Jeep Renegade, Mini Countryman, Front view 29 Photos Zoom

The Jeep Renegade and Mini Countryman compared: Which small SUV has more going for it?

Both of these cars aren't afraid to get dirty. The Jeep Renegade Trailhawk and Mini Cooper SD Countryman All4 are well-equipped to deal with gravel, dirt and stones. But which small SUV has more going for it?

Things have gone well for the new Jeep. In the first comparison test conducted byauto motor and sportit grabbed second place, in behind the Skoda Yeti, but ahead of the Dacia Duster and the Suzuki S-Cross. And now it is picking a fight with the Mini Countryman. Can it come out victorious? Even if the Jeep steps up in the Trailhawk version, seeing as the 168 HP diesel engine is only available in this equipment level? We'll see, after all, it's up against the Mini Cooper SD Countryman All4 with 141 HP. First a few figures, so that you can really understand what is going on here: 1,626 and 1,474. These are the annual figures regarding major city fires in Knieritz an der Knatter, but rather the unladen weights of the Jeep Renegade and Mini Countryman measured by the test department.

At least the external dimensions are compact, both are just over four metres long, with the Jeep measuring in at 4.26 metres and the Mini almost 15 centimetres shorted and exactly 15 centimetres shorter. You might think that this translates to the amount of space inside, however, this is not the case. In any case not when it comes to load capacity, as both offer practically the same, with the Renegade's advantage actually lying in its angular shape, which enables it to stow larger items in the back.

Any such attempts in the Mini falter at the comparatively tight loading opening, with the seat backs also folding to produce a rather jagged loading surface - the Jeep is also better in this regard. Not many buyers will buy their sub-compact SUV on account of the transport volume, otherwise they would have gone for a Dacia Lodgy or Renault Kangoo. It seems that achieving as boyish a look as possible is more important, it is well known that your eyes travel with you, and not just in the literal sense.

Here you could accuse the Jeep stylists of having gone too far. The many graphic and written references to the tradition and history of the brand are perhaps laid on more thickly than some would like - but the majority of people won't be bothered. The Mini is a little more discreet in this regard, where it is primarily inside the interior that the designers have overdone it with buttons everywhere. When it comes to the exterior they are admittedly a little more restrained.

The Mini Countryman scores points for drive performance

But all of these aspects are matters of taste. Let's move onto the other hardware. There are a few irritating aspects to each of the car's bodywork. In the case of the Jeep, for example, there is the extremely impractical boot lid handle, which gives you dirty fingers even when the car has just been washed. And the thick A-pillars that limit the view to the front considerably. In the Countryman it is the excessive roof indents that impact the sense of spaciousness inside the car, or the poor visibility to the rear through the rear windscreen, which is much too small.

We set off on the asphalt, and convincingly too, even if the photos don't seem to back this up. This is perhaps a little unfair on the Jeep, as in the Trailhawk variant it is designed more for off-road use. Its axles have a shorter transmission ratio and, thanks to the nine-speed automatic transmission, a particularly short first gear, a slightly large ground clearance and all-weather tyres with a higher tyre wall. All of this certainly makes it good on loose terrain, but is rather cumbersome on solid ground. It is therefore understandable that Jeep only offers the most powerful diesel models in this variant: the Trailhawk with nine-speed automatic transmission. This configuration has another disadvantage: it is expensive, priced from 31,900 Euros, and so even the Countryman with its 141 HP diesel engine and all-wheel drive is cheaper: from 29,250 Euros. If you add in the automatic transmission for 1,540 Euro, both are equally expensive.

However, at the time the test was conducted, the Countryman was only available with manual transmission, an advantage that it converted into better drive performance and lower consumption. That said, this was not merely down to the appropriately graded and nicely switching six-speed gearbox in the Mini, but also to the rather disappointing performance of the ZF nine-speed automatic in the Trailhawk.

The Jeep Renegade has higher consumption

This may be where technological development has reached a limit: does humanity really need an automatic transmission with more than eight gears? Based on the impression when driving the Trailhawk it would seem the answer is: not really. The transmission severely saps energy from the Jeep engine, which comes across as sluggish and unwilling, responding in too much of a fluster, then not at all; this is not what a harmonious combination of engine and transmission looks like. Like that in the Mini for example, as in spite of its clear shortcomings with regard to power and torque, not only runs better but, as mentioned, consumes less fuel. The difference is not major, a test average of 0.4 litres per 100 km, and neither of the small SUVs are particularly economical anyway. You can only get close to the six-litre mark if you drive incredibly economically, with the value most of the time around seven, or nine to ten litres of diesel when driving fast on the motorway, in each case with a slight advantage of 0.2 to 0.5 litres for the Mini. The Jeep engine is only better in one discipline: it is more quiet and refined than the rough-around-the-edges Mini four-cylinder.

The chassis of the Renegade is also more comfortable. Although by no means a saloon, it does nonetheless mask small and large bumps better than the Mini, which is known to be bumpy.

Its firm tuning of course pays off when it comes to drive dynamics - it could drive proverbial circles around the Jeep. Which also comes down to its low-grip all-weather tyres and higher construction. Thus, all four wheels start to slip very early on, although it does manage to stay on course as the ESP intervenes effectively. When braking, however, the Trailhawk fails to convince, with much poorer deceleration compared to the previously measured Renegade with tyres suitable for the road.

In any case, the Countryman is immaculately secure, showing barely any load change reactions and has much more direct and communicative steering. When it comes to traction and off-road suitability, the Trailhawk surpasses it by some margin. But this doesn't change the fact that, ultimately, this test didn't go quite so well for the little Jeep.


Hans-Dieter Seufert


9 September 2015
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