by Sebastian Cenizo
Subcompact SUVs don't come much more niche than the Mini John Cooper Works Countryman. It's pricey, it's not especially large, and it's got an engine more suited to a track-focused hot hatch than a family car. The Mini JCW is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 301 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is the only option and an ALL4 all-wheel-drive system directs power to each corner of the car. That makes this a proper little rocket, but at a base price of almost $42,000, it's up against heavy hitters like the BMW X2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. Could the new engine for the new year justify the price? Or are Mini buyers simply paying for the boutique name and cutesy styling?
The biggest news for the 2020 model is the upgraded engine that produces 73 horses more than the version in the 2019 model. This is made possible thanks to upgrades that include a reinforced crankshaft and updated pistons and connecting rods. A larger turbocharger also features. For 2020, all new Mini products come with the Active Driving Assistant suite that includes a forward-collision warning system with automatic emergency braking and automatic high beams. Dynamic cruise control is also standard on the JCW Countryman.
|John Cooper Works ALL4||
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
As a John Cooper Works model, the JCW Countryman ALL4 sports 18-inch wheels as standard with 19s available, a rear spoiler, and various subtle aero tweaks for a more aggressive look. Numerous badges help make the vehicle easily identifiable as the hottest one in the family, while black arches and side skirts hint at practicality. LED headlights are standard too, along with a panoramic sunroof, various fake vents, and a dual-exit exhaust on either side of a pronounced rear diffuser.
The biggest of the Minis, the JCW Countryman measures 169.8 inches from end to end with a wheelbase of 105.1 inches. Width excluding the mirrors is measured at 71.7 inches while height gives us a figure of 61.3 inches. Curb weight starts at 3,790 lbs while ground clearance is measured at 6.5 inches, enough to scale the most moderate of sidewalks near the local mall.
The JCW Countryman is a highly-customizable vehicle with numerous ways to make it stand out from other, more vanilla offerings. The base sub-trim of this car, the Classic, is available in Moonwalk Grey at no charge, while Midnight Black, Light White, and Chili Red add $500. You can also add Union Jack mirror caps for half that price or Red Sport stripes, also for $250. The Signature sub-trim gets all the above paint options at no charge, along with Thunder Grey, Melting Silver, Island Blue, and JCW Rebel Green. You can also get the roof and mirror caps in Chili Red or Black. On the top Iconic trim, a color called Mini Yours Enigmatic Black Metallic is also available, with the option of JCW Rebel Green for the roof and mirrors too. Rebel Green with red stripes is a signature look for this car, so we wouldn't stray too far from that.
The Mini JCW Countryman is powered by a revised version of the brand's successful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that now produces an impressive 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed manual has been killed off, so power is now directed to all four wheels exclusively via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The result of all the fine-tuning and upgrades of performance is a 0-60 mph sprint of just 4.9 seconds, although some independent tests have shown even quicker times are achievable - not a surprise from the group that brought us the over-achieving BMW M8 Competition. Keep your right foot flat and the speedo will stop at a limited 149 mph, which is faster than your brain will come up with an excellent excuse for trying to outrun your friendly neighborhood state trooper in a subcompact SUV. For those that know the Mini brand, the fact that the JCW Countryman is something of an agile machine around corners will not come as much of a surprise either. The sport-tuned suspension makes for the biggest go-kart you've ever been in, but the downside is naturally a stiffer ride than that of most unsporty vehicles in this class.
Every version of the Mini John Cooper Works Countryman is powered by a transversely-mounted 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder motor that is shared with the likes of the BMW X2 M35i. In the Mini, it produces 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful Mini ever produced. This is coupled with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic from Aisin, complete with the obligatory paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The manual is gone, but you can't blame manufacturers for offering only what sells.
Put this thing in Sport mode, and you get a rowdy exhaust note coupled with the burbles and crackles that you either love or hate. Throttle response is sharp and the Mini will launch from a set of traffic lights more ferociously than you may give it credit for. It genuinely feels like an enlarged hot hatch and doesn't hesitate to overtake slower traffic on the freeway. This is a well-refined power plant that doesn't shovel torque at you and then leave you unsatisfied as you climb the revs. The transmission is similarly well suited to hard driving with crisp, sharp shifts that feel just as racy as the exhaust note implies. Shift the car back into Comfort mode, and these gear changes are less frantic, allowing you to ease back without being continually aware of what the transmission is doing.
