Cars & Gadgets

The New MINI Countryman Is the Brand's Biggest Model Ever

It even packs a picnic bench in its trunk.
IMAGE COURTESY OF MINI
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In one of my earliest and fondest childhood memories, I’m standing in the back of my dad’s classic 1960s Mini, my little arms clutching tightly the driver’s seat. The front windows are rolled down and as the wind rushes across my face, my four-year-old self is shouting “Faster! Faster!” into my dad’s left ear. Sadly, we didn’t have the car much longer after that, as he grudgingly sold it to a very persistent relative. But the good thing about memories is that you can always make more of them; the all-new MINI Countryman promises to do just that.

When the first-generation MINI Countryman debuted in 2010, it was met with skepticism, as many revolutionary products seem to do, but it didn’t take long before MINI’s loyal fan base came around. “We were positively surprised. We were confident in the car, of course, but we weren’t expecting that strong a following,” revealed Peter Medalla, head of MINI Asia, as the second-generation Countryman had its Philippine launch.

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The second you lay your eyes on the carmaker’s top offering in the premium compact segment, you’re immediately sure of one thing: it’s bigger than any MINI you can remember. The first Countryman was already huge by the brand’s standards, but this one is 20 centimeters longer and just a little bit wider, by three centimeters to be exact. With the new chassis configuration, the car can now rightfully claim to be a proper five-seater. Besides the increased width and legroom, there’s also more space in the trunk. Interestingly, it’s in the back where most of the useful new features are found. In the MINI Cooper SD Countryman, an automatic electric tailgate control, which allows you to open and close the tailgate with the touch of a button, comes as standard. (It’s an option on the Cooper D model.) When it’s open, you’ll find the cleverly designed Picnic Bench that pops out of the trunk to conveniently provide comfortable seating for two. In the U.K., where camping is a big pastime, another prime option is the tent that sets up on the roof of the car.   

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Inside the MINI Countryman

While much will be made of the Countryman’s growing size, by all appearances it’s still distinctively a MINI. “Whatever happens, design-wise, it will only be an evolution,” says Medalla. “Even looking at it from the far corner of your eye, you know it’s a MINI.” All the design elements are there: the round headlamps, the curvy contours of the front contrasted by the nearly flat roof, short front and rear overhangs, and large wheel arches. From the driver’s seat, the view looks quite familiar, as MINI is known for offering excellent visibility from the front to the sides, thanks to the carefully positioned roof pillars, tall windscreen, and big windows. It’s also while you’re at the wheel that the source of joy behind owning a MINI comes out: it’s an absolute blast to drive. “We have very passionate engineers in the company, and they want to maintain the same driving dynamics in every MINI model, from the three-door to the largest.  Whether it’s the Clubman or the Countryman,” says Medalla. “We may veer away in terms of looks, but we’ll never veer from what MINI has always epitomized, of being a fun drive, having that exciting, go-kart feel.”

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What it looks like behind the wheel of the Countryman; and its spacious back.

In the Philippines, the Countryman is available in a choice of two diesel engines: the 150hp version with 330Nm of torque for the Cooper D model, and a 190hp version cranking out 400Nm for the Cooper SD. Obviously, the latter goes a bit faster, 220 kilometers per hour versus 208. But if it’s fuel economy you’re chasing, the Cooper D wins, getting 22.22 kilometers per liter against the Cooper SD’s 20.83. If diesel isn’t your cup of tea, just wait a few months, as the gasoline-powered John Cooper Works engine is already waiting in the wings. 

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Whichever Countryman model you choose, Medalla is confident that it’s going to be “the perfect companion to your new adventure. It’s all about enriching your life experiences, adding more memories. That’s what the Countryman is all about.” 5th Avenue Corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City; 856.7555; 0917.814.7216; [email protected]; mini.com.ph.

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Pierre A. Calasanz
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