2013 Mini JCW Countryman
2013 Mini JCW Countryman
2013 Mini JCW Countryman. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

“It’s like a Mini on steroids!”

No, random citizen, it’s not LIKE a Mini on Steroids, this JCW Countryman IS a Mini on steroids. It’s a bulked-up, flared-out, knobbly, bulging, vein-popping fireplug of a thing with red racing stripes all over the place in case you weren’t getting the point.

When this over-$50K tester arrived in the driveway, I have to say I was a little bemused by all the high-dollar aggression in a car fitted with an automatic transmission. Are those 19-inch alloys on something that’s only a hair longer than a Honda Fit? They are.

What’s more, this JCW – that’s John Cooper Works, Mini’s in-house performance division named after the developer of the original go-fast ’60s scamps – version of the Countryman is lowered by just less than half an inch, and sports fierce-looking front and rear fasciae. Side-skirts have integrated air intakes, and the rear bumper also incorporates an air diffuser.

All cool stuff, except that much of it isn’t really functional. Those honking great twin exhausts are just plain fake, twin rings that aren’t actually attached to the medium-sized tips emerging from the muffler. I can’t imagine that rally-style diffuser does too much to aid high-speed maneuvers either.

There’s also something a bit oxymoronic about a large Mini, and (channelling Chandler Bing here for a moment) could the rear badging be any larger? If you attached this gargantuan logo to the roof of a 1959 original, the thing could probably fly.

Still, in person, with that down-turned grille mean-mugging away and the signature two-tone red and black accents of Mini’s top-spec JCW line, it’s actually a pretty neat-looking car. It’s like a pug – with rabies.

2013 Mini JCW Countryman2013 Mini JCW Countryman
2013 Mini JCW Countryman. Click image to enlarge

How one might feel about the inside of the Countryman is really going to depend how one views Mini’s cartoonish take on interior design. Here, as throughout their lineup, it’s a mixed bag of cutesy-but-functionally-useless (like the centre-mounted speedometer) and very-cool-but-not-really-ergonomic (like the WWI-era-aircraft-style switchgear).

If you like this unique retro look, you’ll surely find the Countryman’s (or any Mini’s) interior a nice place to be, with its dark repeated circles for air vents, speaker grilles and display screens. If you’re not in love with the cute factor, just wait: there’s a refresh/redesign in the pipeline for the 2014 Cooper, so some tweaks to the Countryman’s innards will surely follow.

There’s also quite a bit of room in here, both for front and rear passengers, and while seating three abreast in the back is a tad tight, it is at least possible. At launch, the Countryman came with a centre-mounted multi-function rail that could be fitted with different accessories, all of which rattled and looked silly.

Connect with Autos.ca