Review: 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman
There is no doubt in our minds that the Mini Countryman will split opinions more than U.S politics. For some, this machine will be a savior. It will be for people who found the Mini Cooper a tad too small and a bit impractical. For others, it’s a pointless new development from a company who continues to try and force different variations of a legendary car down our throats.
The newMini, made by the German automaker BMW, has always had some issues. We all know it’s a small car, but some have managed to package room and space in a small frame. Mini must have forgotten how, as the interior of the Cooper is a tiny place.
Mini gave us the Clubman in order to solve our size needs. Sadly, this was an abomination of the great Mini name. It accomplished the goal of size and practicality, but at a terrible price. It’s like bulking up on Big Macs and fried foods. Sure, it will accomplish the goal, but you’re not going to attract anything with eyes and you probably won’t live long. So, how does Mini bring a larger vehicle to the market without losing the normal characteristics?
Hit the jump to read just how they did it.
Their newest attempt is the Countryman, which carries the Mini name, but not the size. Despite a name that sounds like a man of the wilderness, the newest version of the Mini finally gets it all right. The interior is stunningly massive, similar to that of a large car. That size was gained with hard work, as this machine looks appropriately good.
While all that is well and good, the issue that arises with this new Mini is its driving dynamics. The larger the Mini, the less it drives like one. At least, that’s what most people would think.
Check under the hood and you will find a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 121 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. If you choose to opt for the more expensive Cooper S Countryman, you can get the 181 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. Helping put that power on the road is a front-wheel drive system. The car can also be given a four-wheel drive system, called the ALL4. This system will add some girth to the car, adding 154 pounds, but it should help traction. A six-speed manual is standard across the line, but there is also a six-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted shifters.
When put on the road, the Countryman isn’t nearly as sporting as the Cooper, but who really thought it would be? It’s more fun than driving most of today’s pointless crossovers, but it doesn’t seem as entertaining as Mini would like us to believe. The steering is light and can be controlled with merely a fingertip, which should help it sell in the American market where overall driving experience doesn’t seem to matter as much.
We would be idiotic if we patronized the Countryman for not being as good as the Cooper on the road because, after all, it does weigh 3,042 pounds. Put your foot to the floor and the needle will pass 60 miles per hour in 7.9 seconds. Find yourself on an open stretch of road and it can grunt its way to 131 mph.
While it might not be as fast as the Cooper, it’s still a decent car to drive. The handling is better than most of the cars this size and it does a brilliant job of rolling acceleration, as it’s able to sprint from 50-75 mph in 7.2 seconds in fourth gear. When faced with quick changes of direction, the Countryman isn’t as nimble as the Cooper, but with the added height, size, and weight, what else can you expect.
If you are with a group of people when you first walk up to car to go for a drive, the opinions will once again be split. Some might consider it ugly, while some will think it to be modern and stylish. From certain angles, it’s a confusing beast. It looks like a Mini, but the size of it can throw you off a bit. That being said, no matter what people think, the Countryman will certainly turn heads, thanks in part to its unique design. That downward kink at the rear of the roofline helps the car keep Mini’s floating roof, which has become a trademark of the company. With all those wonderful styling touches, this is a Mini that appears big, but keeps the soul of a small car.
Step inside the Countryman and you will take notice at how Mini has grown up. The designers have thrown out the sliver plastic trim around all the instruments and instead, we find a soft-touch dash that feels like it belongs in a BMW. Take a peek in the back and you will find room, something that was nonexistent in the Cooper. Adults should be able to fit, and fit comfortably. Even with the backseats all the way back to fit the largest of people, there is enough space for a trip to the shops.
Potential buyers will be able to choose between a four-seater, with two buckets in the rear, or a more practical five-seater. If you choose the four-seat Countryman, you will find a long central rail that runs from the front of the car to the rear. If you have the money for options, you’re able to add storage boxes, iPod holders, or even an armrest to the rail.
Buying this sort of machine is more of an attempt to be different, but that’s not really a bad thing. It’s more practical than the Cooper and is pretty good to drive. It features head turning looks and an improved interior feel. Not to mention the fact that the Mini product line seems to hold its value quite well. Image conscious city dwellers, new families, or people with money to burn will certainly take a look at this vehicle. As quirky SUVs go, this is far better than theToyota FJ Cruiser. Some will love it, some will hate it, but many will buy it.
Why We Love It - It drives better than most crossovers and it looks better too. The interior is spacious, but it keeps the traditional Mini style.
Why We Hate It - Some of the Mini driving characteristics have been lost due to the car’s size. Some won’t like the styling.