Rugged or sporty, the subcompact crossover segment offers lots of options. We compare two contenders, the 2021 Jeep Renegade and MINI Cooper Countryman.
While many offerings in the subcompact segment, like the Ford EcoSport and Buick Encore, are replacements for small sedans that consumers have abandoned, the 2021 Jeep Renegade and 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman are natural extension of what those brands are built on. The Countryman is the largest offering from MINI, it’s basically a bulked-up MINI Cooper. Built on the same platform as the Fiat 500X, the Renegade maintains some of that Jeep DNA with available all-wheel drive and 8.7-inches of ground clearance.
As both offer AWD and distinct personalities, choosing between the two isn’t necessarily easy. We dive into the detail below to find the superior subcompact crossovers.
The 2021 Jeep Renegade offers powertrains. The base engine is a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine making 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. Front-wheel drive comes standard and gets 22 city and 30 highway mpg, the optional all-wheel drive dips slightly to 21/29 mpg. The other option is the 1.3L turbocharged 3-cylinder making 177 horsepower but upping the torque to 200 lb.-ft. Fuel economy improves to 24/32 mpg for the FWD version, 23/29 for the AWD, and 22/27 for the Trailhawk trim. Both options come with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman offers an even wider selection of powertrains, four in all. The base engine is a 1.5L inline-3 making 134 horsepower and 162 lb.-ft. of torque. The front-wheel drive version is paired with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic whereas the all-wheel drive version gets an eight-speed automatic. Fuel economy in the FWD version is 26 city and 33 highway and 23/32 for the AWD version.
Next is S Countryman’s 2.0L turbo I-4 making 189 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. It too gets a seven- or eight-speed automatic depending on the drivetrain configuration. Fuel economy is 24 city and 33 highway mpg for the FWD and 23/31 for the AWD.
Unlike the Renegade, the MINI Cooper Countryman offers an electrified version with the plug-in hybrid S E Countryman. It pairs the 1.5L 3-cylinder with an electric motor for a combined 224 horsepower and 284 lb.-ft. of torque. The S E Countryman comes with a six-speed automatic and offers 17 miles of electric-only driving, 29 combined mpg on gas alone, and 73 MPGe.
The sportiest offering is the JCW (John Cooper Works) Countryman with its 2.0L turbo-4 and eight-speed automatic good for an impressive 301 horsepower and 331 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel economy is 23 city and 30 highway mpg.
The 2021 Jeep Renegade’s chief weakness is its anemic powertrains. The base 2.4L struggles to motivate the Renegade in traffic and passing situations. It’s zero to 60 time is a poky 9 seconds. The turbo 1.3L does little to improve the situation, only shaving that 0-60 time to around 8.9 seconds. Yet, the Renegade redeems itself with sharp and responsive steering and surprisingly decent handling around corners. The stop/start function that’s often so annoyingly jerky in other cars transitions quite smoothly in the Renegade.
Given the slow pace of the Renegade (and its small size) you’d hope that it would make up for this deficit with decent fuel economy, but no. The 1.3L turbo’s 24 city and 32 highway mpg is the best you can get. We know it’s blasphemy, but this is one area where a CVT would be welcome.
As the more driver-focused of the two, the 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman may not be as nimble as smaller MINIs it’s still a good deal more exciting than the Jeep Renegade. The exception is the base 3-cylinder which isn’t any faster or more powerful than the Renegade’s engines. Things get more interesting with the S Countryman’s 2.0L turbo. The 189 horsepower is appreciably quicker, with a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds. The JCW’s 301 horsepower makes the Countryman legitimately fast at 4.9 seconds to 60 mph. The plug-in hybrid S E is probably the best of all with plenty of low-end torque and excellent fuel economy.
The Jeep Renegade is Jeep’s entry-level vehicle and yet they’ve done a decent job of making sure, even with economical materials, it doesn’t feel cheap. Yes, hard plastics abound, but what the Renegade lacks in material quality it makes up for with style. The Renegade sports an aesthetic that’s best described as chunky. Buttons and knobs are chunky. The bezels around the A/C ducts and shifter are both colorful and substantially sized. Everything feels durable. Very “on brand” for this, the smallest of Jeeps.
