If you forgot the Mini Countryman was still on sale, you’d be forgiven. So did I. The current-generation Countryman has been on sale since 2017, but it’s become an afterthought in the segment over the past few years, with cars like the Volvo XC40, the Audi Q3, and even the BMW Group’s own BMW X1 overshadowing it. Mini is preparing the Countryman’s replacement as we speak but, before that car arrives, it released a few special editions of its not-so-mini SUV to squeeze out a few more sales before it’s finally gone. I had the chance to live with one of those special editions, the 2023 Mini Countryman Untamed Edition, for a week to see if the Countryman is still worthy of being remembered.
Little is changed for the Untamed Edition, as it’s still essentially the same Mini Countryman as it was before. It’s still based on the BMW Group’s “FAAR” front-wheel-drive chassis and it still has the same powertrain—in this case, a 2.0-liter turbo-four paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive. The only differences brought by the Untamed Edition are cosmetic and, try as they might, it’s hard to see them as anything other than lipstick on an aging pig.
While the Mini Countryman is still dated, lacks the tech of modern rivals, and looks ancient at this point, it’s still a solid car that does feel a bit more special because of its special edition package. Does that make it worth buying over its newer rivals? That’s what I spent a week finding out.
|2023 Mini Countryman Specs
|Base Price (Untamed Edition All4 as tested)
|2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
|189 @ 6,000 rpm
|207 lb-ft @ 1,350 rpm
|17.6 cubic feet
|EPA Fuel Economy
|23 mpg city | 31 highway | 26 combined
|The Untamed Edition package makes it more fun but it can’t elevate the aging Mini Countryman above its newer rivals.
Mini doesn’t really need this Untamed Edition package to save the Countryman. This current generation is about to be replaced in just a few months' time. Instead, it’s simply designed to add a few more numbers to the end of the Countryman’s sales sheet before it heads off to the junkyard in the sky. However, outside of die-hard Mini lovers, I’m not so sure this special edition is worthy of customer attention.
You really have to study the Countryman Untamed Edition from the outside to realize there’s anything different from the rest of the Countrymans (Countrymen?) on the road. There are some differences, though. The new chunky wheels, for example, look pretty good, with their two-tone black and silver design. There are only two color options for the Untamed Edition: Momentum Grey and Nanuq White. My test car was the former and it looked handsome on the Countryman’s aging body. However, I could do without the stripes on the sides of the car.
Inside, however, is where the Untamed Edition makes itself seem valuable. I actually said “Oh wow” out loud when I opened the door because the Highland Green leather, with its contrast stitching, is pretty kick-ass. So often these special editions can feel trite and cynical but the Untamed Countryman’s Highland interior really does feel special. It has that typical cheekiness that Mini used to do so well without feeling snobby. It feels fun and I really liked it. I hope Mini keeps Highland Green as an interior option for the next Countryman.
The rest of the cabin is the same as every other Countryman, though. It has the same, dated infotainment system, with its console-mounted turn dial that works the opposite way it should, and the same toggle switch controls. None of it is actually bad—the switchgear feels solid, the infotainment works well enough, and its ergonomics are odd but in that quirky way that makes Minis fun. However, the infotainment screen is small compared to those in its more modern competitors. If you don’t think that’s important, try going back to an iPhone 5. The pop-up head-up display is also lacking, compared to the larger, full-color displays you get in some Hyundais nowadays. The Mini’s cabin isn’t terrible, it’s just dated, which makes it a hard sell in 2023.
You can get the Countryman Untamed Edition in three different flavors: Cooper S, Cooper S All4, and Cooper SE. Both the Cooper S and Cooper S All4 use the same powertrain, a 2.0-liter turbo-four, making 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. However, the All4 gets all-wheel drive, while the standard car remains front-driven. The SE gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a bit more power (221 hp) but my test car was the Cooper S All4.
Driving the Mini Countryman Untamed Edition
It certainly didn’t feel quick, with less than 200 horses tasked with lugging a heavy, all-wheel-drive crossover around, but its dual-clutch gearbox felt snappy enough.
Mini built its post-BMW reputation on its “go-kart” handling. While that description is accurate enough to describe the standard Mini Cooper hatchback, the Countryman is far too big to mimic a go-kart. However, for a crossover, the Countryman still has some moves. Its steering is nicely weighted and precise, so its front end feels sharp and responsive, even if the rack is completely lifeless in terms of feel and feedback. Its suspension is damped well enough if you like firm suspensions as I do, but I can see many customers being put off by its sporty ride.
Ironically, what lets the Mini down is its claustrophobic-feeling interior. Yes, Minis are supposed to be smaller vehicles, but the Countryman feels far more cramped inside than its exterior size would suggest. When you slink into a classic Mini, you realize just how much interior space Alec Issigonis carved into its incredibly compact dimensions. However, the Countryman is the opposite, as if you’re looking out from a pillbox. That lack of outward visibility sort of ruins the fun when pushing it hard, too, as I was never confident about where exactly the front wheels were on the road. It’s a decently fun crossover to drive, but don’t expect to attack a twisty road like a normal Mini can.
The Highs and Lows
No Mini is without its charms and the Untamed Countryman’s meaty steering, responsive front end, and delightful interior color do give it some character. Its pug-like looks also help to differentiate it from the sea of typical crossovers. Frugal buyers will also appreciate its fuel efficiency.
However, most small crossover buyers shop with their heads, not their hearts, so character and playfulness play backup to comfort, technology, practicality, and cargo space. In those regards, the Countryman falls short. With its rear seats in place, the Countryman only has 17.6 cubic feet of cargo space, which is significantly smaller than the BMW X1 (27.1 cubic feet) and the Audi Q3 (23.7 cubic feet). Though it is more capacious than the Mercedes GLA-Class (15.4 cubic feet).
Even without the hybrid powertrain, the Mini Countryman is a pretty efficient crossover. The EPA rates it at 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. That ties the Mercedes GLA and beats the Audi Q3 but does lose out to the BMW X1. It’s a bit smaller than those cars, admittedly, but it’s still a decently efficient vehicle for anyone looking to sip fuel on their daily commute.
Value and Verdict
Finding value in the Mini Countryman Untamed Edition is difficult. At almost $45,000 without options, it isn’t exactly cheap. It’s more than the starting price of its BMW X1 cousin while coming with less power, outdated technology, and a more cramped interior. Sure, its interior color is great and it boasts impressive fuel economy, but those are really its only advantages.
As the last hurrah of this generation Mini Countryman, the Untamed Edition does a decent job of making it look a bit more interesting with its cool cabin but ultimately does not elevate this car above its fresher and more appealing rivals. Even discounting its age, the Countryman finds itself in a bit of a no man’s land: it doesn’t drive nimbly enough to satisfy the Mini diehards mostly on account of its size, but it’s ironically not big enough to be all that spacious to truly compete with similarly priced crossovers. Whether it’s through an improved driving experience, a more practical interior, or simply an updated UX, (or, hopefully, all three) let’s hope the new Countryman puts Mini’s crossover back on the right path.
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