What is it?

The most massive Mini yet. Mini is famously known for making compact cars that ooze style and are fun to drive. But the new Mini Countryman isn’t actually all that compact – it’s noticeably bigger than the car that it replaces. The good news is that cabin space has increased along with the outside proportions. This means that, compared to the new Clubman (already a decent-sized hatch), this could be considered as a small family SUV. Think of it as an alternative to the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA-Class and Audi Q2.

This is the Cooper S model, a slightly sportier, more powerful (and more expensive) version of the standard Countryman.

How does it drive?

The 2017 Mini Countryman Cooper S is powered by 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that develops 189 bhp and 280 nm of torque. That means this massive Mini will do 0-100km/h in 7.2 sec and go on to a top speed of 222 km/h. In isolation, those numbers don’t sound that fast, but the Countryman in this guide actually delivers reasonably satisfying acceleration. That said, this does mean that, really, you need the more expensive Cooper S – the standard Cooper is just too slow.

The Cooper S gearbox is an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and there are no complaints on its responsiveness or its smoothness. Naturally, there are three driving modes – regular, eco and sport. We’d ignore eco because it kills too much of the power, while sport does make the drive more aggressive. Day-to-day, though, you’ll be more than satisfied with the regular mode, which offers a good balance of driving excitement and ride comfort.

Our test car also came with Mini’s ALL4 four-wheel drive system, allowing for plenty of grip through the bends. While it isn’t as sharp-handling as the smaller Minis available, it’s certainly more chuckable than any of the other compact SUVs on the market. And given the car’s enormous price, there are a bunch of the drive assist functions that you’d expect to find. Oh, and the Countryman will actually handle a little bit of off-roading, too.

Interior quality and tech

This is where the new Countryman really steps up its game from the old one. There are beautiful quilted leather seats that create a visual impact and an upscale look and feel. And plenty of features are included as standard on the Cooper S model. There’s a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, and a trick infotainment system with an 8.8-inch touch display.

The Countryman’s seating position is higher than the Clubman, meaning you get a better view of the road than you rightly should in a Mini. Rear legroom, headroom and shoulder space is much improved on the last-gen Countryman. And there’s even a hint of practicality – the rear comes with 40/20/40 split-folding seats to make more room for cargo.

Running costs

The Countryman Cooper S will cost you AED 145,000. For insurance, you’re looking at anything between AED 3,400 and AED 5,000 for a fully comprehensive policy. Fuel economy is 6.0 l/100 km. Thanks to the fuel tank capacity of 51 litres, you’re looking at a theoretical range of 850 km between fill-ups. Not bad for a small car at all.

Our verdict

The new Countryman Cooper S is a sporty and fun alternative to the standard set of small crossovers and wagons. The redesign has given the car a much-needed new interior with more space. And the car’s better handling than ever. While the Countryman is indeed expensive, we reckon it earns the premium price tag it carries by offering a long list of standard features. Plus, there’s nothing else quite like it.