Mini Cooper will make its presence felt in the premium luxury hatchback segment with its first India-assembled car — the Countryman D High

The Mini Countryman D will be the first Mini to be assembled in India and consequently, will cost Rs. 28.9 lakh, a whopping Rs 8.6 lakh less than the fully imported petrol-engined Countryman High. This more affordable price tag will allow the Mini to go up against competition — like the Mercedes-Benz A-class and the upcoming BMW 1-series — in the premium luxury hatchback segment. To take on its formidable competition, the Countryman has a few weapons in its arsenal — its tall upright stance makes it a lot more spacious than the others and there is plenty to like about its funky interiors. Still, at this price, the Mini has to feel extra special to stand out.

It may look like a hatchback, but at over four metres long, it’s large enough to be called a Maxi. The Countryman is also the first Mini to have five doors and Mini’s designers have gone to some lengths to ensure that it won’t be mistaken for anything other than a Mini. Still, we’re not totally sold on how these styling characteristics integrate into the Countryman’s bigger proportions, but there is quite a lot to take in — the power bulge on the huge clamshell bonnet, for example, or the complex detailing of the headlights and the Volkswagen-like bootlid badge that doubles up as a tailgate handle. Still, it doesn’t have the wow factor of the new A-class or even the unconventionally interesting styling of the Volvo V40. That said, the Countryman is over 100mm wider and about 150mm taller than the regular Mini hatchback and much taller than the other large hatches. This liberates a lot of space on the inside, making the Countryman the most practical and usable Mini ever.

On the inside, the dash is high-quality, dominated by an oversized, centrally mounted speedometer and the graphic display that it incorporates within it. There are plenty of interesting bits — the toggle switches, the handbrake that looks like a fighter jet’s thrust lever and the cool interior lighting scheme. There’s even a rail between the front seats to which you can attach accessories like a sunglass holder or even a mobile phone holder. However, for all its funkiness, the ergonomics are off and you need to look around the dashboard to find the switch for whatever you might want to operate. Up front, there’s plenty of headroom and legroom, and you won’t complain about the driving position either. At the rear, there’s plenty of head and elbow room for two adults, and the sliding, 40:20:40-split rear bench is mostly comfortable, if a little lacking in thigh support. Fitting three across the back would be a squeeze though. By hatchback standards, the 350-litre boot is quite big and the split seats do allow you some flexibility if you really want to pack in stuff. It’s quite well equipped too and comes with Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, a sunroof, paddle shifters and a driver interface system that operates similar to BMW’s iDrive, but looks far cooler. It also has a superb Harman/ Kardon sound system. However, you will find that some of the trappings you expect from a Rs. 30 lakh car are missing — the front seats and steering have manual adjustment, rear passengers don’t get dedicated air-con vents and there is no satellite navigation.

Press the engine start button and the 1995cc, four-cylinder common-rail diesel settles into a very BMW-like gravelly idle. This engine makes a rather unimpressive 110bhp, but then again, its torque figure of 27.5kgm is quite healthy. Performance, as a result, is sprightly and low-speed responsiveness is particularly strong. In fact, it is a bit too strong and makes for jerky initial progress in slow-moving traffic. Beyond this, you won’t find much to complain about, as the engine has strong mid-range performance and will easily pull the Countryman D’s 1310kg kerb weight to a top speed of 180kph.

But the most annoying bit about the Countryman D is its ride. It thumps and crashes over sharp edges, tosses you about on uneven roads and there’s quite a bit of suspension noise for your ears to contend with as well. Part of the blame rests on the low-profile, 18-inch run-flat tyres and the suspension that doesn’t seem to have enough bump absorption built into it. It’s a ride that improves as you go faster, but bigger intrusions can knock the car off its line.

That apart, the Countryman D proved to be quite fuel efficient in the city. Thanks to the engine’s strong bottom end, you never have to use a lot of throttle and this undoubtedly helped the car achieve 10.5kpl in the city. On the highway too, it proved to be quite efficient, and as long as you’re not pushing it too hard, you can expect to go 700km on a full tank.

No doubt the Countryman’s biggest USPs is its classy interior and the extra space it offers. The appeal in the Mini lies in its design, which is funky, cool and top quality.