2024 Mini Countryman First Drive Review: The Biggest Mini Ever Is Still Cute and Practical

As cars become increasingly focused on comfort and efficiency, you need a fun cockpit experience more than ever.

byAndrew P. Collins|
Mini Reviews photo
Andrew P. Collins


When Mini came back to America as BMW’s cute cousin in 2002, the characterful aesthetic was a huge part of the Cooper’s appeal. Decades later, vehicles have become even more homogenized and computerized. For a modern car to have any semblance of personality, it needs a distinctive design and interface. The 2024 Mini Countryman JCW and electric 2025 Countryman SE are not the Minis you remember from the early 2000s (let alone the 1960s) but they still manage to stir some of the magic that’s made the brand special in the past.

Most reviews of the new Mini Countryman open with how big it is, and yes, this is the largest Mini ever minted. It’s had a substantial growth spurt even from the outgoing model—it’s about five inches longer and nearly four inches taller. But in the context of today’s compact SUVs, the Mini Countryman is still somewhat on the small side—about half a foot shorter than the current Toyota RAV4, for example.

And the Countryman makes good use of its interior cubic inches. The steep rear window and tall roofline make for ample cargo space regardless of whether you fold the rear seats, and a lot of light comes into the cabin through tall windows. It has good posture and visibility for those who like to sit somewhat high, but it’s less cumbersome than even most smaller SUVs. Seats are comfortable, and headroom’s amazing even in the back (station wagon-style long roof wins again there).

The dashboard layout, controls, and unique round infotainment rig are the pillars holding up the Mini vibes. Touchpoints are mostly all great. The steering wheel’s chunky and using a little piece of webbing to make a spoke is an original and cute idea. Mini still uses a cheater head-up display, projecting speed and other information onto a little flip-up translucent plane that sits between the pilot and the windshield. Honestly, I prefer this to HUDs that beam driver info directly onto the windshield—it’s more legible this way and feels kind of jet fighter-y.

Door handles and shifter have decisive action. The physical controls are minimal, unfortunately, but neatly designed. Toggles feel substantial, and I even like the key-style ignition control. (You turn a little switch that happens to be shaped like a key, while of course the real key fob never needs to leave your pocket.) The Mini Countryman feels like a toy … you’ll either appreciate that or you won’t. Almost everything you interact with is at least a little bit novel and I dig that approach to cockpit design.

Mini calls its drive modes “Experiences” now, which is fitting. The car’s actual behavior and physical responsiveness don’t change all that much, but the sounds and screens do. This aspect of the car’s toyfulness won’t be quite as charming to hardcore car nerds, but the only real complaint I have about it is that it’s just laggy enough to be annoying. Swapping between modes, sorry, Experiences, triggers a brief theme tone and transitional animation … which is almost, but not quite, smooth and synchronized. You can tell it’s asking a lot of the little processor behind the dashboard. The transitions can be deactivated entirely which basically solves the problem, but then you’re not getting the full Experience!

I spent a day driving two variants of the new Countryman: The JCW performance spec and the new SE battery-electric model. Two radically different powertrains, both with their pros and cons.

Mini Countryman SE: The Electric One

I thought the dusty gold-colored trim was a neat and interesting choice. Andrew P. Collins

I would not say the macro-Mini EV feels like a go-kart (despite that being the name of one of its drive modes). It’s simply not possible to create a sensation of feathery dartiness in a 4,400-pound car, even with the explosive torque of electric propulsion. However, the Mini SE feels lively and responsive among compact SUVs. Regenerative braking toggled by a steering wheel paddle helps stimulate a feeling of driver engagement, even though (somewhat ironically) that means you’re actually doing a lot less than you’d be driving a good old-fashioned manual shift Cooper.

But I loved diving into a turn, cranking up regen, then blasting out to the Star Trek-like swooshing sounds being made by the car. Was I going fast? Not really, but I felt satisfied. You can hear some of that on this reel we posted to our IG page.

