The JCW Countryman is the best version of MINI’s best selling product. With 306 hp going through a part-time AWD system and an 8 speed automatic, it’s a modern take on what has made MINI compelling for decades. But how does it stand up to 15,000 miles of the best and worst roads you could throw at it? We’ve had 15 months and plenty of seat-time to find out.

Through the summer sun and in deep snow (with temps as low as -23 degrees), we’ve grown to love the JCW Countryman’s combination of driver engagement, design and utility. While it’s not perfect, the JCW Countryman is, in the MINI tradition, an attractive alternative to the rest of the bland automotive world.

This is an expensive car at $49K but it’s also supremely capable. Not only can it rip 0-60 sprints in the high four second range, there’s also a surprisingly amount of utility on tap. While utility in a MINI is all about context, this truly is the easiest MINI to live with that we’ve ever driven. Whether that’s a camping trip in North Wisconsin, or the daily Chicago commute, the JCW Countryman has proven it’s worth.

JCW Countryman

The Revised JCW Countryman is the One We’ve Been Waiting For

The F60 JCW Countryman was always a nice package with well judged handling and great brakes. But in 2020 the Countryman got its power – 306 hp and 331 ft lbs. And then in 2021 we saw a styling refresh inside and out. Those last two changes has transformed this car into a warmed over Countryman to one that feels shockingly fast and more than capable.

In other words these changes have allowed MINI to take a forgettable formula in the small crossover and make it rewarding and even thrilling at times. This is a car that engages you in ways that no small crossover does. It’s not an R53 or even an F56 in disguise. But this truly is the MINI of the small crossover world. Quick turn-in and flat cornering make it all feel immediate where most of the competitive set bounce, roll and flounder. With the JCW specific springs, shocks and sways bars our Countryman feels eager and light on its feet. 

JCW Countryman

JCW Countryman Driving Engagement

The term “driving engagement” isn’t typically associated with a crossover costing less than $80,000. Yet the Countryman delivers a genuinely entertaining driving experience. MINI has done an excellent job of tuning the sport suspension for the wheels and tires on this car. There’s nuance to the feedback that isn’t often present in small crossovers and feels absolutely on-par with the lighter JCW Clubman (more so here with the smaller sidewall of the 19” wheels). This was furthered with the suspension changes introduced in 2020.

Weight is up on the JCW Countryman by around 150 lbs over the JCW Clubman on average. Yet body control is exceptional and that extra weight is mostly hidden in any normal road going scenario. In the canyons of California or the twisties of the Dragon you might start to feel it, but in almost every scenario it was invisible.

And that automatic? It’s the latest 8 Speed Aisin sport auto that we’ve tested previously and it’s never felt better. It has a the duality that you want out of the best sport autos from brutally efficient gear changes to lazy second gear starts. Over 15,000 miles I grew to love the adaptability of the transmission and even its ability to be manually operated. All that said it never engaged quite as well as the flawed manual that MINI offered in the JCW Countryman from 2017 to 2019.

JCW Countryman

JCW Countryman – Quality

We’ve written several times about MINI’s dramatically improved quality with this generation of cars. In fact MINI quality has improved so dramatically over the last five years that dealerships are going out to business due to lack of warranty service required. Perhaps unsurprisingly our Countryman has proven that true with over 15,000 trouble-free miles. Outside of an erroneous DSC light, we haven’t had a knock, vibration or rattle anywhere. The material quality of the F series cars is known to be dramatically better what came before it and the Countryman is the best line-up at the moment.

JCW Countryman

JCW Countryman – Conclusions And Advice

In a sea of sameness, the JCW Countryman stands out in design, performance and driver engagement. Focusing on those unique qualities puts it in a very unique market segment and makes that $49k price-point feel justified. In fact there’s really nothing else out there quite like the Countryman. Even it’s BMW X1 and X2 siblings are larger, heavier and lack the last 5-10% of engagement that we love so much.

Value is always a complicated question. But for under $50k, it’s hard to imagine a more interesting and ultimately fun choice for a small crossover than the JCW Countryman.