Even the Brits Think the New 2017 Mini Countryman Might Suck
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.
More by Timothy Cain
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