The 2018 Mini Countryman is a not-so-mini Mini. Compared to the SUV it replaced last year, it’s about 8 inches longer and 5.5 inches wider. In the car world, those gains are, well, maxi. Yet, they allow the new Countryman to be more spacious, functional and comfortable than both its predecessor and similarly-priced luxury SUVs. At the same time, it’s still smaller on the outside than its chief competitors. Despite being a not-so-mini Mini, it’s still a mini SUV.
Besides its more usable size, the ride is more comfortable than its crashy predecessor, while still maintaining the nimble handling and driving feel people have come to expect of the Mini brand. The cabin design offers plenty of Mini-ness, but the controls are a bit more functional and the quality is up to premium standards. In total, the Countryman looks and feels like the small luxury SUV it’s priced like.
Now, that might ultimately be its major drawback, as the Countryman is not what we’d call a value buy. In fact, you can now equip a Mini Countryman to more than $50,000. Yet, that’s a result of the huge customization-friendly options list that should be familiar to any Mini loyalist. And for them, especially those who’ve outgrown their Cooper hardtops, the Countryman should be the perfect small SUV.
What’s New for 2018?
The Mini Countryman was completely redesigned last year. 2018 will be the first official year for the John Cooper Works performance model and the E Countryman plug-in hybrid. Changes include just some minor interior tweaks.
What We Like
Big interior given its exterior dimensions; fun to drive; quirky style; highly customizable; better value than other small luxury SUVs
What We Don’t
Slow base engine; still pricey for an SUV of its size; advanced safety tech restricted to a very pricey package; plug-in hybrid’s short all-electric range
Each 2018 Mini Countryman model is tied to a different engine.
The base Cooper is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder (134 horsepower, 162 lb-ft of torque). A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and can be had with front- or all-wheel drive (dubbed ALL4). A 6-speed automatic is optional with front-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic is optional with ALL4. Fuel economy is 24 miles per gallon city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined with the automatic and front-wheel drive. The manual loses one mpg combined, while ALL4 loses two mpg combined relative the transmission paired.
The Cooper S has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (189 hp, 207 lb-ft of torque). A 6-speed manual is standard with ALL4, with the 8-speed automatic optional. All front-wheel-drive Cooper S models come only with the automatic. With the automatic, fuel economy stands at 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. ALL4 is one mpg combined worse, and the manual Cooper S is two mpg lower than that.
The John Cooper Works Countryman also has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, but it produces 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. ALL4 and the manual are standard. Its fuel economy is 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.
On the other end of the spectrum, the confusingly named Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is a plug-in hybrid. It produces at total system output of 221 hp and can travel up to 12 miles on electricity alone. When that’s depleted, it gets 27 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Countryman is available in four model lines: Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works and the Cooper S E plug-in hybrid.
Standard equipment on the Cooper ($26,600) includes 17-in wheels, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, passive entry and keyless start, automatic headlights and wipers, a backup camera, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, leatherette vinyl upholstery, a sliding and reclining back seat, a 6.5-in display screen with a console-mounted controller, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Cooper S ($31,200) adds 18-in wheels, LED headlights and fog lights, sport seats, multicolor ambient lighting and a special multicolor LED ring around the central touchscreen. ALL4 all-wheel drive also adds heated seats.
The John Cooper Works ($37,800) adds a sport-tuned suspension, styling and aerodynamic enhancements, and more aggressively bolstered seats. These styling flourishes can effectively applied to other trims within a pair of packages.
The Cooper S E plug-in hybrid ($36,800) is comparably equipped to the gas-only Cooper S, but the panoramic sunroof is not included.
Like every Mini, the Countryman is highly customizable, and you can order it however you’d like. It takes between one and two months depending on where you live in the country to get one.
Most options are available separately, but many of those are also bundled into packages for convenient ordering. The Cold Weather package adds heated front seats and auto-dimming, power-folding mirrors. The Premium package adds 8-way power front seats, a hands-free power tailgate, rear privacy glass and a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system. The Technology package adds an 8.8-in touchscreen (with an upgraded console-mounted controller), a head-up display, an automatic parking system and wireless smartphone charging. The Convenience package adds a folding rear center armrest, additional 12-volt sockets and either a fold-out "picnic cushion" for tailgate parties or a spare tire. The aptly named Fully Loaded package includes all of the above. To that package can be added the Active Driving Assistant, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic braking system.
Additional options include a variety of upholstery options such as leather, special interior and exterior design flourishes, adaptive suspension dampers and satellite radio.
The 2018 Countryman comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front knee airbags, front side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags. A forward-collision warning and automatic braking system can be added to the Fully Loaded package. Blind spot monitoring is not available.
The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Countryman the best-possible ratings of Good in every crash test performed. Its headlights scored a second-worst Marginal, preventing a Top Safety Pick award.
Behind the Wheel
Compared to its predecessor, the new Mini Countryman is far more comfortable and refined. The ride in particular sees massive improvement, going from flat-out harsh to firm yet comfortable. It’s in keeping with the rest of the small luxury SUV segment in this regard, although as a Mini, it’s also one of the sharpest and most enjoyable to drive.
In terms of engines, we’d highly recommend paying extra for the Cooper S. Unless you almost exclusively drive in a city, the base 3-cylinder turbo just doesn’t have the guts to deal with the Countryman’s added weight, plus that of passengers and cargo. The 4-cylinder turbo in the Cooper S is far more in keeping for the segment and provides energetic acceleration. We also like that Mini retains the option of a manual transmission. We don’t like that the plug-in hybrid model only goes 12 miles on electricity.
Inside, the back seat offers legitimate space for someone taller than six feet, while also sliding and reclining for added comfort and cargo versatility. Apart from the mechanically related BMW X1, no other vehicle in its class can match its interior space. Cargo space isn’t enormous, but those sliding and folding seats plus the Countryman’s boxy shape make it more versatile than most.
The cabin feels more luxurious now, but it does help to opt for one of the many upgraded upholsteries or leathers available. We’d also consider opting for the upgraded 8.8-inch infotainment system. It, too, features a console-mounted controller that’s awkward to reach, but it stands out from the base 6.5-in system with a welcome touchscreen interface.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 BMW X1 — The X1 is mechanically related to the Countryman. It’s a bit bigger, more powerful and has a more conventionally designed interior, but it’s also pricier.
2018 Mazda CX-5 — If you’re mostly considering the Countryman for its fun-to-drive character, try the stylish CX-5. You could easily find it to be more fun, and it comes with more space and a lower price.
2018 Mini Clubman — If you want a bigger Mini, but don’t need it to be SUV-big, consider the Clubman, which is pretty much a compact hatchback (albeit, with two barn doors instead of a hatch). Read Mini Countryman vs. Mini Clubman: What’s the Difference?
Used Range Rover Evoque — It, too, is British, and a high-style choice that offers compelling design and distinctive color schemes. It’s much pricier, though, so a used model could be worth considering.
Order your car. Don’t get stuck paying for stuff you don’t want or a color combination that’s not exactly your cup of tea. In one to two months, you can have the exact Mini Countryman you like — and you should even be able to get a similar price to one that’s just sitting on a dealer lot. Either way, though, we would recommend getting the Cooper S due to its sufficiently powerful engine.