The 2020 Mini Countryman manages to keep most of the fun character of the regular Mini Hardtop, but with the practicality and style of a small crossover. How small, though? It's definitely among what we'd classify as subcompact models, but given its level of engineering, interior quality and, perhaps most obviously, its price, the Countryman fits well above mainstream models like the Hyundai Kona or Kia Soul, but doesn't quite reach the luxury rungs where the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, BMW X1, and the Audi Q3 reside.
Given that in-betweener status and its quirky design aesthetic, the Countryman is bit hard to classify or stack up with competitors on an apples to apples basis. Best to think of it as an alternative, then, and focus on the things it does well. Most of all, it’s one of the best handling, and most fun-to-drive subcompact crossovers on the market – luxury or otherwise. It can be had with a number of peppy turbo engines, including a certified hot hatchback-grade 301-horsepower engine for the John Cooper Works. It also has a roomy interior with solid quality and characterful details. And although it's very expensive when compared to the Souls of the world, with a base price of just under $30,000, it starts at thousands less than those luxury models. So it may be tough to classify, but it's still worth a look.
What's new for 2020?
Two of the more niche Countryman models see significant updates. The John Cooper Works model gets the aforementioned new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 301 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. The Cooper SE Countryman plug-in hybrid gets longer electric range, going from 12 miles to 18 miles thanks to a higher capacity 9.6-kWh battery. Fuel economy with a drained battery also rises from 27 mpg to 29.
On other Mini Countryman models, the manual transmission has been dropped altogether, leaving two different automatic transmission choices.
What's the Countryman's interior and in-car technology like?
The Mini Countryman has a cabin with as much whimsy as you would expect for the brand. Though the speedometer has long since moved to the steering column, the dash continues to have a giant center circular motif as a tribute to past models. Vents, door handles and more have funky shapes, and Mini employs a wide array of plastics of different grains and colors to keep things interesting and looking premium, even if the plastics themselves feel average to the touch. Ambient lighting adds a bit of flair at night, and the center light ring around the infotainment system is entertaining, as it can display rpm, audio volume and climate settings with different lighting schemes. The seats are plenty supportive, too, and the BMW hallmark of adjustable leg support is greatly appreciated for lanky drivers.
Basic controls in the Mini cabin such as those for climate and volume are refreshingly simple using big, chunky dials. Other buttons for frequently used or adjusted items such as heated seats are just button presses away, and the brand’s signature toggle switches for drive modes and lights are still fun to press. The infotainment system uses a bright, high-resolution screen with bold, colorful graphics. Standard is a 6.5-inch screen that’s only controllable via a knob between the front seats, whereas touch capability is added on higher trims with the larger 8.8-inch screen. The knob is precise, if a bit of a reach to the low center console, and touch responses are quick and accurate, too. The menu system in the Mini isn’t as easy to go through as it should be, with many functions multiple menu levels deep.
How big is the Countryman?
It may be called a Mini, and it’s sized similarly to other subcompact crossovers, but the Countryman is actually quite spacious when it comes to passenger space. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom up front, and this nearly 6-foot 300-pound editor could comfortably sit behind himself in the back seat. Our even taller editor James Riswick also fit comfortably in the back of the Countryman when he tested it a couple years ago. The rear seats are a bit flat, but on the flipside, they have reclining and sliding adjustments.
The latter makes a big difference to cargo space since the Countryman is otherwise on the small side. Behind the rear seats, the Mini has between 17.2 and 17.6 cubic feet of cargo space (the base model has the higher number). That’s effectively tied with the Mercedes GLA’s 17.2 cubic feet, but a few cubes behind the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 (which is mechanically related to the Countryman). Folding the seats down expands the Mini’s cargo space to 47.6 cubic feet, still larger than the Mercedes and practically tied with the Audi's 48 cubic-feet. It still falls behind the X1’s 58.7 cubic feet, though. Picking the plug-in hybrid Countryman reduces space more as the batteries take up the underfloor storage behind the rear seats, which also don’t slide.
However, even if the numbers show the Mini to have a smaller cargo hold, our experience has found the Mini's space very usable, and seemingly larger than the numbers say.
The bottom suitcase in the below right photo would not fit in the SE Countryman since it lacks this regular version's removable floor panel.
What's the Countryman's performance and fuel economy?
There are four different powertrains available in the Mini Countryman. The base Cooper comes with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder making 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It's available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. With front-wheel drive, the Cooper gets a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and all-wheel drive comes with an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission. Mini says you can expect a 0-60 time of 9.3 seconds with FWD, which is very slow.
The Cooper S gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Just like the regular Cooper, the Cooper S Countryman can be had with front-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or all-wheel drive with an eight-speed automatic. This engine shaves 2 seconds off the 0-60 time.
