MINI Countryman Diesel Test Drive Review
MINI Countryman Diesel – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

MINI Cooper Countryman Diesel Review

Car Tested: 2013 MINI Cooper D Countryman (High)

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 35,87,500/-

A diesel engine under the MINI Countryman boosts its appeal even further.

Niche cars need to be practical too or that’s what we Indians believe. The MINI Countryman is the first 5-door model from the company under BMW ownership. It is also the only model which isn’t manufactured in the UK, the home of MINI. The Countryman is contract manufactured in Austria by Magna Steyr. Launched globally in 2010, the MINI Countryman was launched in India last year and the German owned brand started local assembly of the vehicle at BMW’s Chennai facility earlier this year (at the same time it launched diesel variants of the car). Positioned as a crossover SUV, the MINI Countryman might not stay true to original MINI principles but does it impress as a package?

Motor Quest: The MINI Countryman has received mixed reactions with some people not very happy with BMW for changing the core philosophy of the brand. The Countryman isn’t mini in dimensions but is surely a more practical alternative for our roads.

MINI Countryman Diesel ReviewMINI Countryman Diesel Performance Review

Exteriors – One look at the MINI Countryman and you immediately notice it’s not small in dimensions like the standard MINI Cooper. Simply put, the Countryman is a larger car than its siblings which are sold in India, boasting of more length, width, height and wheelbase than the standard MINI. The attention to detail is worth noting as the Countryman boasts of interesting design highlights. The front sports a clamshell bonnet and a large straight grille with chrome slats while the almost squarish headlights get chrome surrounds and high amount of detailing. The mirrors are placed a bit low compared to the door line while the bonnet has a minor bulge. The door handles are different as they look like a pull out type but you have to operate them using the switch behind the knob, takes a bit of an effort.

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The side reveals the length of the MINI Countryman with the lower half getting a black cladding for that SUV look. While BMW likes to call the Countryman an SUV, it’s low profile rubber doesn’t make it apt for our bad roads. The ground clearance is decent though. Small roof rails and black coloured roof look good with twin sunroofs offered on the top-end variant. The A, B, C and D pillars are all finished in black. The indicators above the front wheels get a chrome strip surrounding them. At the rear, the subtle rear spoiler and large antenna draw attention while the tail lights and number plate holder get chrome surrounds as well. The end result is a vehicle which doesn’t look cute but has some presence on the road and people do turn and ogle at it all the time. A MINI will get you stares that cars twice as much won’t.

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Interiors – The retro cabin of the MINI Countryman greets you with its modern touches. Quality levels inside-out are very good and the cabin is very well put together and feels rich in feel and appeal. The round AC vents go with the aircraft theme as the buttons inside seem to be inspired from aircrafts. You get a large speedometer in the centre which has a 6.5-inch screen inside it which displays an array of in car functions. This is similar to BMW’s own iDrive and works in a similar manner. The centre console is well laid out and everything is simple yet uniquely designed. The steering wheel has a tachometer attached to it, which moves when you adjust the rake. This analogue tachometer has a display below which shows speed and other car info like mileage, distance to empty, trip meter, etc. The positioning of the meter is a bit awkward as you can’t see the lower display in your line of sight.

MINI Countryman Diesel SeatsMINI Countryman Diesel Space

The all black dashboard gets piano black inserts which lift the ambience of the cabin even further. This finish is also carried on the doors which carry a very unique design for the storage area. There are quite a few places to keep things including cup holders, arm rest, glove box and a unique rail next to the handbrake, where you can use a sunglass holder. The Harmon-Kardon speakers offer good acoustics and everything inside the cabin seems like a work of art. The lighting is also very unique adding to the MINI experience. The toggle switches for the lights and sunroof over the inside rear view mirror are the same aircraft inspired. There are twin roofs in the High variant, the front one opens completely while both the front and rear roofs tilt upwards. The massive glass area and twin sunroofs boost the airyness inside the cabin.

MINI Countryman Diesel BootMINI Countryman Diesel User Experience

The seats of the MINI Countryman offer good back support and headroom inside the cabin is in plenty. However legroom at the rear is at a premium and under-thigh support is lacking. The seats itself don’t get electric adjustment, which is a shocking omission at this price point. There is no centre arm rest at the rear either and the centre seat is not usable due to the hump. This makes the Countryman a 4-seater and rear AC vents are lacking too. The boot is decently big and the rear seats can be folded in 40:20:40 format offering good flexibility. Being a premium product, MINI has offered some standard equipment on the High variant like climate control, leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, etc. Although for this price, more is expected.

