MINI Countryman C petrol (2024) review
Will the most wallet-friendly of the new MINI Countryman models prove as capable as the electric version?
James Fossdyke
James Fossdyke

Published on March 6, 2024

MINI has been something of a success story since its BMW-sponsored relaunch around the turn of the century, and after a few years without much in the way of new product, the brand has embarked on a model offensive, refreshing pretty much everything in the line-up for 2024. First to arrive is the new Countryman, which follows the others with its minimalist new design and its all-new retro interior. Offered in various petrol and electric forms, and with a choice of trim levels, it's built to draw in an even broader fanbase than the old car. The question is, can it fill the brief? We've already passed judgement on the high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW) model, and the electric SE version, but can the more affordable (and presumably more popular) entry-level, petrol-powered Countryman C be even more compelling?

In the metal

MINI has given the Countryman much the same styling makeover as the Cooper hatchback, which means the car now looks more modern, more minimalist and yet also more angular than before. The headlights have an evolved, more pronounced light signature and there's a choice of different taillight design options. But despite the changes, it's still recognisably a MINI, thanks to the massive grille design and the slightly oversized headlights, as well as the roof that sits above the glasshouse like a kind of pillowy duvet.

But if you think the exterior is only an evolution, just wait until you see the interior. Inside, the Countryman has been stripped right back, with a dashboard that's almost devoid of anything except for a few air vents and a massive circular screen. It's an attempt to hark back to the days of the original Minis, with their big central speedometers, while also incorporating tech from the 21st Century.

That means you get a gorgeous fabric-wrapped dash, which is probably quite a cost-effective way of softening and trimming the cabin, but it still looks and feels great, while our test car's bronze vent trim gave it modernity and class in equal measure. Combine that with the clean-looking centre console, just a few buttons (including a cool 'key' button for ignition and a 'toggle' drive selector), the weirdly sporty two-spoke steering wheel (MINI calls it a three-spoke wheel, but as one of the 'spokes' is little more than a ribbon of fabric, we aren't having that) and you've got a cabin that really feels spacious and light, despite not having very much in there.

Admittedly, our test car came with the optional head-up display, which comprises a kind of fold-up translucent screen in the top of the dash, onto which things such as speed and navigation instructions are projected, and that gives the cabin a slightly busier feel, but only slightly.

MINI has traditionally borrowed some of BMW's premium expertise, and the same has happened here, which means everything feels well stitched together and solid, with lots of premium-feeling materials.

The seats are great, too, which makes a bit of a change in a MINI, and the upholstery options mix recycled fibres and - if you want it - posh leather. Combine that with ample space, thanks to the Countryman's recent growth spurt, and you've got something very comfortable indeed, with plenty of space for two tall adults in the back and plenty of seat adjustment for those in the front. Luggage space is respectable, too, with a 460-litre boot.

But though the Countryman's space is impressive, the touchscreen is unquestionably the big news, partly because it's the central focus of the car's cabin, and therefore arguably the entire car. It's the first properly circular touchscreen fitted to a production car - no square screens in round housings here - and it uses BMW's latest operating system tech, albeit reskinned beyond recognition to suit the MINI brand.

Overall, the system looks great, and you can choose from a variety of different themes, each of which comes with its own backlight to extend the theme beyond the screen itself. Our favourites include the individual setting, which allows you to upload a picture from your phone, as you might with a laptop wallpaper, and the Classic option, which is an homage to the original dials in Minis of the mid-20th Century. Anyway, the point is they all look brilliant, with well-judged designs replicated beautifully on the sharp, high-resolution screen.

However, excessive use of circular features and some strange icon placement (there's no hiding things in corners, is there?) means you'll have to invest some time personalising the system and learning your way around. But the task isn't made any easier by some occasionally hesitant responses to prods of the screen, and a processor that seems to need a bit of thinking time every now and then. So, while the system looks sharp, it doesn't always feel sharp to use, and that's a bit of a let-down. Most of the time, though, it's absolutely fine.

Driving it

MINI is offering the Countryman in a choice of three combustion-powered versions, each of which offers differing levels of power and performance. Topping the range is the 2.0-litre, 300hp John Cooper Works, known colloquially as the JCW, which gets all-wheel drive and some sporty styling to boot. Below that is the mid-range S, which gets 218hp and all-wheel drive from a slightly less highly-tuned 2.0-litre engine.

