Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Cockpit is pure MINI with lots of character
  • Much easier to navigate than old model
  • Still fussy for some, driving position won’t suit all

How is the quality and layout?

MINI points to the strong degree of ‘Britishness’ it has been able to maintain in its interior design; referring to such details as the toggle switches, upholstery stitching and the overall dashboard shape as examples of detailing you’d never find in a German car.

That’s all very well, but we wonder whether the haphazard feel to instrument and button placement isn’t also something we wouldn’t find in a German car.

A pity, because the quality of fit and finish seems among the best in the segment, even if the quantity of things to press seems overwhelming on first contact.

Infotainment and tech

An enormous central circle dominates the dashboard, but no longer boasts a speedometer with a face that would pass muster on a grandfather clock as it used to in old Minis. Instead, it plays host to the latest generation of MINI’s infotainment screen; an 8.8-inch touchscreen unit is fitted as standard that may also be operated by a rotary controller. This includes sat-nav and Apple CarPlay among other connected services.

The infotainment system is derived from BMW’s iDrive, meaning it’s easy to operate, despite the many menus. The touchscreen is a blessing, because the central armrest makes accessing the rotary controller mounted immediately in front of it a tad uncomfortable, as it’s set low down on the centre console behind the gearlever.

Comfort

  • Lots of adjustment in the seats
  • Plenty of space to get comfortable
  • Firm suspension compromises ride

Once you’ve hiked the seat up a fair degree to see over that imposing cliff of a dashboard, the driving position, and the front seats themselves, are comfortable. The wheel adjusts for distance and angle, and is, if you can find a bit of it not littered with switchgear to hold, also a well-sized, comfortable fit.

Not all drivers will find it easy to get comfortable quickly, though – as we found out with our long term MINI Countryman. The pedals feel too far away for those with smaller legs – especially noticeable when you need to depress the clutch – that can lead you to feeling too close to the wheel just to be able to reach. In turn, you may need to move the seat up higher, which feels fine in terms of visibility, but then you’re jacked up high above the dashboard and centre console, which makes things difficult to reach.

The car’s pretty comfortable while cruising, with road noise and – predictably given the upright stance of the windscreen – wind noise vying for dominance in a cabin that requires only a modest hike in voice volume to allow conversation at motorway speeds.

All of which would prove more admirable were the car not let down by its ride quality. Every single version in the Countryman range is badged Cooper, leaving a nagging suspicion that everything has been wound a tad too tight in the undercarriage department to ensure a degree of handling worthy of the name.

And that’s fine if you’re zipping along on a respectable road surface, but at gentler, family car speeds the Countryman simply refuses to settle down. Even the fair degree of bump and thump over larger divots and ruts would prove acceptable were it not for the constant fidgeting of the body on anything but mirror-smooth surfaces. Irritating.