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Performance – When MINI launched the Countryman in India last year, it offered it with a petrol heart. However India being a diesel loving country wants oil burners even in niche and luxury cars. Thus the company has brought in a diesel mill in the Countryman. This motor is quite the opposite compared to the tarmac scorching petrol as it produces significantly less horsepower (112 against 180). The 2.0-litre diesel engine in the Countryman D has quite a lot of torque (all of 270 Nm at just 1750 RPM). In terms of outright acceleration, the diesel Countryman isn’t particularly fast but acceleration is quite swift. Turbolag is well contained and the MINI Countryman diesel responds instantly to throttle inputs. The wave of torque comes in so strong that the vehicle responds with a jerk when you floor the pedal. Turn off the traction control system and the motor will spin the wheels even in second gear, such is the poke from the motor. Power is transmitted to the front wheels and we don’t get the option of a 4-wheel drive system in India.

MINI Countryman Diesel InteriorMINI Countryman Diesel Performance

Mid-range performance from the MINI Countryman is strong and the diesel powerplant pulls effortlessly till around 3500 RPM, post which it starts to lose steam and redlines at around 4500 RPM. Thus with the healthy torque on offer, the Countryman sprints past 100 km/hr decently quick. It is also quick when it comes to in-gear acceleration, taking 11.9 seconds to do 80 – 120 km/hr in fifth gear. The big issue with this engine is the NVH levels with the motor being audible right from start up, becoming more audible as you floor the pedal harder. Mated to this engine is a 6-speed automatic gearbox and you can manually take control of things using the steering mounted paddles or tip-tronic function on the gear lever. The gearbox is a bit slow to respond but a Sport mode quicks the shifts and keeps the motor close to redline. Cruising at 100 km/hr in sixth gear keeps the mill spinning at 2000 RPM. Mileage is decent for a car of this size and in spite of enthusiastic driving, we got around 12 km/l.

MINI Countryman Diesel Road Test

Driving Dynamics – MINI cars are born to corner and the Countryman is no different. The way this vehicle handles is truly outstanding, it simply jinks into corners with precision and maintains its line with laser guided confidence. Despite the size, the Countryman doesn’t have any body roll whatsoever and offers extremely fun to drive dynamics. The real standout in the package is the steering wheel, which is small in size but large on feedback. Although a bit heavy at parking speeds, the Countryman’s steering is ultra communicative and that really boosts confidence when pushing the vehicle. Braking performance is excellent as well which all adds up to an highly involving driving experience on open roads. However in the city, the Countryman’s wide turning radius and heavy steering don’t make it easy to potter around town.

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What is not so pleasing on the MINI Countryman is the ride quality thanks to the low profile rubber, stiff suspension and run-flat tyres. While the vehicle is positioned as a crossover SUV, it simply doesn’t have the characteristics of such a kind of body type. Ride quality is properly stiff and the Countryman simply crashes into bumps and can rattle you on really bad roads. 45 profile rubber is too low even by pseudo SUV standards. Thus you are worried about going fast on broken tarmac as the risk of damaging tyres and rims keeps bothering you. The suspension gets noisy at speed and it simply can’t insulate you from our monsoon struck tarmac while on smooth roads the road and tyre noise is simply too high. High speed stability is good though as the Countryman stays firmly glued to the road.

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Verdict – The MINI Countryman isn’t very practical for our roads. While performance from the diesel motor is good and the handling is a total gem, the ride quality really ruins the experience and the poor NVH levels spoil the calm you would expect from such a well designed cabin. The company offers some really desirable cars and if you can live with the flaws, then there is nothing which comes close to the sheer level of exclusivity MINI offers. The Countryman might not be the most practical car out there but it surely is the most practical MINI with its diesel engine, 5-doors and big boot.

The MINI Countryman diesel is by-far the most practical MINI vehicle you can buy in India today and it’s reasonable quick and frugal too.

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What’s Cool

* Unique styling
* Steering precision
* Flexibility (5-doors, big boot and folding rear seats)

What’s Not So Cool

* Ride quality
* Cabin insulation

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2013 MINI Countryman Specifications

* Engine: 1995cc, common-rail, turbocharged, 4-cylinder
* Power: 112 HP @ 4000 RPM
* Torque: 270 Nm @ 1750 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed automatic
* Top Speed: 180 km/hr
* 0-100 km/hr: 11.3 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 10 km/l (City), 13 km/l (Highway)
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson struts (Front), Multi-link (Rear)
* Tyres: 225/45/18 Runflats
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Disc (Rear), ABS
* Safety: ABS, TCS, Front, Side and Curtain Airbags, Parking Assist

2013 MINI Countryman Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 4097 mm X 1789 mm X 1561 mm
* Wheelbase: 2595 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.8 metres
* Ground clearance: 160 mm (est.)
* Boot Volume: 350 liters, 1170 litres (with rear seats folded)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 47 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1310 kgs