The John Cooper Works Countryman is only available with all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic. It gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but power is cranked up to 301 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. It and the John Cooper Works Clubman and John Cooper Works GP Hardtop are the most powerful cars in the Mini range. Mini says its 0-60 time is 4.9 seconds – nothing slow about that.
In addition to the purely gas-powered Countryman models, there is a Mini Cooper S E Countryman that has a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It combines the turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder with electric motors at the back. Total output is 221 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque. Range is 18 miles on electricity, and fuel economy when running on the gas engine is 29 mpg combined.
Fuel economy ratings for the regular gasoline Minis are listed below. Numbers listed are only for the all-wheel-drive models, since numbers for the updated front-drive cars with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission weren't published at the time of this writing.
- Cooper AWD: 23 / 30 / 25 (City / Highway / Combined)
- Cooper S AWD: 22 / 31 / 26
- John Cooper Works: 23 / 30 / 26
What's the Countryman like to drive?
Just as the design of the Countryman is a blend of classic Mini with modern subcompact crossover, so is the driving experience. Steering is responsive if a bit numb with a very quick ratio. Body roll is limited, but a bit more noticeable in the Countryman than the smaller cars, due in part to the taller stance. The car reacts quickly to inputs and corners fairly neutrally. Ride quality is stiff, with sportier models feeling more rigid. Selecting a Countryman with adaptive suspension will give you two suspension settings, and in the case of our recent John Cooper Works test car, the sportier setting is borderline unusable, knocking the passengers around over every pebble.
Engine wise, the Countryman gets mostly the same engines as any other Mini, starting with a three-cylinder that isn’t particularly powerful, but has decent torque. That engine feels peppy and fun in a base two-door Hardtop, but will likely feel a bit sluggish in the 3,400-pound-and-up Countryman. To put that in perspective, that’s heavier than the base model of the much larger Chevy Camaro.
Our recommendation would be to get at least the Cooper S with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine that adds 55 more horses and 45 pound-feet of torque. It’s smooth, refined and will provide much more comfortable acceleration. Mini also offers the 301 horsepower four-cylinder shared with the GP Hardtop, and it’s just as refined while getting a snarly exhaust and eye-popping acceleration. It pulls hard all the way to redline and is generally responsive to your right foot. We wish Mini would have skipped the artificial-sounding engine noise enhancement that comes through the speakers in Sport mode, though, since it overpowers the John Cooper Works’ lovely natural exhaust note.
If you're trying to decide between front- and all-wheel drive (dubbed ALL4), we would recommend the ALL4. The traditional eight-speed automatic it's paired with (versus the seven-speed dual-clutch with FWD) shifts more quickly and crisply, even if it gets a bit too jarring in Sport mode. ALL4 also helps mitigate understeer when driving enthusiastically.
What more can I read about the Mini Countryman?
We drive the plug-in hybrid Mini Countryman and discover that it's worth look beyond the seemingly meager electric range estimates, which have since been increased.
Our first drive of this generation of Mini Countryman covering driving impressions and practicality.
What features are available and what's the Countryman's price?
The base Classic Countryman with front-wheel drive starts at $29,250. It comes reasonably well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, LED fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and parking sensors. It’s limited in other ways, as it only comes in red, gray, white or black with matching roof. Higher trims add other colors and contrasting roof options. Apple CarPlay is the only phone mirroring system available, and it’s an option on many trims. These features and color selections are generally the same, whether you pick a Cooper, Cooper S, or John Cooper Works, as they all have the same trim choices. Each of those models gets slightly different body work and wheel choices, though. The full price breakdown is below.
- Cooper FWD
- Classic: $29,250
- Signature: $32,250
- Iconic: $37,750
- Cooper AWD
- Classic: $31,250
- Signature: $33,250
- Iconic: $38,250
- Cooper S FWD
- Classic: $32,750
- Signature: $35,750
- Iconic: $40,750
- Cooper S AWD
- Classic: $34,750
- Signature: $37,750
- Iconic: $42,750
- John Cooper Works
- Classic: $42,250
- Signature: $45,250
- Iconic: $49,250
- S E Plug-in Hybrid: $37,750 (eligible for a $4,835 federal tax credit)
What are Countryman's safety equipment and crash ratings?
The 2020 Mini Countryman has not been rated by the government (NHTSA), but it has undergone testing by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the highest “Good” rating in all crash tests, but headlights and automatic emergency braking tech could use a little improvement. The automatic emergency braking and collision warning system received the mid-level “Advanced” rating, and headlights of the Cooper S and JCW were given the second-lowest rating of “Marginal." The base Cooper's standard lights got a "Poor" rating.
All Minis now come standard with what’s called the Active Driving Assistant, which features automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, automatic high-beam headlights, and sign recognition. Automatic parking and adaptive cruise control are optional features starting with the Signature trim level.