ATL Autobahn — the division of the ATL Automotive Group responsible for the MINI brand — is marking 10 years of official dealer support in Jamaica as well as the release of the 2021 MINI Countryman Cooper S, the refreshed version of its best-selling model. The Cooper S has always been the sweet spot in the Countryman range, as comfortable as the regular Cooper, but not as far over on the performance scale as the Countryman John Cooper Works.
For 2021, the Cooper gets some key improvements. However, it’s a case of evolution rather than revolution. Truth be told, there was much wrong with the Cooper to begin with, thus its popularity with local sport utility vehicle buyers.
The 2021 model welcomes the long-awaited ‘Union Jack’ rear lights. The Countryman shape remains basically the same with the front grille getting the majority of the updates. The lighting package is all LED and piano black gloss finish, normally for the interior, can now be optioned on the exterior. For those wanting a bit more, there is the John Cooper Works package (JCWP). Clicking this option box gives you a small taste of the higher trim. Externally, these enhance Countryman’s lines with aerodynamic enhancements — front lip, side skits and rear spoiler. Eighteen-inch JCW wheels complete the external side of things.
Inside, the MINI continues its reign as a premium brand with stellar cabin design that maintains the gap between its heritage and the future. The tactile toggle switches, a throwback to history, blends easily with modernity, a new standard digital dash display. Material quality is high. Everything feels solid and soft-touch elements everywhere. The JCWP adds supportive sport seats and piano gloss black elements with red accents throughout the interior. The sports seats are manual, but there’s no problem finding a comfortable position to operate the Countryman from. All the main controls are within reach and can be set to operate automatically. The infotainment screen in larger for 2021, now including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to increase its versatility. From entry, lights are a MINI theme. Open the driver’s door and one is greeted with a MINI logo. There is ambient lighting for relaxing late night drives, and the light ring around the infotainment touch screen provides visual feedback for various operations, like increasing stereo volume or changing the drive modes.
The panoramic sunroof aids in the sense of even greater interior space while convenience features such as the automatic dual climate control does the same for comfort. Technology like Park Assistant, the self-parking system, hint at the higher levels of driver assistance functions of the vehicle. As a sport utility vehicle there is plenty of space and practicality. A power lift tailgate helps with loading larger items into the 450-litre trunk. For more the 40/20/40 split rear seats fold down to increase that to a total of 1390 litres. Storage solutions are abound and well thought out to deal with the modern items of passengers.
Driving is where the MINI Countryman earns its stripes. On the surface, there’s the refinement expected from a premium sport utility vehicle. Pile in cargo, human or otherwise, and soak up everything from the daily slog of urban traffic to long country trips. In ECO and MID modes, the Countryman Cooper S is docile, leaving nothing but relaxation on the mind of its occupants. Cabin noise is low and the suspension imparts only audible impacts on only the roughest of surfaces.
Underneath is still the MINI mystique. Switch to SPORT mode for both the seven-speed transmission and the two-litre 178bhp turbocharged engine and the performance is enough to get the blood boiling. The MINI becomes an engaging drive whether on the highway or narrow lanes. Use the paddle shifters, or the rally-style shift pattern — pull back to go up and push forward to go down the gears, to contentment. Even better the chassis is able to keep up with the speed demands being asked of it in SPORT mode allowing drivers to indulge in their inner Paddy Hopkirk.
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