Frontal restyling and new design alloy wheels keep the 2020 MINI Countryman fresh in the high-end compact SUV niche. Picture: SUPPLIED
Frontal restyling and new design alloy wheels keep the 2020 MINI Countryman fresh in the high-end compact SUV niche. Picture: SUPPLIED

Do you love road trips? MINI SA reckons that its Countryman range, which has been facelifted for 2020, is well suited for this undertaking as well as being a daily drive.

The boot measures 450l with the seats up and extends to 1,390l if used as a flatbed. Crammed with luggage for four, with an underfloor section provided to squeeze in the soft or smaller bags, we headed north to Limpopo in a Cooper S variant.

Resplendent with new design Turnstile Spoke two-tone alloy wheels, the new range now features ample updates. These include a new design radiator grille flanked by restyled LED headlamps and it now gains LED rear lights in Union Jack shape.

Inside the 2,670mm wheelbase is a posh new and floating digital cockpit that mimics the classic pair of circular dials that display the engine rev range and speedo while the large 22.3cm circular main display, which is surrounded by a colour light bar, is enhanced with new digital design elements. MINI Connected also has new functions.

The Cooper S with its 2.0l four-cylinder with 141kW/280Nm rated with 6.7l/100km, top speed of 226km/h and a pliant front-wheel drive chassis, which makes it capable of cruising in comfort and braced tightly enough to excite the driver on twisty roads.

They use seven-speed dual-clutch automatics fitted as standard but paddle shifts are optional. Body control is good and grip saw us confidently tear up a series of mountain pass roads encountered towards Hoedspruit.

Only two versions are available: the Cooper S and a basic Cooper model that’s instead powered by a 3-cylinder 1.5l engine with 100kW and 220Nm. The lower fuel consumption index of 6.3l/100km should be attractive to budget-seekers but the characteristics of the triple-engine model aren’t shaded much by the Copper S.

It too was able to hustle the same number of passengers and luggage on the return journey with pleasing ease and similar verve when roads turned twisty.

You can personalise your Countryman to your tastes, including the option of a new All-4 aesthetic Pack, which was fitted on our return steed on the drive back to Jozi. It dresses the small SUV with distinct off-road looks and chunkier rubber, which also gave it a palpably cushier ride quality than in the S. 

There’s reasonably generous ground clearance of 165mm but there is no all-wheel drive in these two models. If you seek all-paw traction you’ll find it in the pricier and fiercer John Cooper Works (JCW) variants.

As with the JCW range, which debuted a year ago, MINI SA has announced a similar raft of physical changes in the form of the new grille and British flag taillights to the range-topper.

Everything from the MINI Countryman’s road mannerisms, digital arsenal of amenities and practicality gels for a funky, compact but sufficiently sizeable SUV for urban life or road tripping.

The new range is priced at R599,624 for the Countryman Cooper; R631,004 for the Countryman Cooper S and R810,040 for the Countryman JCW. All are available with a five-year/100,000km warranty. ​

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