Even the Brits Think the New 2017 Mini Countryman Might Suck

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

It’s can be difficult to wipe the smug look of a home field advantage off your face.

Yet in its home English market, the all-new second-generation 2017 Mini Countryman is failing to find favor with British car critics. evo Magazine, never one to pull its punches, published a review of the 2017 Mini Countryman chock full of significant objections.

“Mini’s new SUV has grown up, but it’s lost the Mini fun factor along the way,” Antony Ingram writes. evo says it expects “the BMW-owned company to turn out cars that are fun to drive and show up their rivals as sloppy, dull and character-free.” Yet, Ingram says, “the latest Mini Countryman doesn’t manage that.”

Citing poor value, disappointing acceleration in the hi-po S model, un-Mini-like dynamics, a cabin too twee, and a design that continues “to look ever more contrived,” evo suggests you may prefer — get this — a Toyota C-HR.

While the Mini Countryman arrived early to the subcompact crossover party, it never made a huge splash in the U.S. market, owing to a dearth of demand for the Mini brand in general.

But in the UK, BMW’s Mini story is altogether different. Mini’s 0.2-percent share of the U.S. market appears particularly paltry when contrasted with the brand’s 1.7-percent share of the UK industry. While total Mini sales in the U.S. are down 13 percent so far this year after falling 11 percent in calendar year 2016, Mini sales in the UK are up 18 percent so far this year after rising 9 percent in calendar year 2016.

Across the pond, in a UK market that is roughly one-seventh the size of America’s, Mini sold 68,984 new vehicles in 2016, 33 percent more than the brand managed in the U.S.

It should be no surprise that the British market is hugely consequential to Mini. (Despite the comparatively small size of the UK market, Jaguar and Land Rover both sold more vehicles in the UK than the U.S. last year, as well.) And it should be no surprise if a Mini fails to hit the target in the UK, it could struggle on this side of the Atlantic, as well.

“It’s hard to be original when your product lineup has to draw inspiration from a 1959 city car,” Ingram writes, part of a general evo criticism that suggests Mini is either incapable of moving forward or confused about how to do so.

And with such lofty price points as you move up the Countryman range, evo points to high-performance hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf R as potential alternatives, particularly since the Countryman remains relatively low-slung.

Ingram isn’t alone in his home-market criticism of the new Countryman.

“It’s clear that the wait for a really good Mini crossover, designed with the freedom and vision that the increasingly important segment deserves, will go on,” Autocar’s Matt Saunders writes.

Top Gear is contradictory: “The new Countryman is a sophisticated piece of engineering, with a solid feel and precise driving manners.”

CAR lands somewhere in the middle, with Anthony ffrench-Constant saying, “Progress hardly feels rapid enough to justify the Cooper S suffix,” and, “the ride’s better than before, but not great,” and, “there’s still a deal of bump-thump and the car never really settles.”

Meanwhile, back at evo, the new Toyota C-HR features “the nimble handling, precise steering and throttle-adjustability that were all characteristics you might have found in a Mini back in the day.”

Back in the day. But perhaps no longer.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Garrett Garrett on Mar 30, 2017

    BMW needs to take the Mini Cooper, swap the hatch for a trunk about the same size as the hood, put a BMW badge on it, and call it a 2002.

  • Ashy Larry Ashy Larry on Mar 31, 2017

    The review in evo isn't even that negative. 3/5 stars overall, mixed bag of comments that are, in part, some of the same gripes about Mini's getting bigger and heavier overall (As most cars are nowadays). Mini is trying to hold on to customers who would otherwise have to abandon the marque to other options once their needs for space/roominess increase (read: once they have kids). That said, Mini's are not for everyone, and there are perfectly valid questions posed about value for money -- if you are willing to spend $38k for a nicely-appointed Cooper S, why not splurge 3-4k more for a roomier, more powerful X1? Or why not a Mazda CX5 for sporty handling pretensions in your crossover, and save money? Or a new CR-V? or an Escape with the 2.0 turbo? I guess the answer is Mini owners want to be seen driving a Mini and are willing to pay more for less room.

    • Darex Darex on Mar 31, 2017

      Because Manual Transmission, and because some people don't want to drive around in a BMW-badged BMW. I see thousands of CR-V's and RAV4's and CX-5's every day. Buying one of those is tantamount to saying that you don't care what you drive, as long as it's Japanese and allegedly more reliable. MINIs are special.

  • MrIcky Worrying about mileage is for poors.
  • ToolGuy A 'true' Volvo (pre Ford Motor Company). I would buy this and drive it for 3 years until I can get one of them 'Chinese' EV things. But I'm offering $1,850 against your $3,700 because you couldn't be bothered to pull it outside for pictures. 😉 And I will stick close to home with this one -- no road trips.In related news (Relevant and Connected!!): My new dishwasher is Swedish -- little outfit called Frigidaire, you may have heard of them. (On order, should be here in March)
  • CKNSLS Sierra SLT Let me get this straight-It's OK for GM to make cars in China and ship them here-under a Buick name. But for the Chinese to directly do it is not OK.If the Big 3 had not a deserted sedans/low end of the market they wouldn't have anything to worry about.Yea...makes perfect sense.
  • Analoggrotto This must look great in your Tellurides
  • Dukeisduke Meanwhile in the EU, they're inviting Chinese manufacturers to build assembly plants there, especially in Italy. FIAT cut back production in Italy from one million vehicles a year, to 750,000, so the Italian government wants the Chinese plants for the jobs they'll create. They've contacted BYD about building a plant, but so far, BYD has only committed to building a plant in Hungary. A second plant in the EU will depend on demand for vehicles.
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