We’ve had an incredible 11 months in our 2020 JCW Clubman but it’s time for a change. As we have every year over the last decade we spend 12 living with MINI’s latest and greatest to bring you an unvarnished view.

Buying a car a year would be economic insanity (given depreciation) so MINI USA has graciously lent MF long term loaners for these type of reviews. For this year MINI USA has asked us to choose between two cars – both the updated 2021 Countryman: a 306 hp JCW Countryman and a 189 hp Countryman Cooper S. Both offer a great opportunity to experience a new MINI product but our big question is – what do you want to see us live with and review?

While the JCW is clearly the faster and more enthusiast focused of the two, we want to look past that and still consider the MCS as it is in reach of more consumers.

Both cars are relatively loaded so there is little difference in actual options other than color and trim. The key difference is the MCS MSRPs for $43,350 while the JCW MSRPs at $51,450

The Updated 2021 Countryman MINI Cooper S

The refreshed 2021 MINI Countryman is what BMW insiders call an LCI or life-cycle impulse. Typically an LCI is a collection of design and engineering evolutions which keeps the car current throughout the typical 7 year model cycle. For the F60 Countryman, the LCI is mostly focused on design with a handful of new exterior design elements and color choices. The most obvious is the new front-end that emphasizes the height of the Countryman. There’s also new LED headlights and LED foglight (now standard in the US) and LED rear lights that pay homage to the Union Jack.

Inside MINI has finally added the new all digital gauge cluster as an option. There are also updates to the center stack with a new Piano Black high gloss finish as standard. Look for new seating and trim options as well. Beyond the styling changes MINI has updated MINI Connected with new features and a refined interface. 

The Updated 2021 JCW Countryman

Where the standard Countryman saw some notable exterior change, the JCW sees more subtly. The newly designed radiator grille is the most noticeable losing the under-bite design we’ve seen since the car’s introduction in 2010. The overall look is cleaner with less lines and simpler forms.

A barely noticeable change is the front splitter which now is more aggressive and tied in better with the lower grille. That lower grille also sees some subtle updates to better match the new pattern seen in the larger grille above.

The big changes for us are actually invisible. Somewhat quietly MINI has updated the suspension and steering on the JCW Countryman in a similar fashion to the JCW Clubman from last year (read our rave reviews of that car here). While MINI has been mum on the details, the revised 2020 Clubman saw some key changes. The single-joint spring-strut-type axle for the front wheel and the multi-joint rear axle were redesigned and tailored for JCW with more rigidity and less weight than before. Additionally MINI fitted revised swivel bearings that allow for improved camber values on the front wheels. In total this has improved the transmission of lateral forces in corners through the car and to the driver. In other words, MINI worked hard to bring increased feedback to the driver along with greater levels of performance.