Speaking of the various drive modes, that Sport suspension has quite the effect on handling too, particularly when you're in a model with the adaptive dampers. The base sub-trim isn't treated to these and strikes a decent balance between comfort and athleticism, but if you do have those dampers, the difference in character between each mode is pronounced in a way that not everyone will be a fan of. In Comfort mode, the ride is relaxed enough that you don't feel smaller bumps too harshly, but in Sport, everything stiffens up to make this tall vehicle handle almost as well as the Cooper derivatives that spawned this new generation of Minis. The advantage is a minimal amount of body roll but the caveat is a ride firmer than soccer moms would be accustomed to. For those who enjoy chucking a car into a corner, however, this is a good compromise as a family car that can hustle. The steering is not quite light enough to make parking a breeze but it is weighted enough to feel solid, and that's reassuring when you're pushing hard. Braking is also easy to modulate yet strong enough for dime-stopping, and the overall feel of the car is that even further hotting up would be well catered for by the chassis.
The JCW Countryman achieves official EPA figures of 23/30/26 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. This is identical to the figures of the sportiest BMW X2, the M35i, which uses the same platform, engine, and gearbox. Coupled with a 16.1-gallon gas tank, the Countryman should get you around 418 miles between fill-ups, so long as you keep urban and freeway driving relatively balanced.
The interior of the JCW Countryman is, as with other Mini products, unconventional. The result is a funky cabin, but because this is a JCW model, quite a few sporty touches have been added too, including metal pedals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with the JCW badge, and an interior dash design that includes trim elements that neither attempt to masquerade as carbon fiber nor look like an afterthought. Heated front seats are standard along with fabric upholstery, but you can opt for leatherette with Dinamica faux suede or even real leather. The kids in us are more interested in the toggle switches and rounded door handles though.
The JCW Countryman can seat five, and you don't need the three in the back to be toddlers. Of course, average adults will feel a little hard done by in terms of headroom and legroom (38.3 and 37.6 inches respectively), but it's not excessively confining or unlivable. Furthermore, the doors open wide enough to make access to and from the cabin relatively easy, although those in front may frequently scrape the large bolsters on the seats. Fortunately, once you're in the driver's seat, you'll find your perch to be a comfortable and supportive place to sit with excellent all-round visibility aided by large windows throughout the cabin.
As standard, the JCW Countryman is equipped with Carbon Black Dinamica fabric upholstery, but you can get SensaTec faux leather in the same shade or in Black Pearl. Genuine leather called Cross Punch in Carbon Black coloring can be had too, while the Signature and Iconic sub-trims can be had with premium Lounge leather in Satellite Grey, Mini Yours leather in Carbon Black, or Chesterfield leather in British Oak. The interior trim accents are finished in Hazy Grey as standard, but you can also have Piano Black or even Stone Hill Grey with illumination.
The JCW Countryman is obviously the most spacious Mini but that doesn't mean it's particularly competitive with other vehicles in this segment. Remember, this is made by a company that's literally named small. In the cargo area behind the back seats, you get 17.2 cubic feet of volume, but if you fold those down in their 40/20/40 split, a space measuring 47.6 cubic feet is available. This is large enough for skis, snowboards, and whatever else active lifestyle vehicles are supposed to facilitate, but even a VW Golf offers 17.4 cubic feet of volume without putting the seats down.
In the cabin, you get door pockets large enough for your wallet and a small bottle of water, while the center console features a pair of spaces for your phone and a pair of cupholders. The center armrest and the glovebox offer additional storage too, while the rear center armrest provides a pair of additional cupholders.
As standard, the Mini JCW Countryman comes with cornering LED headlights and keyless entry. You also get a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and rear parking sensors. Rain-sensing wipers and dual-zone climate control are thrown in as well. Newly standard driver aids are dynamic cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and auto high beams. The obligatory rearview camera is included too, while higher sub-trims get adaptive dampers, a hands-free power tailgate, ambient lighting, and on the top model, even wireless charging and remote services. A head-up display is available too, as are front parking sensors and park assist.
The standard infotainment system in the JCW Countryman features a 6.5-inch touchscreen and six speakers, while higher trims get a Harman Kardon 12-speaker sound system. The top trim also gets Apple CarPlay and an upgraded 8.8-inch touchscreen with navigation, SiriusXM, remote services, and real-time traffic. Bluetooth and USB connectivity are included across the range, but Android Auto is not available. Overall, responses and capabilities are good, but the bezel surrounding the screen makes accurate inputs difficult. Furthermore, even the larger touchscreen is far too small for respectable use of the rearview camera.
The current Mini JCW Countryman has been free of recalls thus far, but the 2019 model was subject to two. In July 2018, a recall was issued for a faulty crankshaft sensor firmware that could cause a stall while in August of the same year, a recall was issued for a missing fuel pump crash protection plate. These were issues applicable to the previous engine setup, so we expect that this 2020 should be fairly well revised and improved.
A four-year/50,000-mile limited and powertrain warranty is included with the sale of the JCW Countryman and all new Minis come with three years or 36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance, whichever comes first.
The NHTSA has not yet crash-tested the JCW Countryman, but the IIHS did award it with its best possible score of Good in all categories, along with a Superior rating for front crash protection systems.
