Motors went to Copenhagen to drive both crossover machines at their European launch. The cars have freshened exteriors, with subtle detailing like new grilles, exterior colour choices and light alloy wheel options. The changes enhance both machines' looks without being radical and won't upset current owners. MINI has also tweaked its engine range to meet stricter Euro6 emissions regulations and has also tweaked the power output on most models.
First up, we took a Countryman - Ireland's second best
-selling MINI - in Cooper S form out for a spin. Countryman is a deceptively big machine inside and with its commanding driving position, five seats and chunky good looks, it has developed a substantial following in Ireland.
Countryman, believe it or not, has the same footprint on the road as a VW Golf. Because it clearly has the essence of the very compact MINI hatch visible in its exterior design, its large cabin is always a pleasant surprise! Inside, Countryman (and Paceman) pulls the driver naturally forward and close to the dash area. This delivers a very Mini-like, old school driving position, though you sit higher off the ground compared to MINI hatch. MINI has also worked on making the interior a little quieter.
No front-wheel drive or entry-level models were available at the launch centre. All test cars were fitted with the 'ALL4' (all-wheel drive). Cooper S now boasts more power, pushing out an impressive 190hp and 240nm of torque from its 1.6-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged petrol engine. 0-100m/h takes a brisk 7.7 seconds and, overall, the car feels spirited without feeling quite as thrilling as a Cooper S hatch.
Our route took us from Copenhagen across the Øresund Bridge into Sweden. After four kilometres of tunnel we joined the eight-kilometre-long bridge from Peberholm (the man-made island) and in a few minutes we were in the Scania province of Sweden. Our test route rolled us through some wonderful farming countryside where we wished we had brought a picnic!
Countryman lets owners buy into the whole active lifestyle thing - even if the majority of buyers never leave the suburbs! With over 350,000 sales to date, Countryman has been a big hit for MINI, in particular in the United Sates, where it still is very 'mini', especially next to pick-up trucks!
Eventually our twisty route brought us back to Malmö; from there we hopped into a Paceman John Cooper Works (JCW). We love any MINI with a JCW badge, and the revised Paceman doesn't disappoint. With a flick of the toggle switch marked 'Sport' the car comes alive and is eager to please. Despite the car's bulk (compared to MINI hatch), JCW Paceman can really be hustled along. The slight burble from the fuel overrun is a bit of fun when you lift-off and keeps you grinning behind the wheel.
JCW features a 1.6-litre, twin-power turbocharged engine that pushes out a whopping 218hp and 280nm of torque. In the real world this means 0-100km/h takes 6.8 seconds - yet it still meets Euro6 emissions. Paceman is MINI's SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) and while it sells in far fewer numbers, it is developing a following.
MIINI hasn't reinvented Countryman and Paceman but has freshened up two interesting cars.