But it's the basic C model tested here, producing up to 170hp from its 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine and seven-speed automatic gearbox - a feature shared with the other two engines, incidentally. Driving the front wheels alone, it provides perfectly ample performance - getting from 0-100km/h takes eight-and-a-bit seconds - and it comes with quite a characterful, off-beat engine note that's common with three-cylinder engines. At times, it feels slightly hesitant and ill at ease in its interactions with the automatic gearbox, but it's generally smooth and unobtrusive.

It isn't the most frugal engine in the world, though, but without a plug-in hybrid or diesel option in the Countryman range for the time being, it's still the most efficient combustion-powered Countryman you can get. An official consumption figure of just over six litres per 100km isn't spectacular - a 1.5-litre Volkswagen T-Roc achieves something similar - but it isn't disastrous, either. And because it's reasonably powerful, you don't have to work it too hard to get sensible performance, and that means most drivers will be able to get fairly close to that official figure on a longer run.

Whatever the economy, the MINI is a likeable car to drive, but the combination of engine and gearbox in the C is a good metaphor for a car that's great in parts and irritating in others. Take the suspension, which offers plenty of lateral body control for such a tall car and allows the Countryman to take corners at respectable speeds without tilting too much. Of course, it leans over a fair bit when you chuck it into a bend, as you expect from an SUV, but that lean is quite well controlled and the MINI generally feels quite tidy to drive, if not particularly sporty or exciting.

Unfortunately, that control means the Countryman is a little bit jiggly and bobbly over the kind of surfaces that are seen all too often on our roads. Even on relatively smooth surfaces, it never feels all that silky smooth, but over potholes, broken asphalt and even cats' eyes, it all gets a bit lively, with a low-key jiggle under your backside. It does feel a bit better at high speeds, and despite the fidgeting, it never feels especially unsettled or unstable - you can just tell the suspension is working hard to isolate you from the road underneath, and ultimately failing. A T-Roc rides in a much more relaxed way, but it feels softer and less sharp to drive.

The Countryman C, meanwhile, doesn't feel much less stiff than it does in high-performance JCW form, but at least it gets similar steering. That means it's quite light when you want it to be, and three-point turns are no hassle at all, but it has a little hint of feel and feedback that will appeal to those who like to drive. It isn't a sporty car, but even this basic version's 170hp is enough to get the MINI hustling along at reasonable pace in pretty short order, and it feels quite comfortable doing that on a country lane, a motorway or even on a bypass roundabout.

What you get for your money

Here in Ireland, Countryman prices start at €40,910 for a basic Countryman C in Classic trim, which doesn't sound that cheap, but the price only tells part of the story as it's remarkably well-equipped. MINI provides the round touchscreen, two-zone climate control and a rear-view camera, as well as navigation, automatic lights and wipers and alloy wheels as standard. Synthetic leather is thrown in, too, and you get the Countryman's oddly sporty steering wheel included in the price.

And you can add more to the MINI, too. Opt for the Exclusive pictured here (€44,409) or the Sport (€46,470) and you get bolder interior styling, larger alloy wheels and a heated steering wheel, while customers can also specify one of three option packs. Level 1 provides keyless entry, heated front seats and a head-up display, while Level 2 gets a Harman Kardon sound system and a panoramic glass roof. Opt for Level 3 for clever seats and an interior camera. No, we don't know why, either.


The Countryman may be all-new, but the recipe is more or less unchanged, and the MINI manages to succeed by combining style with competence in almost every area. Although it's the most practical offering in the MINI range, it's still a design-led car, and cool styling inside and out means it looks set to remain a hit, despite a somewhat firm ride. Still, it handles neatly enough, it's roomy and it's well built, which is more than enough to forgive the odd bump and jolt. In the case of the entry-level Countryman C, that is combined with a characterful engine that won't break the bank and a competitive price tag will only play further into the SUV's hands.


Tech Specs

Model testedMINI Countryman C Classic
Irish pricingfrom €40,910
Powertrainpetrol engine - 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder
Transmissionautomatic - seven-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
Fuel consumption6.3 litres/100km (44.8mpg)
CO2 emissions143g/km
Irish motor tax€270 per year
Top speed212km/h
0-100km/h8.3 seconds
Max power170hp
Max torque280Nm
Boot space460 litres rear seats up, 1,450 litres rear seats down
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