2017 Mini John Cooper Works Countryman All4
Price From $57,900
Mini’s maxi JCW Countryman All4 is hardly mini in any sense but who cares really. It puts the `sport’ back into the term Sport Utility Vehicle.
How many of the current crop of SUVs are really truly fun to drive in a sporty way?
Very few because they have morphed into family hacks replacing the wagon as `carryall’ of choice.
The JCW Countryman can really engage a driver who likes spirited driving even though it is a rather boxy, somewhat high riding five door hatch/wagon. That applies around town, on sealed roads and even on firetrails and semi rough off road tracks.
I couldn’t get it out of shape in any of these environments despite trying, especially off road.
Plenty of power comes from the turbo charged petrol 2.0-litre engine that drives all four wheels through a slick shifting eight speed auto transmission with paddle shift
The car has been enhanced by Mini’s JCW performance operation in key areas including the suspension that recalibrates to one of three settings depending on which drive modes is selected (Green, Mid or Sport), the Brembo brakes with more effective four piston calipers up the front and even the sticky tyres that are a soft 200 in treadwear rating.
JCW Countryman has plenty of luxury kit like leather sports seats, Harman Kardon 12 speaker audio and a large central control touch screen.
It gains some advanced driver assist technology including autonomous emergency braking.
Plenty of poke comes from the EU6 rated engine that gives the JCW rapid off the mark acceleration and strong roll on from medium speeds on the highway. The eight speed transmission is perfectly matched to the engine’s power.
It sounds amazing through a dual outlet exhaust that bangs and pops under deceleration in Sport mode.
Ride and handling is sharp – to the point where I would have to rate the JCW Countryman as one of the most agile SUVs I have driven . It sits tight on the road, has responsive steering, sensational braking and just feels good to drive.
Of particular note are the launch control that adds an extra element of fun.
➔ Surprisingly sporty drive feel
➔ Relatively economical
➔ Roomy back seats
➔ Good size
➔ Powerful engine
➔ Stirring exhaust note
➔ Attractive interior layout and features
➔ Hands free tailgate
➔ LED headlights
➔ Paddle shift 8-speed auto trans
NOT SO MUCH
➔ Not a fan of the styling
➔ Don’t go too far off road with 165mm clearance
➔ Getting up there in price
➔ Needs a genius to figure out all the menus
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo four cylinder petrol 170kW/350Nm;
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed conventional auto
THIRST: 7.4 litres/100km
0-100KMH: 6.5 seconds
ALTERNATIVES: BMW X1 2.0 xDrive$60,700, Infiniti QX30 Premium $56,900, Lexus NX 200t AWD Luxury$58,140, Merc GLA 250 AWD $60,700