Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Vast number of engines to choose from
  • Automatics, all-wheel drive widespread
  • Plug-in hybrid also available

Performance is served up by a range of turbocharged engines – both petrol and diesel – in a range of power outputs, meaning there should be something for most buyers, whether you want something more frugal or something performance-focused.

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs for 2020

TwinPower turbo petrol engines

Kicking off the petrol range is the Cooper, powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo producing 136hp and 220Nm of torque. It’s good for a 0-62mph sprint time of 9.7 seconds, and will reach a top speed of 124mph, whether fitted with either the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Opting for a Cooper All4 nets you the same engine, power and torque outputs, but with the reassurance of all-wheel drive traction. The 0-62mph time drops to 10.0 seconds, while top speed is 122mph. This is also available with manual or auto gearboxes.

Providing a significantly higher power output is the 192hp Cooper S, powered by a 2.0-litre turbo. Torque is rated at 280Nm, and sprints from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds (7.5 seconds for the auto), with a maximum top speed of 140mph.

>> MINI Countryman Cooper vs Cooper S - which is right for you?

Again, an automatic-only Cooper S All4 is available for all-wheel drive security, this time with a faster 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 138mph. A manual gearboxed version used to be available with an identical top speed and a 7.3-second 0-62mph time. Despite the performance figures, this particular version of the Countryman feels less exciting than you might expect, taking longer to whirr into life when you put your foot down.

Although the auto gearbox is smooth enough, no particular urgency is felt or heard until the turbo comes on song, at which point the Countryman moves along not quite smartly enough to substantiate the claimed performance figures.

Happily, all is largely quiet and composed at a cruise, and the powertrain never runs out of oomph on gradients at motorway speeds, without excessive recourse to downshifts.

One diesel option

The range of diesel engines mimics those of the petrols, at least in terms of naming structure. The Cooper D is the entry point to the diesel range, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel unit producing 150hp and 350Nm of torque. The 0-62mph sprint is taken care of in 9.1 seconds, regardless of gearbox choice, while top speed is 129mph for both.

An all-wheel drive version is also available in the form of the Cooper D All4, with (very) slightly improved performance figures. It’ll go from 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph, again identical figures for both manual and automatic versions.

On the move, the 2.0-litre diesel engine feels more than up to the task of hauling the Countryman along, with torque delivered smoothly and cleanly, especially for overtaking manoeuvres. Traction from the ALL4 system helps with clean pull-aways, too, while it remains hushed and rarely becomes too coarse, even at higher revs.

John Cooper Works provides even more performance

At the pinnacle of the Countryman range in terms of performance is the John Cooper Works ALL4. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, it produces 306hp and 450Nm of torque, driven through all four wheels and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.

The 0-62mph time is just 5.1 seconds, and the car will go onto a top speed of 155mph.

Plug-in hybrid appeals to company car drivers

At a more sensible end of the range (at least in terms of economy) is the plug-in hybrid Countryman Cooper S E All4. It combines the 136hp 1.5-litre turbo from the Cooper with an electric motor producing the equivalent of 88hp, making a total system output of 224hp and 385Nm of torque.

It’ll go from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds, making it the second-fastest Countryman after the full-fat JCW. 

The All4 system provides the traction, and the ability to make this model the MINI capable of running as a rear-wheel drive, Electric motors power the rear wheels, so when you’re driving on battery power alone, it’s only rear-wheel drive. The rest of the time, the engine powers the front wheels, depending on which of the eDrive modes you’ve selected to drive in.

There’s an eBoost function, which uses battery power in reserve to provide extra oomph at speeds above 78mph, where laws permit. Otherwise, it can run in Auto eDrive mode which uses a combination of petrol engine and battery power to provide the propulsion, while Battery Save mode stores battery power to use later, for example in an urban environment.

In Auto eDrive mode, the Countryman switches seamlessly between running on engine and electric power, remaining refined at all times. It’s nippy too – thanks to instant torque available from the electric motor – and lives up to its Cooper S badge as a result.

Fully charged, the plug-in hybrid will travel for up to 26 miles on battery power alone and at speeds of up to 78mph, and produces just 40-46g/km of CO2. However, it can vary depending on how you’re driving. Putting your foot down all the time will see that battery power deplete rapidly, so it’s best reserved for use in town where this version really comes into its own.

Engines no longer available

Dropped from the line-up in 2018 is the Cooper SD. Providing more performance than the Cooper D, but remaining economical, it's powered by a 190hp version of the same 2.0-litre diesel. Torque is rated at a hefty 400Nm providing plenty of punch for overtaking manoeuvres, while 0-62mph is despatched in 7.7 seconds, and it’ll go onto a top speed of 137mph. This is the only Countryman not available with a manual gearbox.

The Cooper SD ALL4’s 0-62mph time falls to 7.4 seconds, and will reach 135mph.

How does it handle?

  • Good body control and little roll
  • Feels agile for its size
  • All4 models add grip and traction

MINI has spent a great deal of money and time ensuring that front MacPherson strut and pricey multilink rear suspension systems guarantee its cars handle with more than a passing nod to the energy of the original Mini. And happily, despite a fair degree of added bloat over the stock Hatchback, the Countryman acquits itself with satisfactory aplomb.

Given its extra height and ground clearance, the Countryman's never going to have the feeling of darting agility that we've grown used to in the MINI Hatch, but it corners tidily, with less roll than expected and good body control. All-wheel drive adds useful amounts of added grip and traction in foul weather, though standing water will still throw it briefly out of kilter.

Overall, the Countryman is one of the best-handling crossovers on sale thanks to its tidy body control and confidence-inspiring driving manners. It also helps that you sit low in the car, which makes it feel more like a regular hatchback than a proper SUV.