As standard, the JCW Countryman is equipped with a rearview camera and frontal and side-impact airbags for front occupants. Rear occupants also get head protection via side curtain airbags. Cornering LED headlights with auto high beams are standard too, along with dynamic cruise control, forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and rear parking sensors. Front parking sensors, a parking assistant, and a head-up display are available, but features like blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are notably absent.
The Mini JCW Countryman is unconventional and has styling that not everyone will like. It's got a rather awkward infotainment screen and doesn't offer Android Auto. Furthermore, the cargo area is average and the price is certainly on the upper end of the scale. As a regular crossover, it would be disregarded immediately. However, this bears the name of a famed racing driver and co-founder of the Cooper company, an establishment that we have to thank for go-kart-like handling and simple yet effective engineering. In line with his principles, the JCW Countryman is arguably one of, if not THE most fun subcompact SUVs to drive. In the past, our complaints with its sporty ambitions were not met as the engine didn't deliver enough zip, but now we have the answer and the 301-hp Countryman is definitely exciting. It's responsive, eager to change direction, and compliant enough to be usable on the daily school run. Its price and its clear compromises will deter some, but if you want to have most of your cake and eat it, this car ticks the right boxes.
The JCW Countryman starts at a base price of $41,400 before an $850 destination charge. This gets you the Classic sub-trim. Next up is the Signature variant, starting at $44,400. The range-topping Iconic starts at $48,400. Fully loaded, this top sub-trim with all available options and add-ons will cost around $57,391, including roof rails and a roof box.
The Mini John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 is a standalone performance model but has three sub-trims: Classic, Signature, and Iconic. All variants come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is the only available transmission and sends power to all four wheels.
The Classic sub-trim comes with fabric upholstery as standard, as well as 18-inch wheels, LED cornering lights, a 6.5-inch touchscreen-operated infotainment system with six speakers, and a panoramic sunroof. You also get heated front seats, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, and safety features like a forward-collision warning system with automatic emergency braking and a rearview camera.
The mid-level Signature variant adds four more color choices, a hands-free power tailgate, adaptive dampers, ambient lighting, and a Harman Kardon 12-speaker sound system. You can also have this model with either SensaTec leatherette or genuine leather.
The top-spec Iconic sub-trim adds a further paint choice along with a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen display, navigation, voice activation, SiriusXM satellite radio, remote services, and real-time traffic updates. This variant also gains Apple CarPlay and 19-inch wheels, as well as premium leather upholstery.
A storage package is available for $250. This adds a folding cargo floor for more practicality and also gifts rear passengers two additional USB-C ports. A phone-holder is available for the driver at $245 while SiriusXM satellite radio adds 300 bucks to the price. A roof box is also optional for $485 but you have to first add the available roof rack base support system at $266. The mid-level Signature sub-trim has access to more extensive package options, one of which is the Driver Assistance package for $1,250. This adds front parking sensors, active cruise control, a parking assistant, and a head-up display. Also available is the Touchscreen Navigation package for $1,700. This adds wireless charging, Apple CarPlay, navigation, voice activation, and the larger 8.8-inch touchscreen.
Since the JCW is a standalone trim in the Countryman lineup, the choice comes down to which sub-trim variant to opt for, and here we'd recommend the mid-level Signature option. Not only do you get adaptive dampers and an upgraded sound system from Harman Kardon, but you also gain access to features like front parking sensors, a head-up display, and a parking assistant. For the additional $1,250, this package is worth considering. If you're willing to add a little more to the budget, the Touchscreen Navigation package is also worth a look. Besides the obvious, you gain Apple CarPlay and wireless charging. All in, your JCW Countryman is handsomely equipped and comes in below $49,000.
The Mini Countryman comes in a less aggressive but still sporty S variant. It's available as a front-wheel-drive model too, and starts at $31,900. It too is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder but this model produces 189 hp with 207 lb-ft of torque. The suspension in this model is still sporty but less rigid than that in the JCW variant, and many of the same options and features are available. While storage space and infotainment are identical, we lean towards the JCW despite its hefty price premium. The phenomenal acceleration and handling make the JCW a much more exciting vehicle to drive, and the available adaptive dampers can help with any reservations you may have about using it daily.
With a premium badge and price, the BMW X2 is a similar vehicle to the JCW Countryman, especially when you peel back its skin. Under the hood is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot, but in the Bimmer, the result is a slightly quicker 0-60 time that drops two tenths to 4.7. This difference is rather marginal, but bragging rights are everything in the premium market. Where the BMW makes more sense is its cargo space. Up to 50.1 cubic feet of volume is available. If that doesn't matter to you, favor swings towards the Mini, which offers marginally more room in the cabin. While there is a price saving of $5,500 over a base X2, you do lose out on 73 hp and AWD, we'd be inclined to stick with the Mini on this one.