It feels light on the fly, with an emphasised and controlled stability on various road types, including gravel tracks.
A vibrant palette of colours and stripes lends personal character to the facelifted Mini, which gets updates on the inside too. Much of the work is focused around the command centre, with brighter, clearer displays, and the Countryman – the largest Mini thus far – still retains the fine-tuned adorability of the brand, despite its enormous proportions.
It’s in the concept of the car where the Countryman’s outlook is discovered. In a nutshell, it was created for Mini-lovers who have outgrown the juvenile Cooper hatches yet want to hold on steadfastly to their expressive envelope while adulting. It’s when you start to explore this Mini’s wide catalogue of capabilities that it really starts to impress. The cabin is spacious – 450 litres with the seats up and 1390 litres flat – and the spec sheet of safety, convenience and luxury features is robust and reflects modern-day requirements and tastes.
READ MORE: The MINI John Cooper Works is here
Essentially, it’s a performance model and is engineered with the company’s excellent ALL4 all-wheel drive system, which maximises the 170kW and 350Nm of power and torque from the highly tuned and delightful 2,0-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder engine found in every JCW. That suspension also enhances general traction for spirited driving and helps facilitate safe and successful exploration of the world outside the usual corporate rat-racing.
Despite the sporty suspension, a 0-100km/h time of 6,5 seconds and seats that exaggerate the latent athleticism of the range, the cars drive fantastically well and feel cushioned. You can have the Countryman JCW with an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. Here’s a bit of free advice for those with a sportier bent. Get the manual.
These massive Minis are eager to play, as evidenced when we sprayed them on a compilation of the best of roads in Knysna. We first tested their firepower on lush forest roads that twist and turn around spectacular natural gorges and deep valleys. The solidity of suspension, the stability aids and rim and rubber were equal to the, at times, bumpy task. We then tackled some of the area’s famed tarred mountain passes with the same conviction – the cars excelled.
Combine this performance on varied surfaces with the brand’s authentic desirability; build quality; features list; practicality and day-to-day liveability, and you have the most complete Mini experience, if not the most comprehensive small SUV, out there. Segment alternatives from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and even BMW will find it hard to match the all-round goodness of the new Mini Countryman JCW.
Base price: R604 000