MINI Countryman S ALL4

IT’S AS I’M cruising down Sydney’s M4 motorway with the sunroof open on the new MINI Countryman that I feel the first pangs of longing. The sun is bathing my forearms in warm late-Autumn rays and Beyonce’s Cowboy Carter album is pumping through the car’s wireless Apple CarPlay.

We’re heading to Sydney Zoo, but the destination seems immaterial. If life is about savouring and holding on to special moments, then this is one to file away. I think I may have found my happy place – seriously, the next time a yoga teacher or meditation guru encourages me to picture a sanctuary, I’m going to eschew clearings on picturesque mountain tops and let my mind wander here instead.

“Best day ever,” my daughter had squealed as the sunroof on the Countryman retracted. She’s six and responds ecstatically to novelty. But to be honest, driving this exquisite automobile is reducing me, in spirit anyway, to an excitable little boy.

Unbelievable as it may sound, I’ve never been in a car with a sunroof. Certainly, never driven one that offers lumbar support via a seat massager and never seen floating controls housed on a circular screen in the middle of the dashboard.

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I’ve also never been consulted on my levels of comfort by Spike the Dog, an animated K9, who operates like an in-car version of Siri. He features on one of the Countryman’s Experience Modes and his appearance produces another squeal from the back seat. I begin to wonder if we should even bother going to the zoo – ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’ and all that. But that’s the kind of impact the Mini Countryman has on you.

Let’s backtrack a little. The Countryman is not what you might envisage when you think of a ‘MINI’. Indeed, you could say it makes a misnomer of the iconic marque’s name, for there’s nothing diminutive about this particular model. It’s a five-door SUV, some 13 cm longer and 6cm taller than the previous model. That adds up to 505L of luggage room, or up to 1530L with the rear seats folded.

The body of the Countryman is muscular and robust but maintains the MINI’s legendary boxy shape. If it doesn’t quite look like a MINI on steroids, it’s certainly one that’s committed to a solid gym routine. But although it’s a relative giant among MINI’s range, the Countryman has a decorated lineage, debuting back in the ’60s as an estate car targeted at families, before being relaunched 13 years ago.  

Image I MINI Australia

As you step inside the Countryman, you’re immediately drawn to the 240mm round OLED centre console screen, which takes centre stage in the tech-laden cabin. There’s wireless smartphone compatibility with the new Mini Operating System 9, allowing touch or voice control – you just say, “Hey MINI’ – something my daughter proceeds to repeat ad nauseam . . . six-year-olds.

MINIs have always been distinguished by their sense of fun and the Countryman takes that a step further, with its eight MINI Experience Modes: Core, Green, Go-Kart, Balance, Timeless, Personal, Trail and Vivid, each with a bespoke set of sounds, colours and patterns projected through the cabin and on the circular OLED display. 

In racing-inspired Go-Kart Mode, the lighting changes to red, with the suspension, steering and throttle response tightening up to prepare for an agile and dynamic drive. On the flip side, Green Mode emphasises driving fun through gamified visuals to encourage economical driving behaviour. It’s in these Experience modes that we encounter Spike the dog. Personally, I like the classy, retro feel of the Timeless mode.

You can also express your mood through three unique lighting signatures in the front and rear LED lights. The car even bids drivers farewell and goodbye with an orchestrated lighting animation, the MINI logo beaming onto the ground when you open the driver and passenger doors like a visual welcome mat. Naturally, it produces another squeal from my daughter, who wants to know how the car does it. “Magic,” I reply, which seems to suffice, though I do wonder how much longer I can keep getting away with that particular explanation.

Image I MINI Australia

This level of personal customisation extends to the driving experience. Through regular dialogue with the driver, the MINI Intelligent Personal Assistant continually learns and automatically adjusts to your regular routines, such as when you lower windows when entering a carpark or a tunnel. The Countryman is, indeed, a sensitive fellow, attuned to your every need.

The vehicle is similarly considerate on the road. New sustainable manufacturing methods contribute to a 98 per cent CO2 emissions reduction. The light alloy wheels are manufactured using up to 70 per cent recycled aluminium and in combination with renewable electricity, a process that reduces C02 emissions by up to 80 per cent compared with conventional production methods.

That commitment to an ethical footprint continues inside the car with the use of 100 per cent leather-free and chrome-free materials. The combination of Cloth/Vescin vegan leather upholstery is both comfortable and stylish.

The initial launch of the vehicle includes two petrol variants: Countryman C and S, with JCW, E and SE variants becoming available later in the year. The Mini Countryman C features a three-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 115kW of power and 230Nm of torque, completing the standard sprint from 0-100km/h in 9.0 seconds. The Countryman S, meanwhile, features line four-cylinder turbocharged engine that delivers 150kW of power and 300Nm of torque, powering it to 0-100km/h in just 7.4 seconds.

If you prefer to ‘go electric’ (yes, like Dylan), the Countryman E delivers 140 kW of power, while the SE ALL4, the brand’s providing first all-wheel-drive fully electric vehicle, boasts battery capacity of 64.7 kWh, good for an estimated range of around 450 kilometres.

As we drive the Countryman back to the showroom, my daughter says goodbye to Spike, who, she says, she’s going to miss. I too, will miss the Countryman with its array of intuitive features and combination of flair and fun. It’s like saying goodbye to a cool new friend. But as I walk out of the showroom with a heavy heart, a smile begins to cut the corners of my mouth. It’s going to be okay: I can reclaim that fleeting sense of joie de vivre the Countryman inspired in me whenever I go to my happy place.

Pricing begins from $49,990*for Countryman C Core with the new model covered by five-year, unlimited kilometre factory warranty. For more information visit

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