There’s a decent amount of headroom in the Renegade but legroom, especially in the back seat isn’t great at 35.1 inches. Cargo, however, is about average for the segment at 18.5 cu. ft. behind the back seats and 50.8 cu. ft. in total.
The MINI Cooper Countryman is decidedly the more sophisticated of the two vehicles. Materials are of a higher quality throughout with more soft-touch materials, metal, and soft plastic in use. Design is also more modern and compelling than the Renegade.
For the largest MINI, the Countryman isn’t stellar when it comes to cargo capacity which stands at 17.2 cu. ft. behind the rear seats and 47.4 cu. ft. with them folded down. But where the Countryman lacks in cargo it makes up for in passenger space with a generous 37.6 inches of rear seat legroom.
In keeping with rest of the Jeep’s lineup, the Renegade offers a bevy of trims, eight in all. The Sport functions as the Renegade’s base trim and starts at $22,850. It includes the base 2.4L engine, comes exclusively in front-wheel drive, and features cloth upholstery, heated side mirrors, a USB port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and satellite radio.
The Jeepster trim ($24,745 for FWD/$26,245 for AWD) adds 19-inch alloy wheels and keyless entry. The Latitude adds a USB port and 17-inch alloys. The Latitude also allows access to the optional Luxury Package ($2,495) that adds items like adaptive cruise control, navigation and HD radio, as well as access to the 1.3L turbocharged engine, and the Convenience Package ($1,195) that adds a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and options for a panoramic sunroof and remote start.
The Upland trim ($25,745) adds a skip plate and 17-inch alloys. The 80th-Anniversary Edition ($26,115/$27,615) features an 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, and HD radio. The Island trim ($27,430/$28,930) adds more paint options. The Limited and Trailhawk trims (both $28,700 and AWD only) represent the top of the trim ladder. The Limited adds luxury amenities like leather seats while the Trailhawk is the most capable trim with its raise suspension and all-terrain tires.
The MINI Cooper Countryman features three trim levels each of which can be applied to four engine configurations. The engine configurations are priced as follows. The Countryman (base) starts at $29,100. The S Countryman, with the 2.0L turbo, starts at $31,900. The plug-in hybrid S E Countryman and JCW Countryman both start at $41,500. Note that the S E Countryman skips the lowest, Classic, trim level. There’s also an entry-level Oxford Edition that comes in a single, base trim with the 3-cylinder engine and starts at $29,100.
Here’s how the three trim levels for the MINI Cooper Countryman break down. The Classic (base) trim level features a 6.5-inch digital gauge display, a panoramic sunroof, synthetic leather seats, and safety features like automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning. The Signature trim adds items like an 8.8-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, navigation, and keyless entry. The Iconic trim level tops things out with features like real leather upholstery and wireless charging.
The 2021 Jeep Renegade and MINI Cooper Countryman offer two very different takes on the subcompact crossover. The gulf between them in sophistication is replicated in their differing price tags. The Renegade tops out at $28,700 while the Countryman starts at $29,100. And yet, we’d caution against merely comparing the Countryman Classic and the Renegade Limited, neither of which are the best option.
If you’re interested in keeping things simpler (and cheaper), the Renegade 80th-Anniversary is a good balance of modern tech and affordability. As for the MINI, the Countryman S, with it’s 189-horsepower engine, is both economical and a spirited driving experience. If expensive is less of an object, the S E Countryman plug-in hybrid is probably the best of the bunch, featuring ample power and great fuel economy.
The final consideration is what you’ll be using the vehicle for. Though the Jeep Renegade is the most off-road capable vehicle in its segment, it’s still a subcompact crossover. If you’re serious about tackling challenging terrain or deal with heavy snow fall each winter, perhaps you should consider something a bit more dedicated to the purpose. On the flipside, the MINI Cooper Countryman is one of the best driving subcompact crossovers you can buy. It’s no hot hatch, but if you’re really in need of the extra room and don’t want to compromise of driving excitement, the Countryman is a great option.
In the end, the MINI Cooper Countryman easily surpasses the Jeep Renegade with a more sophisticated cabin and superiors driving dynamics, but both come at a cost.