It’s not every day that an automotive writer wakes nostalgic about an entire brand of car. But the fact is, when the new Mini first appeared in 2001, it was an unqualified success. Somehow, under the wise guidance of parent company BMW, the fleet of new Mini cars managed to evoke not only the cute and pug-faced countenance of the original Mini but also its dynamic and street-smart engineering.
In the 20-odd years since this auspicious debut, the brand has undergone some changes and experienced a few misdirections. The first model out of the 2001 gate, the Mini Cooper, begat some inspired spinoffs, including a convertible model, the wagon-like Clubman, and high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW) versions of all.
But there was also the Coupé, a low-roofline oddity that made little sense, a convertible version of the Coupé called the Roadster (which may have made even less sense), the SUV-like Countryman, and the Paceman, a two-door version of the Countryman. The Paceman, in particular, was as un-Mini-like a vehicle as the brand ever produced. It also seemed to hasten the decision to stop creating so many variants.
These days, a quick perusal of the Mini consumer website reveals just five models, four gas-powered and one all-electric. A mainstay of the brand, understandable given our collective obsession with utility vehicles, is the Countryman. The largest vehicle in the Mini fleet is also, logic follows, the least Mini-like of them all.
For a brand that built its engineering reputation on telepathic steering and traffic-defying agility, size matters—and the smaller, the better. Now, it would inaccurate to say the model tested, the 2024 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 Untamed Edition, is the most nimble out there. But this compact crossover does remain true to the Mini brand: it’s fun to drive, and the handling is surprisingly nimble.
The Cooper S is the middle child of the line; the Countryman also comes in base (Cooper) and high-performance (JCW) form. Here, the motivation is supplied by a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. The All4 designation is code for the Mini all-wheel drive system.
The drivetrain is completed by an eight-speed automative transmission that can be switched up manually via the shift lever or paddles mounted on the steering column. The Countryman is not fast by any stretch, but it’s quick enough to deal with traffic, and the engine note burbles away in a pleasing manner.
In terms of design, the latest Countryman may not be the cutest of the Mini offerings. But it’s definitely a unique shape compared to almost all other compact crossovers on the market. The interior is different too—while many modern utility vehicles are incorporating bigger and bigger infotainment screens, this Mini holds fast with its large, round, central screen and a series of toggle switches. In this respect, the Cooper S Countryman is unquestionably old-school cool.
The model tested was fitted with the premier package, which includes all sorts of desirable features, including heated front seats, wireless smartphone charging, navigation system, head-up display, and a digital instrument panel. On top of all that, the Untamed Edition comes equipped with custom grey exterior paint, green leather seats, and 18-inch tires riding on two-tone spoke wheels.
It’s a supremely comfortable setup, the 2024 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 Untamed Edition, and it’s not ridiculously expensive, which is increasingly common these days. You can find yourself in an entirely unique compact crossover—and the only crossover available with that legendary Mini cachet.