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2014 Mini Countryman John Cooper Works All4 Review By John Heilig

2014 Mini Countryman John Cooper Works All4  (select to view enlarged photo)

By John Heilig

Model: 2014 Mini Countryman John Cooper Works All4

Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter I4

Horsepower/Torque: 208 hp @ 6,000 rpm/207 lb.-ft. @ 1,900-5,600 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 102.2 in.

Length x Width x Height: 161.8 x 70.4 x 61.5 in.

Tires: P225/45R18

Cargo: 16.5/42/2 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)

Economy: 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway/28.5 mpg test

Fuel capacity: 12.4 gal.

Curb Weight: 3,352 lbs.

Sticker: $39,350 (includes $700 destination charge and $4,400 in options)

The Bottom Line: The Mini Countryman is designed to compete with the VW Touareg and Buick Encore, but it is priced was out of line. Granted the John Cooper Works goodies add a bit to the base price, it’s still way out there. Performance is very good and spirited and handling is in the Mini tradition.

As is my situation with all Minis, I have a love-hate relationship with the Countryman. For example, I love the size and the concept of a small SUV. As is our wont, we filled the back end up with stuff for a trip to our daughter’s house. With its compact dimensions, we were able to maneuver the Countryman through assorted parking lots and into tight parking spaces.

But as with all Minis, I hate the dash design, particularly the center-mounted speedometer. I realize this is homage to the original Mini, but I didn’t like it in that car either. There is a perfectly serviceable digital speedometer right in front of the driver inside the tachometer that you would use for sporty performance. The design of the center-mounted speedometer isn’t that great, either, with lights that go around a circle and a bunch of lights to identify the fuel quantity.

The speedometer dial also has a menu of infotainment options. You can scroll through there with a small knob on the console. There are two buttons for changing audio sources. I feel it can be done much more efficiently and stylishly.

I love the performance of the Countryman. It is a Mini, after all, and has the John Cooper Works “hot rod” package added to it, so the little car gives you the impression that it can do anything and go anywhere. Even with the 6-speed automatic, there’s no lag in getting up to speed. If you want, you can shift into manual mode and use the paddles behind the steering wheel to shift. Mini quotes a 0-60 mph time in the low 6-second range.

There’s a nice sound to the engine through the two huge exhaust pipes. But, the car is also noisy all the time.

Handling is in the Mini “Go-kart” tradition. There’s a fairly long wheelbase of 102.2 inches and an overall length of just 161.8 inches, meaning there’s little overhang on each end. Still, Mini has included four real doors that make rear seat access much easier. There’s also decent legroom in the rear. The four-door design works well with the slightly (than the standard) Countryman.

Four-wheel drive proved very useful in that it gives confidence in heavy rain.

I hate the fuel economy. We averaged more than 28.5 mpg on our test, but with the small engine I would have expected more than 30 mpg, especially with the amount of Interstate driving we did.

I love the comfortable front seats that offer very good side support. They are comfortable for long rides and shorter hops. They have good side support for when the driver wants to play around with the handling. There’s a small arm rest between the seats that is commandeered by the driver.

Rear seat legroom is good. My two grandsons, who did most of the riding back there, didn’t complain.

The rear seat backs fold flat to increase cargo capacity. When I went to the airport to pick up my daughter and son-in-law there was room for all of their luggage as long as I folded up one of the rear seats for seating room. Access to the cargo area through the rear hatch is interesting and similar to Volkswagen’s. Just push the top of the Mini badge and a handle appears to unlock and lift the hatch.

I’m also not a fan of Minis “protected” switches. As with the original, the switches are toggles, but they have metal loops surrounding them to protect anyone who might hit the dash.

Audio performance is good, but you have to use the Mini-supplied cable to connect an iPod. The y-shaped connects to both the USB and AUX outlets.

To start the Mini, you have to insert the key fob into a slot in the dash, then push the start/stop button to fire the engine.

I’m still not sure if I love or hate the Countryman. I guess it’s like jeeps, it’s a Mini thing and I guess I don’t understand.

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