Bigger is better for latest Mini

BULKING UP: Refusing to roll when cornering – at least to the same degree as other SUVs – the Countryman offers some of Mini’s traditional driver appeal.

BULKING UP: Refusing to roll when cornering – at least to the same degree as other SUVs – the Countryman offers some of Mini’s traditional driver appeal.

Mini’s new Countryman is a larger, better equipped and safer proposition, one that could woo people away from the likes of a Mazda CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan, and into a premium brand.

The previous model lacked a reversing camera, front parking sensors, rear air bags and back seat air vents that now join sat nav, a powered tailgate and climate control as standard features.

Better yet, it is loaded with a standard safety pack that includes autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning and active cruise control systems with a semi-autonomous stop-start traffic mode.

Every car is now equipped with a conventional six-speed auto transmission and all but the top-of-the-range Cooper SD drive the front wheels.

Priced from $39,900 plus onroad costs, the new entry-level Countryman Cooper is $3400 dearer than last year’s equivalent automatic model – not too bad, when you consider the extra kit.

In addition to all of the above, the standard Cooper gets a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine with 100kW and 220Nm, 18-inch wheels, a digital radio, smart keys, active headlights and more.

Buyers keen for something sportier can go for the $46,500 Cooper S Countryman (pictured), which benefits from a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that offers 141kW and 280Nm outputs, along with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Diesel models include the $43,900 Cooper D, which adds a 2.0-litre turbo diesel motor with 110kW and 330Nm and an eight-speed automatic transmission, along with the top-line Cooper SD that brings 140kW and 400Nm working in league with reactive all-wheel-drive.

First impressions are that this is indeed a bigger Mini.

While that may put off some buyers, the updated car is much more useful than its predecessor, offering decent room in the rear for adults on a bench seat that can slide and recline to accommodate people of different sizes.

A 100-litre larger boot now holds around 450 litres of cargo, and there are plenty of places to stash odds and ends.

Unmistakably Mini both inside and out, the Countryman features an evolution of the old car’s dashboard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen monitor as standard, offering an 8.8 inch display part of a $2400 option pack that includes a 12-speaker stereo and head-up display system.

The Countryman features a somewhat upright driving position with plenty of headroom and a decent view out of the cockpit.

It’s refreshing to see the big hatch has managed to keep its brand values intact while moving into new territory.

Though the Countryman may have grown up, it’s still a Mini at heart.

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