It might look like the outgoing Mini Countryman, but the all-new 2017 model shares little more than a few nuts and bolts with its predecessor. It's a well thought-out subcompact crossover SUV that's far better aligned with what buyers are generally after—roominess, refinement, and on-road polish.
Here's a look at seven things we think you should know about the brand's latest foray into the increasingly competitive world of tall-riding wagons—or crossovers.
Also, don't miss our full first drive review of the 2017 Mini Countryman.
Mini's lineup (finally) makes some sense. After years of variants in search of a point, the Mini lineup has been pared to four basic models—Hardtop, Convertible, Clubman, and Countryman. The Hardtop (in three- and five-door configurations) is the pint-size one that emphasizes driving pleasure. The Clubman is the citified subcompact for those who need real-world space for stuff. And the Countryman? It's a Clubman with a taller body and a 5-inch higher seating position. Don't count out the possibility of more weird variations someday, but for now the Paceman and Paceman Coupe (that wasn't a coupe) are increasingly distant memories.
It's a BMW with personality. Peel away the Countryman's Mini on 'roids body and you'll find that it's a BMW X1 underneath. No, that doesn't mean it's a rear-wheel drive Mini like the original. Instead, the X1 recently became BMW's first front-wheel drive model. While the X1 is remarkably composed, it's short on driving excitement and personality. Enter, then, the Countryman, which zips around corners and brims with as much quirk as you'll find in anything these days, aside, perhaps, from smaller Minis.
It doesn't really have any natural rivals. It's hard to say just what you should cross-shop if you're looking at a Countryman. It's pricier (and feels like it) than a Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Tucson, or Kia Sportage. But it's a lot less than a comparable Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLA, or BMW X1. It's probably closest to the Audi Q3, but the Mini is considerably roomier inside than the four-ring brand's pint-size crossover. It's the right crossover for someone who wants an Evoque but doesn't want to stretch that far. Big audience? Probably not.