By on March 30, 2017

2017 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 - Image: Mini USA

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.

2017 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 front – Image: Mini USA

“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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34 Comments on “Even the Brits Think the New 2017 Mini Countryman Might Suck...”


  • avatar
    probert

    The Mini’s hime country is Germany – objectively speaking.

  • avatar
    Heino

    Just change the name to Midi. I understand heritage, but this is Jaguar XJ disease. BMW has had way too much weisswurst and bier and has fallen asleep.

  • avatar
    Waterloo

    My wife just leased a new Countryman S. She loves it. She has wanted a Mini for years. The Mini 5 door was too small for our 3 kids and runs up to the cottage. The Countryman, while larger than she origionally wanted, is cute and sporty and fits the family as a second car. Just about perfect as far as she is concerned.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s an illustration of what’s wrong at Mini. Here in Denver, we have a dealer group that has Minis, Hondas and BMWs at one location.

    Thus, you can find a $33,000 Mini coupe and a $33,000 BMW 2 coupe about 200 yards apart from each other.

    Decisions, decisions…do I get the obnoxiously expensive, cheap-feeling Mini, which sounds like a lawnmower when you start it up, or the Bimmer?

    Hmmmm….

  • avatar
    darex

    Pay no attention to this idiotic article. The author managed to find the first ever bad F60 Countryman review I’ve ever seen, versus the scores of others I’ve read in actual car magazines and car blogs, all of which have been full of glowing praise, claiming pretty much the exact opposite of everything this stupid article is suggesting.

    Just the other day, Forbes proclaimed:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/markewing/2017/03/27/2017-mini-countryman-s-all4-test-drive-practically-perfect-in-every-way/#73762f9c663b

    Almost everybody who has reviewed the Countryman says it’s as good as its mechanical twin, the X1, only more fun to drive.

    Seriously, you must’ve looked long and hard to find the negative article about the new Countryman.

  • avatar
    Ianw33

    I think this might be a case of us enthusiasts living in our own sheltered world and assuming the rest of the buying public will agree with us. In the actual car buying world, things will be quite different.

    A couple of examples:

    Porsche:
    Purists – “if they build a sedan and suv/crossover, the brand is dead”
    Reality – Those two models are Porsche’s two best selling models.

    Jaguar:
    Purists – “”if they build a suv/crossover, the brand is dead”
    Reality – Jaguar sales are sky rocketing and i now see F-Pace’s everywhere

    I fully expect the largest/highest riding Mini to be their best selling model, even though it faithful to the purists ideal of what a Mini “should be.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      Not sure about that. Motoringfile, a MINI-dedicated blog, likes it a lot:

      http://www.motoringfile.com/2017/03/29/motoringfile-review-2017-mini-countryman-cooper-s-all4-manual/

      • 0 avatar
        Ianw33

        I can’t look at the link, blocked on the work computer. However, it is good to hear that the mini faithful appreciate it for what it is.

        If i were to buy a mini, the turbo/manual/all4 countryman would probably be my pick. It has enough room to be actually useful, but is still small enough to be very maneuverable

    • 0 avatar
      iantg

      My wife has an R55 clubman that she absolutely adores. It’s been a surprisingly solid little car in the couple of years we’ve had it. We decided to try out the current minis and hated all of them. The new ones just feel too much like normal cars. If I wanted a normal car, I’d just go buy a Corolla or Camry and be done with it. The quirkiness and character that the old cars had is gone. They feel like the neutered front wheel drive BMW’s that they are and that’s really depressing.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    Being a MINI S owner, I am going with the article is mostly true. I absolutely love my MINI and will drive it forever. My wife really wanted to like the Countryman S All4 (2015), sadly the extra weight, automatic and AWD made it slow and unresponsive. Since the new Countryman did not address any of these issues, I am sure we will remain a one MINI house.

    • 0 avatar

      Did you try it with the manual?

      • 0 avatar
        Rnaboz

        This is in reference to the automatic only. I have tried about a dozen times to teach my wife the clutch in different cars. She has no desire to learn and fails. I do not need anything bigger than my Hardtop S.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      You’re comparing the R60 to the F60. What’s changed between R60 and F60? Everything. New BMW engines, new chassis, new coding/wiring, etc… They’ve addressed the R60’s shortcomings as much as could be. Maybe you should test an F60 first, since you can easily see what’s different? Every review that I’ve read has said that it’s improved in every way from its predecessor, despite having grown.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    Brits want their Minis to have rubber donut suspension and 10in wheels, so…
    I think it’s far less of a travesty and more interesting than its BMW X1 twin, and superior in every way from my experience so far than the wretched R60 Countryman. If the R60 never existed, some of the criticism my be more deserved, but as big a seller as that has been, and its replacement being so much better, I don’t think there’s much teeth here.

  • avatar
    slap

    My daughter loves MINIs. Even 7 or 8 years ago when she was in HS she talked about getting one when she would be out of college. But after using one of our cars to drive 60 miles a day to work and back she learned to appreciate the importance of reliability. So she got a used MX-5 instead.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’ve got two MINIs in my driveway.

    Takeaways – first gen MINI is the most “pure”. If driving is your thing, an S (or the JCW) is the one to get, hardtop version. It has a certain primitiveness that’s quite refreshing. Reliability has been good.

    Second Gen Clubman S. Not a fan. Bottom end torque is good, but the engine runs out of steam at 5k RPM. Car doesn’t feel as eager and has more body roll. It reminds me a lot of my ol’ BMW 325i. About the same performance and feel, but the BMW had better balance. Reliability? Mechanic queen!

    My 2016 Countryman experience wasn’t that great – the automatic was a deal killer. And – no surprise – it handled worse than the others.

    I haven’t driven the latest version and since I have a hatred of the local dealership, it might be awhile.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    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.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      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.

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