resemble skidplates, which are optional on front-wheel-drive (FWD) models for a tougher appearance. As with all Minis, the Countryman is highly customizable.
The 2016 Countryman is available in three trims: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works (JCW). The biggest differentiator is their engine power output (121, 181 and 208 horsepower, respectively), and thus their performance. Even the least expensive new Countryman includes remote keyless entry, push-button start, Leatherette upholstery, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD Radio system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB port, and 17-inch wheels and run-flat tires. Safety features include seven airbags and a bevy of traction- and brake-control systems. Mini's miniature SUV also includes no-cost maintenance for three years/36,000 miles and 4-year/unlimited-mileage roadside assistance (there's also a free Mini roadside assistance phone app).
Begin to build out a Countryman, and Mini will inform you there are over 10 million ways to do it. We haven't counted them all, but it's safe to say this is a highly configurable compact crossover SUV. Beyond the myriad interior and exterior aesthetic treatments available, major extras include a harman/kardon audio system, panoramic sunroof and smartphone integration. Navigation can also be added, as can leather interior, heated mirrors and front seats, rear park-distance control, dual-pane sunroof and xenon headlights. Not offered are the latest tech features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and collision-mitigation systems.
All three variants of the 2016 Mini Countryman use a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. In base models the engine is naturally aspirated (not turbocharged) and makes 121 horsepower. This is just adequate to move the Mini, and with a 0-60-mph time of 9.8 seconds (10.9 for an automatic transmission), it isn't exactly quick. Thanks to a turbocharger, the Cooper S variant makes 181 horsepower and hits that mark in a far fleeter seven seconds. The performance-oriented Countryman JCW, whose turbocharged engine is tuned to make 208 horsepower, reaches 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. The Countryman is front-wheel drive (FWD) by default. AWD is available on the Cooper S and is standard on the JCW. Also standard is a 6-speed manual Getrag transmission, with a 6-speed automatic optional.
1.6-liter inline-4 (Cooper Countryman)
121 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
114 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/34 mpg (manual), 25/30 mpg (automatic)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Cooper S Countryman)
181 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/32 mpg (manual, FWD), 25/32 mpg (automatic, FWD), 25/31 mpg (manual, AWD), 23/30 mpg (automatic, AWD)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 (John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4)
208 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
192 lb-ft of torque @ 1,900-5,000 rpm (207 lb-ft for short durations with overboost)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/31 mpg (manual), 23/30 mpg (automatic)
The 2016 Mini Cooper Countryman has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $23,600, the same as last year. Midrange Cooper S variants begin at $26,950 with FWD and $28,700 with AWD. At the top is the John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 that begins at an eyebrow-raising $36,200. At that cost and given the JCW's power output is only 27 horsepower more than the Cooper S, that price may be hard to justify. But it does bring exclusivity and bragging rights for Mini enthusiasts. The Mini Cooper Countryman plays in a more premium field vs. mainstream crossover-SUV rivals. The Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Subaru XV Crosstrek and Honda HR-V all start less than the Countryman. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. When it comes to depreciation, the Countryman is expected to hold its value well.