You there! Yes, you. The Mini “purist.” The motoring “enthusiast.” The person who insists that things should “do what they say on the tin.” The 2017 Mini Countryman is not for you. It’s the biggest Mini yet, and more fun than most small crossovers—as long as you’re willing to understand how low that bar is to begin with.
(Full Disclosure: Mini wanted us to see the new Countryman so badly that the company flew me to Portland, Oregon, to drive it. We were also provided a bag full of goodies meant to evoke “authenticity.” I was determined to reject these bribes, but there was a toothbrush in there and I forgot mine at home. This toothbrush is my greatest shame.)
Saying “hurr durr why do they call it a Mini it’s not small at all” has become cliché. Some of us have taken this line since BMW re-launched the brand way back in 2001 and the car was ever-so-slightly larger than the original.
At this point it looks like we’re stuck accepting that Minis will grow progressively larger until its bloated variants take over the remaining space we have here on planet Earth. Blame crash safety standards, blame cheap gas, blame buyers’ tastes shifting to SUVs, do whatever you want. Doesn’t change anything.
As some of you might remember, the first new Mini was about two feet longer than the old one. Then it grew a little more with its first facelift. After that, the Mini line exploded like kudzu vines. There were Clubman variants with a longer wheelbase and three doors, a Countryman which had five doors and a jacked up suspension, and then a Paceman which was like a Countryman except it only had three doors, and then larger and larger base Minis, and then a five-door Mini “hatch,” and a five-door Clubman, and on and on unto eternity.
The 2017 Countryman is bigger still. In its own press materials provided for this drive, it compared the new Countryman to a literal mountain... because it’s enormous. In fact, it’s more than eight inches longer than the outgoing Countryman.