The Countryman is the big dog in MINI’s modern family, but should you add it to yours?
Engine: 1.6 L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 181 HP, 177 lb-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (US): 23 MPG city, 30 MPG highway, 22.2 MPG observed average
Fuel economy (CDN): 10.1 L/100 km city, 7.8 L/100 km highway, 10.6 L/100 km observed average
Price (US): Cooper S Countryman ALL4 begins at $28,700 after destination charges, $37,850 as tested.
Price (CDN): Cooper S Countryman ALL4 begins at $31,605 after destination charges, $38,365 as tested.
A quasi-crossover, the Countryman is the only MINI Cooper to offer five-doors and all-wheel drive in one package. Although the regular MINI Cooper hardtop was new last year, the next generation Countryman has yet to go on sale.
In the meantime, the current Countryman continues to be offered in a myriad of configurations aimed to satisfy almost anyone. Being the most family-friendly of the MINI lineup, we decided you put Amanda, our general consumer, into one for evaluation. We opted for a MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 equipped with the six-speed automatic and a few option packages. This is what she thought of this MINI crossover.
Even though the Cooper Countryman is the largest MINI offering, it is still rather compact as its overall length of 162.2 inches is just a few inches longer than a Honda Fit. Inside, a tall roof leads to a generous 40 inches of headroom for front and rear passengers, but rear legroom is a cramped 33.8 inches. Rear cargo room is a bit more appealing as 17.5 cubic feet of space is available behind the rear seats, expanding to 42.2 cubic feet with the seats folded down.
The Countryman is available with two engine choices, but if the all-wheel drive ALL4 model is selected, so is the more powerful 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to motivate the car’s 3,208-lb. curb weight. Power from this engine is officially listed at 181 HP and 177 lb-ft. of torque and can be paired to a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic like the one in Amanda’s test car.
Pricing for the MINI Cooper Countryman begins at $23,600 after destination charges while the Cooper S Countryman ALL4 begins at $28,700. As configured, the Countryman pictured here rings in at $37,850 thanks to options like the Cold Weather, Technology and Loaded packages plus much more.
How Does it Drive?
Amanda really enjoyed the size of the vehicle since she likes small hatchbacks, but normally finds they don’t quite suit her needs. Not a fan of normal crossovers, she likes the fact that the Countryman sits somewhere between a normal car height and a compact crossover because it gives her a better view of the road without the large step-in height.
During her extremely cold test week, Amanda didn’t always let the car warm up before starting out on her daily commute and she loved the fact the engine and transmission operated smoothly even in the cold. She also found that the ALL4’s all-wheel drive system works well in snowy, wet conditions and that the brakes are very smooth, even during hard stops.
The View from Inside
Amanda’s first drive in the Countryman was on a very cold morning and although the seat heater warmed up quickly, the rest of the car took a while to follow suit, despite its small size. She finds the driver seat to be comfortable and easy to adjust. She also says the dashboard is a little busy but is laid out quite well, which makes it easy to use on the go.
What She Liked
Initially she didn’t like the looks of the Countryman as it lacks that same cool factor of the regular MINI Cooper hardtop. But, as the week went, on the looks grew on her and she found it still had more style than other stylish tall hatchbacks like the Fiat 500L.
SEE ALSO: 2015 MINI Countryman Video, First Look
The MINI Cooper Countryman has a short windshield at a fairly upright angle. This means there is a longer roof overhang in front of Amanda which helped block the sun from her eyes enough that she skipped wearing sunglasses more often than normal.
What She Didn’t Like
Amanda’s biggest complaint is how long it takes for the Countryman to heat up on days where the temperature was below -5 degrees Fahrenheit. Above zero, the Countryman warms up much sooner and the super-hot seat heaters don’t seem as necessary. She also wished a heated steering wheel came with the Countryman at the $38,000 price point.
Finally, she said the navigation system starts warning of an upcoming turn earlier than it needs to, something that gets to be annoying quickly.
Overall, Amanda likes the MINI Countryman’s sophisticated feel and refined driving behavior. It’s nice getting into it every day and she would love to own one, but its price is the biggest barrier. As equipped, it’s hard for her to quantify its value. Although cheaper versions of the Countryman do exist, she wouldn’t be as taken with the not-so-MINI without its premium features.
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