2024 MINI Countryman JCW review


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The bigger MINI Countryman SUV is now a genuine family car, and we try the hot JCW version for the first time.

We don’t expect the JCW ALL4 to be the best version of the new MINI Countryman, and the brand’s biggest model ever won’t be for everyone, even on principle. But even in high-performance form, this is a mature, sophisticated offering with much-improved family-car practicality over its predecessor and, yes, a bit of MINI cheekiness still at its core. There’s enough here, in fact, for us to look forward to trying the cheaper combustion-powered offerings in the new Countryman range, since their better value proposition may well earn them an even stronger star rating than the hottest version.

If you’ve been wondering, as many have, at which point a MINI grows so much that it’s no longer a MINI, get ready to take another deep breath. Because for its third generation, the BMW-owned British brand’s Countryman SUV has expanded once more, and in every direction possible.

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The Countryman is now a genuine family-sized SUV – at 4433mm, it’s almost eight centimetres longer than the Hyundai Kona, and around a centimetre lengthier than a Nissan Qashqai. The newcomer is even taller than a Range Rover Evoque.

Of course, the idea is for the Countryman to stretch MINI’s range once more, freeing up space for the five-door Aceman to slot in below it (from 2025), but above the regular three and five-door MINI Coopers. If anything, the proportions are a little better resolved than those of the slightly ungainly previous models. It looks properly chunky, with neater headlights and a ‘floating’ roof that’s enhanced by a neat C-pillar motif.

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The new MINI sits on the same core UKL2 platform as a BMW X1, and shares many of that car’s powertrains, including the all-electric versions. The combustion-engined line-up starts with the Countryman Cooper, with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder mild-hybrid petrol motor producing 168bhp, and front-wheel drive. Then there’s the Countryman S ALL4, which gets 2.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol power for 160kW and four-wheel drive.

MINI isn’t pulling any punches on stretching the Countryman line-up as far as possible, as soon as possible, so the John Cooper Works (JCW) version is available at launch, too. This packs the same 221kW 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the BMW X1 (and X2) M35i, and it’s that version that we’re trying here.

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There will also be two electric models – the Countryman E, with 150kW and front-wheel drive, and the four-wheel-drive, 230kW Countryman SE ALL4.

By contrast, this pure-petrol JCW ALL4 looks relatively restrained considering the performance on offer. Its 221kW and 400Nm are enough to take the car from 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds. There’s a sensible standard-kit list, too, with sporty styling add-ons, heated seats and steering wheel, a head-up display and powered folding side mirrors.

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Climb inside and the first thing you’re likely to notice is the huge central display – the first example, we’re told, of a circular OLED panel being fitted to a passenger car. It measures 9.4 inches and hosts the latest version of MINI’s infotainment software, incorporating numerous ‘Experience Modes’ – a fancy label for themes controlling the colours and content of the screen.

The single display (there’s no traditional instrument panel) is ultra crisp and the OLED technology delivers deep, rich blacks to help boost contrast on the relevant Experience Modes. If you want a retro look, it’s in there; if you prefer ‘go-kart’ mode, complete with a Super Mario-esque ‘Whoo-hoo!’ every time you activate it, go right ahead.

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Cynics are likely to find it a rich seam of content for criticism; we couldn’t help but smile at it, even if MINI’s voice assistant was occasionally napping when we asked for help. Either way, smartphone-savvy folk will love the configurability on offer here; consider yourself warned.

We’ve few complaints on cabin quality in general. The textile coating the dashboard of the JCW we tested had a black-and-red pattern that looked very eighties, but the actual finish itself

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The bigger MINI Countryman SUV is now a genuine family car, and we try the hot JCW version for the first time. We don’t expect the JCW ALL4 to be the best version of the new MINI Countryman, and the brand’s biggest model ever won’t...2024 MINI Countryman JCW review