Durban – Mini’s second attempt at a not-so-mini contender in the trendy crossover segment arrives in South Africa this week in two basic flavours – Cooper and Cooper S – and with prices starting at R423 824.

The second-generation modern Countryman (the ‘woody’ Austin Seven also bore that name back in the ‘60s), is a completely new vehicle that’s bigger and more versatile than before, while also gaining a glut of new gadgets.

The crossover has grown by 200mm in length and 30mm in width, while the wheelbase stretches by 75mm to offer more cabin room. 

The full five-seater now also offers sliding and reclining rear seats, with a 40:20:40 split and the significantly bigger boot (now swallowing 450 litres) can now be kitted out with a fold-out Picnic Bench for two.

As for power, the new Countryman gets with the modern Mini engine programme by upgrading to its hatch sister’s turbopetrol engines. This means a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder Cooper version with 100kW and 220Nm on tap and a 2-litre four-pot rated at 141kW and 280Nm. Mini will also introduce a Cooper D 2-litre turbodiesel in the third quarter of this year, the oil burner offering 110kW and 330Nm.

Drive goes to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or a Steptronic autobox, offering six forward ratios in the Cooper and eight in the Cooper S. The All4 all-wheel drive system will only be available in the upcoming John Cooper Works version.

The Cooper rides on standard 16-inch alloys, while the other two come with 17-inch rims, but buyers can order wheels of up to 19 inches in diameter. The suspension design remains familiar, with a multi-link set-up doing duty at the back, but buyers can now opt for Dynamic Damper Control in conjunction with a new Driving Modes system.

The cabin also brings things up to date quite nicely, with a central touch-screen being available in the Countryman for the first time, in 16.5cm to 22.3cm sizes depending on which infotainment system you order and you can also liven things up with the colourful LED ring and LED ambient lighting system if you order the Excitement package. Standard cars come with a conventional audio system with no touch-screen, but with Bluetooth connectivity.

There is a truly long list of optional items, offering everything from navigation to high-end Harman Kardon sound, electric tailgate, dual-zone climate control, active cruise control, head-up display and much more. Buyers also have a wide range of seat upholsteries and inlay surfaces to choose from.

Furthermore, a pair of gimmicky new optional gadgets make their debut in the Countryman, in the form of the Country Timer that measures your travels on challenging terrain and the Find Mate system that uses attachable tags, as well as your smart-phone and Bluetooth, to help you keep track of easy-to-lose items like bags and keys.

On the safety front, collision warning with city braking is standard, but you will pay extra for pedestrian warning, high-beam assist and road sign detection.

MINI COUNTRYMAN PRICES

Model Power/Torque Price
Cooper 6-speed manual 100kW/220Nm R423 824
Cooper 6-speed auto 100kW/220Nm R442 052
Cooper S 6-speed manual 141kW/280Nm R493 306
Cooper S 6-speed auto 141kW/280Nm R512 806

ALTERNATIVES

Cooper
Fiat 500X 1.4T Cross 103kW/230Nm R347 900
Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance 105kW/172Nm R395 400
Jeep Renegade 1.4T Limited 103kW/230Nm R420 900
Mini Countryman Cooper 100kW/220Nm R423 824
Audi Q2 1.0 TFSI 85kW/200Nm R434 500
Cooper S auto
Mercedes-Benz GLA200 auto 115kW/250Nm R508 452
Mini Countryman Cooper S auto 141kW/280Nm R512 806
Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI Sport 110kW/250Nm R529 500
BMW X1 sDrive 2.0i auto 141kW/280Nm R554 552