The 2011 Mini Countryman, a crossover, has both family appeal and sporty overtones and is a new model for the year. It's a four-seater, with an option for all-wheel drive, marking an evolutionary step for the automaker. Mini's flagship product, the Cooper, has achieved almost iconic status as a young, single drivers zip-around-town ride.
Mini's first attempt to break that mold and get into the wagon segment, the Clubman, was, frankly, disappointing. Right out of the gate, the Countryman is a better option and a model that has great potential to become a favorite in the upscale small car class.
At a foot longer and six-inches wider than the Mini Cooper Hardtop, the Countryman will actually seat a six-footer up front without torture involved, and average-sized adults will be fine in the backseat on short trips. There's 41.3 cubic feet in the back when the seats are down. Fuel economy sits at 27 city and 35 highway, all in an MSRP range of $21,650 to $26,950.
As a crossover with room for only four people, the Countryman has a strange market niche. If it's not enough wagon for you, consider the Honda CR-V or the Toyota RAV4. They'll each seat five, but they are more sluggish performers. Price wise, however, you're in the same neighborhood.
There are three available trims for the Countryman: the base, Cooper S, and Cooper S with ALL4. At 300 lbs. more body weight than the Mini Cooper S, the Countryman is cumbersome in direct comparison, but it's a fun drive and the ALL4 handles slick roads very effectively. The base engine is a 1.6-liter four cylinder with 121 horsepower. Upper trims use a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo charged version with 181 hp. All trims can be paired with either a manual or automatic transmission.
Although new for 2011, the Countryman has the retro funkiness beloved by all Mini fans. There are 11 available body colors with three choices for roof paint as well as dealer-installed flag decals. Inside, Mini has made some cool options available to buyers, like the Center Rail, a console with removable storage bins and a gadget charger. Mini Connected, an optional tech-integration feature, allows drivers to do things like stream Pandora radio or check their email.
Standard features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, a tilting and telescoping column, push button start, auxiliary input jack, SIRIUS satellite, and HD radio. Everything else is optional, adding dollars on to the base price. Would-be-buyers will also be pleased to learn the Countryman is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety features include dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, tire pressure monitoring, seven airbags, and a crash monitoring system.
Although small as a crossovers go, the 2011 Mini Countryman is definitely destined to cultivate a following. It marries everything devotees love about the Mini Cooper with a healthier dose of practicality. Gas mileage and performance are both commendable. Definitely one to test drive with the warning that you may well fall in love. Even with the inevitable shortcomings reviewers can always find, this one is just plain fun to drive.