2023 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 Untamed: A cute ute that prefers to stay on the leash
It’s 2010. Kesha’s “Tik Tok” was still dominating the airwaves, the first iPad was released, and Americans were abandoning small sedans and hatchbacks for small crossover SUVs based on said sedans and hatchbacks. Mini, a mainstay in the small hatchback segment, took notice of the trend and decided to puff up its Cooper into a subcompact five-door crossover. Voilà, the first-generation Countryman was born. Mini Cooper? More like Maxi Cooper, amirite?
It was a strong seller. In 2017, Mini followed up with a second generation of the Countryman that is still on sale today. It continued to leverage the modern British brand identity and turned it into something the company knows Americans want—subcompact crossovers.
Our recent tester, a 2023 Countryman S All4 Untamed, takes the Mini brand to a more outdoorsy, REI-friendly place. Promotional material describes the Untamed as a “rugged SUV inspired by nature,” and “Adventurous, whatever the weather.”
I take issue with Mini calling this thing an SUV. Despite being the largest car in Mini’s lineup (61.3 inches tall and 169.7 inches long), the Countryman is about the same size as my Ford Focus ST. Proportionally, it reads like a five-door hatchback rather than an SUV. With 6.5 inches of ground clearance, the Countryman is not exactly Bronco-capable off road, either.
Despite what the marketing copy says, the Untamed edition (a $1500 add-on) is little more than a well-equipped, regular Countryman S All4 with some interior and exterior flourishes. The Untamed shares with the regular S All4 its 189-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, its eight-speed automatic transmission, and its four-wheel-drive system.
Exterior-wise, you get a choice of two exclusive colors: Momentum Gray (seen on our tester) and Nanuq White, with the addition of contrasting skewed stripes. The two-tone 18-inch wheels are exclusive to the Untamed edition, as is the badging.
Inside, you get yet another exclusive finish: Highland Green leather. The dashboard has an RGB-backlit, mountain-inspired graphical treatment. Unlike other special-edition cars, the Untamed logo isn’t plastered all over; it really only appears on the steering wheel.
Specs: 2023 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 Untamed
• Price: $43,300 / $45,250 (base / as-tested)
• Powertrain: 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four, eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive
• Output: 189 hp and 207 lb-ft
• Layout: Five-door, five-passenger crossover
• Weight: 3618 lb
• EPA Fuel Economy: 23/31/26 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
• 0–60 mph: 7.1 seconds
• Competition: Mercedes GLA 250, Volvo XC40, BMW X1
What It Does Well
This thing is fun to drive! The steering feels weighty and has great off-center feel. The rear will rotate nicely if you chuck the Countryman into a tight bend after a dab of trail-braking. The all-wheel-drive system ensures a sure-footed corner exit.
The 2.0-liter turbo is punchy and torquey, as usual for BMW’s excellent four cylinders. Place the Mini into Sport mode, and the engine growls like an excited terrier. If you roll down the windows, you can hear the turbocharger whistle. The eight-speed automatic shifts crisply, especially in Sport mode. If one desires, the transmission can be shifted manually. It does a good job of obeying your commands, but it will revert back to automatic mode if you leave the paddle shifters unattended for too long.
The Countryman’s 3618-pound curb weight saps performance a bit. Sixty happens in an unremarkable 7.1 seconds. Unsurprisingly, it’s not as nimble as the considerably smaller Mini Cooper.
The interior of the Countryman is a nice place to be. The green leather is supple, and the seats were comfortable on a four-hour highway journey. Bonus, there’s no incessant beeping from the active lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, or blindspot monitoring, because the Mini doesn’t have those features. In fact, the only time the car beeps at you is while parking, and that chime can be turned off via one of the substantial and oddly satisfying rocker switches under the climate controls. It’s refreshing that the Mini isn’t over-reliant on touchscreens to control essential functions.
Changes We’d Make
It’s hard to justify the price of the Untamed ($45,250) over a similarly equipped Countryman ($37,500). Heck, the more potent, 300-hp John Cooper Works is about the same price as our tester. In other words, you’ve really got to need the exclusive Highland Green leather and Momentum Gray paint.
The interior accoutrements come off as gimmicky. It feels like someone slapped on some RGB lights from a gaming PC, and the hue-adjustable mood lighting clashes with the classy switchgear and leatherwork. Another feature that seemed unnecessary was the head-up display. Most cars can project the HUD onto the windshield, with no problem. Mini, however, incorporated a retractable, motorized piece of tinted glass for the purpose.
The interface for infotainment feels pretty dated, especially now that colorful center screens are no longer a novelty. However, the user interface is responsive to inputs. The optional Harman Kardon sound system did not impress. With the default equalizer presets, there was a whole lotta mids and not a ton of bass. I also experienced strange latency issues with Bluetooth audio while running the car’s onboard navigation.
This Countryman is a practical car for a small five-door hatchback. As an SUV, however, the cargo space with the rear seats up isn’t what you’d call cavernous. It’ll hold enough for a weekend trip or a grocery run. But you’ll have to utilize the Countryman’s roof rails to carry any serious outdoorsy equipment.
The Mini Countryman S All4 Untamed is a weird one. It desperately wants to be a lifestyle crossover, à la the Subaru Crosstrek, but it’s not equipped for the task. However, if you like the exclusive paint and interior and don’t mind spending the cash, the Untamed makes for a good, fun-to-drive five-door hatchback.
2023 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 Untamed
Highs: It’s spritely and fun to drive. Steering is weighty and has great on-center feel. Interior materials are top notch, and the switchgear feels substantial. The car doesn’t inundate you with beeps from various driver aids, because it doesn’t have them.
Lows: Some of the interior treatment on the Untamed—especially the RGB mood lighting—is gimmicky. Dang expensive for what you get, especially considering that the 300-hp John Cooper Works version can be had for similar coin.
Takeaway: A fun, five-door hatchback that masquerades as a compact crossover for the REI set.