Subcompact Crossovers: MINI Countryman vs Toyota C-HR

Crossovers that combine the elevated ride height of an SUV with the stylishness of a hatchback or coupé are understandably very popular. Not everyone wants or needs a large car, though, which is where subcompact or smaller crossovers like this pair come in nicely. How do they stack up?

Rugged or futuristic personalities

The MINI hatch has obviously grown considerably since BMW invested its expertise into the brand, but the Countryman takes road presence to a whole new level. As the most sizeable model in the family line-up, the chunky and rugged-looking Countryman remains instantly recognisable as a MINI but features asymmetrically-shaped headlights, a distinctive grille, floating roof, jacked-up stance and hints of off-road ability throughout its accentuated and sporty styling.

C-HR stands for coupé high-rider; and this subcompact crossover from Toyota certainly looks unique and eye-catching with its diamond-inspired external architecture. Its coupé-like side profile, muscular wheel arches, array of bold lines and futuristic shapes plus a steeply-angled rear with edgy taillight clusters combine to give the C-HR true street cred’ and visual drama helping it stand out from alternatives.
Conclusion: the bravely-styled C-HR wins in the visual department

Characterful and practical vs high-tech and fashionable

Pitched as spacious enough for five adults, the MINI Countryman blends BMW-like quality with British design flair and character. Chunky buttons, toggles and circles dominate its refreshingly different interior, with MINI’s illuminated hallmark ring wowing in the centre of the dashboard, encircling the standard 6.5-inch infotainment screen that is home to DAB, Bluetooth, Connected Services and sat nav.

MINI has always led in enabling interior personalisation, the Countryman available with decals, mirror covers, roof stripes and bundled upgrades like the popular Chilli Pack, while an off-road feature called MINI Country timer is provided. It displays the type of terrain being driven on, detects snow and other surface conditions, and calculates the gradient of slopes. Built to be highly practical, the Countryman has a 450-litre boot that expands to 1,309 when the seats are flipped, while an optional Picnic Bench can be specified that sides out of the boot floor.

Inside the Toyota C-HR, various lines flow across the full width of the dashboard, instilling a sense of energy. The centre console is fairly unique in being asymmetric while angled towards the driver, just as the standard 8-inch touchscreen is. Although its overall quality doesn’t feel as plush as the MINI’s, the Toyota’s seats are comfortable especially in the front, and attractive black gloss inserts are positioned around the cabin.

Due to the sloping window-line and black roof-lining, the C-HR isn’t as spacious in comparison to the Countryman even though it’s 6cm longer. Its 377-litre boot is clearly much more compact, but cabin storage such as large bottle-bins is in abundance.
 
Conclusion: The MINI’s charming and well-built interior is more spacious

Well-matched engines

MINI has ensured that the fun but practical Countryman is available with a wide choice of engines. 
Petrol power kicks off with the 136hp, 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre unit, which is configurable in manual or auto and with or without ALL4 for added grip. 
A 2.0-litre D diesel engine is also offered, which peaks at 150hp and is suited to overtaking thanks to 150hp while averaging up to around 63mpg at the pump for longer-distance drivers. 
At the top of the MINI Countryman engine family sits the 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo John Cooper Works model, with ALL4 as standard and 231 horses under the bonnet. Capable of reaching 62mph in just 6.5 seconds, which is quick for a compact family SUV, it still averages approximately 38mpg in fuel economy. 
For environmentally-conscious drivers, MINI also sells a plug-in hybrid version of the Countryman, which has a cited total range of up to 310 miles, an electric range of around 26 miles and theoretical fuel efficiency credentials of up to 134.5mpg.
The Toyota C-HR’s engine line-up doesn’t include diesel options but the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol turbo with a 6-speed manual or automatic gearbox is ideal for urban drivers. It’s also available with all-wheel drive (AWD). 
The other engine option for Toyota’s subcompact crossover is the 1.8 petrol hybrid that produces a total 122hp, is powered by the front wheels and offers attractively low CO2 emissions of 86g/km along with up to 74.3mpg in fuel economy.
 
Conclusion: the hybrid C-HR offers attractive environmental performance without the commitment of plug-in charging

In numbers…

 

MINI Countryman

Toyota C-HR

Min

Max

Min

Max

Power (HP)

136

224

115

122

Fuel (comb MPG)

38.2

134.5

47.9

74.3

Emissions (CO2, g/km)

49

169

86

143

Top Speed (mph)

122

144

105

118

0 – 60mph in…. (seconds)

6.5

9.8

10.9

11.1

Price

£23,345

£31,895

£21,600

£28,620


Taking very different approaches, the MINI Countryman and Toyota C-HR are both compelling models in the subcompact crossover market. The playful and practical MINI is great for space while offering a plug-in hybrid for drivers wanting the greenest car available. On the other hand, the edgily-styled Toyota C-HR looks amazing and features an equally futuristic interior - albeit not as accommodating -while its self-charging hybrid drivetrain will suit plenty of customers. Why not test drive each car at Cooper MINI and Inchcape Toyota as soon as you can?