MINI COUNTRYMAN SD | BIG DIESEL
by Kap Maceda Aguila
Some months back, at the Philippine launch of the all-new, second-generation Countryman, the British carmaker’s Asian head Sunny Medalla hailed the crossover as the biggest and most flexible vehicle in Mini history. You could also say that, in the Countryman, the people from Oxford once again push the boundaries of what can comfortably be called “mini.”
I suspect though that it’s not about foisting a cleverly conceived oxymoron but, verily, discriminating palates in an ever-evolving market – one in the midst of a crossover craze. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that one in every four Minis is a Countryman. All told, some 550,000 buyers have spoken.
Aside from a relaunch of the brand’s “visual aesthetics toward a sharper and more
sophisticated look,” Mini has also made the shrewd move to focus on only five core models
(which Mini CEO Peter Schwarzenbauer had famously called “superheroes”). The five vehicles
are the three-door, five-door, cabriolet, Clubman, and (of course) Countryman. Obviously, a lot
is riding on the success of what’s effectively the flagship model of Mini.
The front wheel-driven Countryman shares the bones of its BMW cousin, the X1 and, thankfully,
not much else. Stylists and engineers have been very respectful of the Mini legacy and look – an
iconic design that has steadfastly resisted the trend towards a sharper, wedge-shaped profile.
Perhaps the most important noteworthy change in the vehicle is a diesel power plant –
heretofore unseen and unfamiliar in the quirky stable of Mini. Two diesel-drinking variants are
available: The Cooper D (P2.9 million) the Cooper SD (P3.4 million). The difference, aside from
the price tag, is that the SD is supercharged. It also boasts better numbers; the D has 150hp and
330Nm, the SD 190hp and 400Nm.
The second-generation Countryman is 20 centimeters longer than the outgoing one, with a
wheelbase extended by 7.5 centimeters. These translate to enhanced passenger and cargo
space – a whopping total of 220 liters over the first model. And, cliché or not, this Mini is small
on the outside but big on the inside. If you are lugging bulkier payload, 40/20/40 split rear seat
fold down individually for more space. And because the Countryman is, well, meant for the
great outdoors, Mini even throws in a foldable Picnic Cushion option which makes the rear
bumper into a cushioned seat. How about that?
Swing open the solidly built doors and clamber aboard; the well-constructed beige seats with
diamond-shaped stitching welcome you into a well-appointed cabin. For taller people, the front
seats extend in an almost ottoman-like way for added support of your longer upper legs. The
backrests are also bolstered for added support when you’re inclined to take corners at speed.
Inevitably, your attention will be riveted to the circular housing where the infotainment system
lies. Fringed by changing lights as you navigate various controls, this feature adds visual
excitement to an already compelling sight. Mini also gives you the ability to change ambient
lighting color, from the dome-light assembly to the foot wells and doors – a veritable mood ring
that adjusts to your taste. Outside, puddle lamps mounted on the underside of the side-view
mirrors project the Mini logo to the ground – a la Batman. The usual array chrome toggle
switches underpin a retro feel that’s very Mini; ditto with the steering wheel column-mounted
gauge cluster. The copper-colored front dash panel is accented by thin black lines for a
tastefully executed refresh.
But the Mini always puts the driving experience front and center. The Countryman excels here
with its peppy 2.0-liter diesel heart. Drivers can choose from three legible, well-defined modes:
Green Mode, as you may imagine, maximizes fuel use by tempering response. Sport is on the
other side of the spectrum while tightening the steering. Mid Mode works best for everyday
purposes – with just enough oomph to realize a spirited drive.
Mini literature reports that maximum torque can be realized from a low 2,500rpm, but in practice I was pleased to note a good tug at about 1,750 revolutions. If you so desire, you can have a pretty good drive (and overtake, too) without even breaching 2,000rpm.
But make no mistake about it, this Mini earns its rightful place in the stable – with a claimed
zero-to- 100kph time of 7.7 seconds, and a top rate of 220kph. You don’t have to reach that
speed to have a whale of a time aboard this Mini, that’s for sure.
Positives: Torque-rich performance, fuel efficiency, comfortable ride, enhanced space, tech toys
MINI COUNTRYMAN SD
Negatives: Loss of some Mini magic owing to its large size