Mini Countryman S & VW T-Roc

What happens when GTI and Cooper S grow up? We may well have the answer!

Volkswagen tells us that its new Golf-sized premium compact crossover T-Roc 2.0 TSI delivers a cool blend of functionality, dynamics and technology plus maximum personalisation, digitalisation, and connectivity. Sound familiar? It should — that seems verbatim what Mini is trying to tell us about the new Countryman cooper S. So what better than to pair them off against each other?


The T-Roc slips between the T-Cross and Tiguan and below the Tiguan Allspace and Touareg in Volkswagen’s now completed SUV range. Sharing its basic platform with the Golf, this 5-seat T-Roc is longer than T-Cross, shorter than Tiguan. It’s stylish and comfortable and offers ample passenger and luggage space.

Not quite a Mini, Countryman Cooper S is beyond four metres long, has four doors and large tailgate. That seems to matter little as Countryman accounts for a third of the brand’s worldwide sales. They promise a fresh dose of driving pleasure and individual flair typical premium British premium style in a robust concept, the ample, versatile interior of a full five seater, in this faclift.

Looks wise, the Volkswagen is, well, typical top-end Volkswagen. They seem to just cut that yummy sausage to different lengths these days. its stark and quite austere verses the Mini though, both inside and out. Look, it’s a decent, angular design, but then so is the Touareg. And the Tiguan and the T-Cross. Even the Amarok, mind you. But a family face is a family face, no?


T-Roc was among the first cars to carry the new VW logo in SA and our blueish-white and red roof version is one of 26 different colour options you can squeeze out of its two-tone paintwork options. This R-Line has a neat set of 19-inch alloys fitted.

Not much is new at first sight on the Mini — in fact you need to pay attention to see the differences. It’s the bigger car of the two, although you may not say so inside and there’s a fresh grille design between those all LED head and fog and the taillights get a cool new LED Union Jack design. Not everyone enjoyed the latest light alloy wheel design on this one, but hey — that’s just opinion.

The coolest part of the Mini has to be its cabin. A few relatively small but most meaningful upgrades make for a significant surge forward. Not just in quality, look and feel through fresh leather trims and interior surfaces, but it also has that ‘I want it’ appeal to it. We really enjoyed the far improved, flat 8.8-inch colour touchscreen Connected Navigation Plus and more cohesive switchgear with touch-sensitive bookmark buttons.


That’s all run in part by a cool new multifunction sports leather sports steering wheel that sits behind a splendid new little pad-pod-like ovoid digital instrument cluster and packs connected real-time navigation with wireless charging and a second USB socket. Countryman even has its own SIM card to make emergency calls and provide its location, along with a range of connected digital services.

Is a funky interior with cool features like LED lighting to display volume and temperature levels. The Cabin is a tad dark though and a reverse camera and auto seats would’ve been nice — especially at the price.

Step aboard T-Roc and is new digital interactive cockpit gets the very latest VW Active Info Display 8-inch colour touchscreen with Composition Media radio and App-Connect to mirror selected mobile phone apps onto the screen via Wireless App-Connect and We Connect Go, while integrated navigation Discover Media is optional.


Once again, typical premium VW fare. The high resolution 11.7-inch instrumentation and Infotainment system is good but not the best in terms of ease of navigation, while some interior components do seem a tad cheap.

So, how do they run. Well, first let’s take a look at what makes them tick. Starting with the Mini that benefits a few new tricks under the bonnet. Mainly its further developed 141 kW 280 Nm direct petrol injection BMW TwinPower Turbo Technology 2-litre four-pot. It has its exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head along to help cool the turbo charge system.

All of which contributes to a claimed 7.5-second 0–100 km/h and 226 km/h and 6.7 litres/100 km consumption at 153 grams per kilometre CO2 emissions.


But here’s the trick — BMW’s less than clear launch bumpf had us believing that this was an all-wheel drive. Only far deeper in the copy does it emerge that AWD only applies for the flagship John Cooper Works version. Oh well, suppose we should read them releases more comprehensively next time! Anyway, those two components are coupled by a 7-speed double clutch and our tester had paddle shifters too

The Volksie meanwhile gets the familiar Golf GTI spec VW EA288 direct petrol injection 2-litre turbo lump churning out a respectable 140 kW and 320 Nm in sporty R-Line get-up. it also gets a 7-speed double-clutch trannie. They promise it will manage 100km/h in a hot-hatch like 7.2 seconds and top 216 km/h, while sipping 8.3 litres per hundred. T-Roc does come with all its wheels driven, never mind a whole lot of cool terrain modes that give it a certain Amarok appeal.

On the road we were most impressed with the Mini. We never liked the ride in the previous generation, but it seems BMW’s move toward FWD itself, is paying dividends at its Oxford branch and this car seems to have grown leaps and bounds in chassis compliance, ride and plushness. Which also makes it by far the more refined of these two.


The Cooper S also has a grunty engine tone, but not too loud, although its steering feels a bit heavy. The VW on the other hand seems mute in comparison. T-Roc isn’t a very enticing car to drive and feels sterilised in comparison to the Mini.

But the VW deceives to flatter. Our test figures revealed a silent assassin in the Volkswagen. Not much is made of its launch control system, but man, does it work? A second quicker to 100 km/h than claimed, we went back twice and re-ran the numbers to be sure. The Mini was also a little quicker than claimed, but not much — but a full second slower hen the VW. You really do get a grown up Golf Gi in T-Roc 2.0 TSI

Most interestingly however, the Volkswagen’s entire advantage comes by dint of its launch control. The Mini actually fights back further up the range and matches the VW to 160km/h but by then the T-Roc is holding a firm advantage at the quarter mile. The VW does not feel quicker than the Mini and certainly does not feel as fast as it’s 0-100 time either. Silent assassin, as we said.


All of which leads uop to a most interesting conclusion. Here we have a facelift of an already capable Mini that in effect makes huge strides forward by dint of a few very well condiosdred upgrades. And a brand new Volkswagen, that may not be as ulitmately appealing, but delivers brilliantly anyway. Take the fact that the Mini sacrifices all-wheel drive and it evens out a bit.

But then look at the prices. And no matter how much cooler the Mini may be, is it really worth a hundred grand premium? We think not. The T-Roc is the winner!

Story & images: Michele & Giordano Lupini

SHOOTOUT:  Mini            Volkswagen
           Cooper S        T-Roc 2.0TSI
           Countryman      4Motion R-Line
Output:    141 kW 280 Nm   140 kW 320 Nm
Engine:    2-litre turbo   2-litre turbo
           Petrol I4       Petrol I4
Drive:     7-speed DC FWD  7-speed DC AWD
0-60 km/h:    3.45 sec     2.64sec
0-100 km/h:   7.28 sec     6.39 sec
0-160 km/h:   17.28 sec    17.45 sec
400m time:    15.2 sec     14.5 sec
400m speed:   151 km/h     149 km/h
80-120 km/h:  4.78 sec     4.25 sec
120-160 km/h: 7.36 sec     8.28 sec
VMax:         226 km/h     216 km/h
Fuel:         6.7 l/100 km 8.3 l/100 km
CO2:          153 g/km     182 g/km
Warranty:     2y unlimited 3y 120K
Service:      5y 100K km   5y 90K km
LIST PRICE:   R696K        R593K
RATED:        8            8
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