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2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 Crossover Review

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2011 Mini Countryman AWD Crossover

SEE ALSO: Mini Specs, Comparisons, Prices - Mini Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO Is a Mini Your Perfect New Car Match?

By John Heilig

Model: 2011 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4
Engine: 1.6-liter DOHC turbocharged I4
Horsepower/Torque: 181 hp / 192 lb.-ft.
Transmission: 6-speed Getrag manual
Wheelbase: 102.2 in.
Length x Width x Height: 161.8 x 70.4 x 61.5 in.
Tires: P225/45R18
Cargo: 12.2/41.3 cu. ft. (behind 2nd row/maximum)
Economy: 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25.4 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 12.4 gal.
Curb Weight: 3,208 lbs.
Sticker: $31,150 (includes $700 destination charge, $3,500 in options)

Top 5 Reasons to buy this car:

1. Fun small SUV
2. Mini-ness in a bigger package
3. Solid performance
4. Go-kart handling
5. Solidly built

The Bottom Line: Like most things these days, MINI is becoming super-sized. This growth of the popular small car is a good thing, though. MINI’s first SUV, and its first four-door is a welcome addition to the brand, with not only a second pair of doors, but all-wheel drive.

MINI has always meant something different in the world of automobiles. The first Alec Issigonis Minis were almost ridiculously small, but they packed a lot of performance and handling in to that tiny package. They also introduced transverse-mounted engines, now the near-standard among auto builders.

The new BMW-owned MINI, now built in Austria, was similar in style to the original, but it was bigger. The Countryman added a station wagon style to the brand.

And now there’s the Countryman, a MINI SUV, with a turbocharged four cylinder engine and two extra doors. In my opinion, the Countryman may be the best MINI, or Mini, ever.

First, the Countryman is bigger in every dimension. The result it easier access to the rear seats, more cargo capacity and a slightly better-looking vehicle.

In size, the Countryman is about the same size as the Volkswagen Tiguan, or, if you remember, the MG1800 generation of vehicles. I like the size, especially the more than 41cubic feet of cargo capacity. It also makes entry and egress easier, especially for us seniors.

Even though the Countryman is the biggest MINI (is that an oxymoron?), it still retains the original’s “go-kart” handling. This implies that you can go through any corner with minimal lean, just like a go-kart. There’s a great temptation to hit winding roads and stretch the MINI’s legs a bit. Overall, the Countryman has nice road manners, even for a small car. The ride is firm, but not harsh.

Power comes from a 1.6-liter turbocharged four that delivers 181 horsepower through a 6-speed Getrag transmission. This is an excellent transmission, even under my ham hands. The engine is relatively quiet in standard operation; there’s some buzz on acceleration.

To start the engine, there’s a pushbutton, but the “key” must still be inserted in a slot in the dash.

With the slightly longer wheelbase, there’s excellent room in the front. The front seats also have good side support. There’s a small armrest between the front seats. The rear seats are buckets that are similar to the fronts and have the same good side support. The rear seats fold easily to increase cargo capacity. We had to do this one time to get golf bags into the back. It also provided extra room for gardening projects.

There’s a unique rail system between the seats that has sliding cup holders for the front and rear.

The rear hatch on the Countryman is much more practical than the two doors on the Clubman. The hatch unlocks using a neat handle that is combined with the MINI badge. VW does the same thing with the Beetle.

With all the new features, the Countryman still has the huge center-mounted speedometer with its circle of lights fuel gauge. Thankfully, there’s also a digital speedometer inside the tachometer that’s mounted right in front of the driver.

My wife wouldn’t let me buy an original Mini (wisely). She also wouldn’t let me buy an MG 1600. She might let me buy a Countryman, but I think she’d still opt for something larger.

© 2011 The Auto Page

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