The infotainment experience (it’s about the sounds as much as the screen) is doing all the heavy lifting on creating a uniquely Mini vibe. Set it to Go-Kart and you get a sporty display with a booming spaceship sound effect on throttle. There’s also an efficiency display mode which makes the car much softer sounding and throws up a digital animal accomplice—a flapping hummingbird when you’re chilling, a running panther when you step into power.

There are enough display modes to satisfy almost anybody’s color-palette preference, and there’s even an old-timey one Mini calls Timeless. I get what the designers were going for with that one but it’s weirdly incongruous with the rest of the interior. Also, it’s misnamed—“timeless” would mean it’s not associated with any particular period but this is the opposite, it’s supposed to look old.

Ride quality felt reasonably compliant as the Countryman SE is certainly a lot softer and comfier than the BMW X2 M35i with which it shares a platform. And I loved the seats.

Our road test was limited to tight, winding roads and villages in the southwest of Portugal, so I can’t speak to how it fares on a highway, strip mall parking lot, or a prolonged multi-stop trip. But if the range specs suit your needs, you’re willing to run an EV, and you like Mini’s aesthetic, this could be a good stuff-hauler and get-around car. 

Mini Countryman JCW: The Sporty One

Andrew P. Collins

The John Cooper Works Countryman has the same basic switchgear, screen, and Experience-selectable setup as the SE. But the colorways and upholstery treatment are much more hot hatch rather than the SE’s upscale cafe. You guessed it: That means black with red stitching, baby.

Once again, it’s a good packaging of what people like about Mini—a whimsical and fun take on a sport luxury look. The way the car feels in your hands and under your butt is not particularly outstanding or memorable, but the environment you’re sitting in and the displays you’re interacting with are neat. So overall, the driving experience has some distinction to it.

The JCW Countryman felt markedly stiffer to me than the SE, though still less so than the X2. I’m not sure I felt much penalty in responsiveness, either. This kind of brings us to one of the car’s softer points, which is that driving it doesn’t really feel like, well, much at all. By coincidence, I got to drive my colleague Maddox Kay’s R53 Cooper S around the same time and while his car is showing its age with some wobbles and wheezing, it’s pretty invigorating and involving to drive. The new JCW is certainly quick, and the paddle shifters are satisfying to snap up and down when you’re charging around roads, but I think I felt hammier in the heavier electric SE.

The JCW’s synthesized sounds also feel a bit more hokey than the SE’s. I’m not one to be offended by a gasoline car pumping digital engine noise into the cabin, but the farts and burbles from the subwoofers in sporty modes lacked just enough resolution to break the spell and feel, well, fake.

Running the Countryman JCW on pretty much the same serpentine roads we did with the SE wasn’t not fun, though. It pulls hard onto straights and reels itself in very competently from a decent clip. We were even able to squeeze it through some village streets in Cascais that looked like they would have been tough to navigate with a donkey (360 cameras for the win).

The new Mini Countryman is a nicely sized car for two to four people, a decent load of luggage, and maybe even a dog. It looks good; treats drivers and passengers to a fun cabin experience that isn’t quite like any other brand’s car. But the more isolated from the road these cars get, the harder it is to justify ponying up the coin for a performance variant like the JCW.

The lesser Mini models tend to have much (much) less power than the JCWs. So if you want to be able to scoot up Angeles Crest or make aggressive backroad passes, you’re going to want this 300-plus horsepower version. The Mini flavor, though, is more about packaging than power—if you like the look and layout of this car, test drive the slower model and make sure you need the hp that the JCW unlocks before shelling out.

2025 Mini Countryman SpecsJCWSE Electric
Base Price$46,900$46,195
Powertrain2.0 turbo-four | 7-speed automatic | all-wheel drivedual-motor all-wheel drive | 66.5 kWh battery | 130 kW max charging rate
Horsepower312313 (using temporary boost)
Torque295 lb-ft363 lb-ft (using temporary boost)
Seating Capacity55
Curb Weight3,840 pounds4,400 pounds
Cargo Volume16.2 cubic feet behind second row | 51.2 cubic feet behind first row<<
EPA Fuel Economy / RangeTBA245 miles (estimated)
Quick TakeA responsive small SUV with whimsical decorative flavor.A classy electric car in a practical size.
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