If you have always liked the Mini Cooper but needed something roomier to suit your lifestyle, the Mini Countryman is bound to be appealing. As Mini's newest addition, this compact crossover SUV is 5.5 inches longer than the next-longest Mini, the three-door Clubman. Add four proper doors, a truly adult-friendly backseat and a cargo area that's roughly twice the size of the one in the tiny Cooper hatchback and you have what may be the most practical Mini (two words rarely used in the same sentence before now).
Of course there are drawbacks to the Mini Cooper Countryman, including an interior with just four seats, quirky ergonomics, a firm ride and a steep price tag when you load the Countryman up with options. Even so, this maxi Mini still retains the fun-to-drive character and relatively compact dimensions that have made its siblings so wildly popular.
Current Mini Countryman
The Mini Cooper Countryman debuted for the 2011 model year. This compact crossover SUV is offered in two trim levels: the base Countryman and the more performance-oriented Countryman S. Under the hood, the entry-level Countryman gets a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that puts out 121 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. The Countryman S is powered by a turbocharged version of the same engine good for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission are standard; a six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option and Countryman S models can be had in an all-wheel-drive model called the All4.
Base models come with a number of desirable features including 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rack rails, air-conditioning, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio, HD radio and an auxiliary audio input. Besides the turbocharged engine, Countryman S versions add foglights, traction control and sport seats. The options list is long and includes 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive HID headlights, a dual-pane sunroof, heated front seats, keyless ignition/entry, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a premium Harman Kardon audio system. Being a Mini, the Countryman can also be heavily customized with special graphics and trim.
Inside, the Mini Cooper Countryman offers an interior that feels surprisingly roomy, thanks in part to rear seats that can slide back and forth to create more legroom, cargo space or a little of both. Speaking of cargo room, there's a respectable 16.5 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks up and 41.3 with them folded down. As with all Minis, the Countryman's cabin places a premium on design, which unfortunately means gauges and controls take some getting used to.
On the road, the entry-level Countryman's engine gives the big Mini sluggish acceleration, making the turbocharged Countryman S a preferable alternative. Both models offer the precise steering and nimble handling indicative of its smaller siblings, and braking performance is excellent for a compact SUV. Ultimately the Countryman is the Mini for all those folks who liked everything about the original but wanted just a little bit more.