By Joe Santos - Updated Date: 1/26/2012
We can be pretty certain that the terms "cute," "small," "fun" and "fuel efficient" have been used to describe the Mini Cooper since its U.S. inception in 2001. And while the Mini line-up has always consisted of different flavors like the standard Cooper hardtop, the sun-friendly Cooper convertible and the slightly larger, Cooper Clubman, buyers and enthusiasts alike have probably wondered if the word "practical" could ever be associated with a Mini. A bigger backseat? More cargo room? More headroom? Well, wonder no more, as the all-new 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman is here to answer all those questions. And the answers are, "yes," "yes" and "yes." The Mini Countryman is the fourth addition to the brand's lineup and brings to the table everything one would expect in a Mini – including exceptional handling and a solid build - but with the welcomed addition of more people and cargo space and all-wheel-drive capability. Competitors in the Mini Countryman's category include the Nissan Rogue, Suzuki SX4 and the Toyota RAV4.You'll Like This Car If...
If you've always been infatuated by Mini's unique styling, but wished they offered something bigger, the Countryman could be for you.You May Not Like This Car If...
Like the other vehicles in Mini's lineup, the Countryman reaches out to a niche market both in terms of styling and driving dynamics. While it exudes the same fun driving characteristics as its Cooper siblings, the Countryman's ride-comfort level is at the lower end of the 10-point scale; which might not be everyone's cup of tea.What's Significant About This Car?
The 4-seat 2011 Mini Countryman broadens the brand's horizons by offering more flexibility in the inherent retro design, both in passenger and cargo room, and by introducing the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. The Countryman is available in three trim levels: Cooper Countryman, Cooper S Countryman and Cooper S Countryman with ALL4.Driving It Driving Impressions
The Mini Cooper's driving dynamics have long been compared to that of a go kart, and while we can technically say the same for the Countryman, we'd compare it more to "a go-kart that's hauling 100-pounds of cargo." Actually, the Countryman weighs about 400 more pounds than the standard-issue Mini Cooper, so in a related sense it has the same sporty driving dynamics of its siblings – including the razor-sharp steering and crisp handling - but not the same overall tossability. The ride quality is a little firm, but we found it comfortable enough for a long road trip. On the inside, the seats could be softer, but they are adequately contoured and bolstered for the everyday drive and visibility is good from all angles. One note: We found the side mirrors to be placed too low, making them hard to see for shorter drivers.
Mini Connected w/ Navigation
The 6.5-inch screen is easy to navigate and the system offers Bluetooth and smartphone integration to stream music from a device and Internet radio. Users with iPhones will benefit from the Mini Connected App, which allows access to social-media programs, RSS news feeds and Google Local Search.
ALL4 (All-Wheel Drive)
We like the availability of a permanent all-wheel-drive system in a Mini to improve traction on slippery surfaces and challenging terrain.
The 2011 Mini Countryman's retro styling carries over to the interior where the most noticeable feature is the oversized speedometer in the center of the dashboard. The look is eccentric and stylish, from the chrome flip switches for the window to the 2-toned color scheme and symmetrical ovoid patterns that extend to the rear doors, the interior of the Mini Countryman can be considered a lesson in art-deco fashion. There's plenty of headroom and legroom for both the front and rear-seat passengers (a first for a Mini), although seating is limited to four at a time.Exterior
Novelty meets functionality when it comes to the styling of the 2011 Mini Countryman. It has the same retro look as every other Cooper in the Mini lineup with the main differences being the additional rear doors, the larger size and the taller ride height. It's almost hard to tell it's that much bigger at first glance, but it is. Like all other Minis, the Countryman can be painted in a multitude of different colors both inside and out and every trim level comes with 17-inch wheels, although different styles can be chosen.Notable Standard Equipment
While the 2012 Mini Countryman carries a higher entry price than its competitors, the decision to purchase a Countryman can be reinforced by a long list of standard equipment. On the outside, 17-inch alloy wheels are standard, and the on the inside are 6-way manually adjustable seats, a 3-spoke leather steering wheel and air conditioning. Also on the list is a start/stop button to turn the engine on and off, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with HD radio and SiriusXM that's in charge of the tunes, and a 6-speed manual transmission.Notable Optional Equipment
As with the other vehicles in Mini's stable, the Countryman can be configured in over 10 million different ways. While we don't have the space to list them all, we can say that many of the standalone options are grouped together in packages. The technology package comes with a harmon/kardon sound system, rear parking sensors, a center armrest and the "Mini Connected" in-car entertainment system (with navigation optional). The premium package includes automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and the comfort access system which locks/unlocks the doors via a button on the outside handles. The sport package adds 18-inch Turbo Fan wheels, black hood stripes, a rear spoiler and dynamic traction control for more spirited cornering. In addition to these packages, a multitude of wheels, interior/exterior color combinations and graphics are available to build a custom Countryman to the owner's content.Under the Hood
The 2011 Mini Countryman is powered by the same engines that power its siblings. The option of all-wheel drive is a bonus. Both engine choices displace 1.6 liters, with the Cooper receiving a naturally-aspirated version while the Cooper S gets the help of a twin-scroll turbocharger. Despite the increase in weight over its smaller stablemates, the Countryman is still a joy to drive. The Cooper Countryman scoots to 60 mph in under ten seconds and the Cooper S Countryman lowers that time to just over seven seconds.
121 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
114 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/35 (manual), 25/30 (automatic)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
181 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
177 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1,600 - 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/32 (manual), 25/32 (automatic), 25/31 (manual, ALL4), 23/30 (automatic, ALL4)
The Mini Cooper Countryman holds a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just over $22,000. Stepping up to the Cooper S trim bumps up the price to just under $26,000. Opting for all-wheel drive tacks $1,700 onto the price, and adding an automatic transmission to any trim adds $1,125. To see what customers are actually paying for their 2011 Mini Cooper "Countrymen," check out KBB's Fair Purchase Price. While the Countryman is priced higher than its competitors, it should hold better-than-average resale values over time.