The last time we updated you on our long-term 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4, it was in Northern California with senior editor Lavrinc. Since then, we've driving the car down to Southern California, although not before it served as our mode of transportation for the Rennsport Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We've also taken a trip to Phoenix to check out the Local Motors Rally Fighter (look for a feature soon), and driven the Countryman plenty around Los Angeles, doubling our car's mileage in the process. Thanks to a majority of those miles being on the freeway, we've averaged a solid 27.39 mpg, a number that falls right in line with the official rating of 25/31. Our best stint was 29.3 mpg, all freeway miles, coming back from Phoenix.

If anything, spending spending five-plus hours in the Countryman at once has revealed some new likes and dislikes. Follow the jump to read more about them and what life is like for the Countryman in Southern California.
2011 Mini Countryman side view2011 Mini Countryman front view2011 Mini Countryman rear view

Like all Mini models, there's no doubt that the interior of our Countryman takes some getting used to. We still haven't found a use for the analog speedometer in the Mickey Mouse center stack, as we generally use the small digital readout below the column-mounted tach to get a reading on our speed. At least the circle serves another purpose, housing the Mini Connected infotainment. Thankfully, being able to spend more than a few days in the car has allowed us to get used to placement for the many switches and buttons.

One aspect of the Countryman that we've grown to love are the seats. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, they're incredibly comfortable and provide excellent support. It's something that we've appreciated on our long trips, and a stark contrast to the unlikable buckets in our long-term 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The materials look like they will last for the long term, too.

2011 Mini Countryman audio system display2011 Mini Countryman tachometer2011 Mini Countryman instrument panel2011 Mini Countryman front seats

That's not to say we haven't had interior complaints. For some reason, the cupholders aren't large enough to fit a standard 20-ounce bottle. The cable provided by Mini to connect an Apple iPhone or iPod doesn't connect well, and either comes out too easily or sticks and doesn't want to be removed at all. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but during our five-hour trip home from Monterey, the cord would disconnect over slight bumps in the road. Having to reconnect our device more than a dozen times during trip was utterly maddening. We would have gladly used the standard iPhone cord, but the Countryman requires a separate connection for audio in addition to the USB cord.

Another complaint for longer trips is the Countryman's 12.4 gallon fuel tank. Mini states that owners will be able to get 384 miles to the tank, but we generally were able to squeak out just over 300 if we racking up freeway miles and pushing the fuel gauge to right at zero. With the Countryman averaging more like 24-25 mpg in a mix of street and city driving, that equates to more like 275 miles per tank. Granted, we put quite a few miles on the car during the last few weeks, but it felt like we were filling up every other day.

2011 Mini Countryman iPhone connection2011 Mini Countryman cup holders

Given it's a Mini, it's hard to complain about the size of the hatch, although our mix of luggage and photo gear filled up the 16.5 cubic feet fairly quickly. That's nearly twice the cargo space of the Clubman, though, and if we really need more space the rear seats fold down for a total of 41.3 cubic feet.

Cargo room in mind, the redeeming factor of the Countryman continues to be how fun it is to drive. The turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four is a gem of an engine and the 181 horsepower and 177 lb-ft torque on tap provides plenty of fun no matter what the driving situation. The six-speed gearbox is a joy and we can't imagine letting the car do the gear swapping for us. The suspension is firm, although not too stiff, and the Sport button actually makes a difference, firming up the steering effort considerably. Since we've mostly been on the freeway the past few weeks, we've left it off for the most part, but wouldn't hesitate to press the button if a twisty mountain road came our way.

2011 Mini Countryman rear cargo area2011 Mini Countryman engine

Editor Lavrinc' assessment of the finicky clutch is spot-on, as we've stalled the Countryman several times. The AWD driveline bogs down the engine easily, and at least 2000 rpm are required to get things going even on a slight incline. We've become used to feeding in a little more throttle from a standing start, though, and it has become less and less of an issue. Being in Southern California, we'd much rather have the standard FWD Countryman, but we're sure the AWD system will come in handy when the car heads East.

Michael Harley will bring his perspective of the Countryman next month. Until then, be sure to check out all of the car's neat details in our new California sun-soaked photo gallery.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 16 Comments
      JW
      • 3 Years Ago
      You should have gone with the Surf Blue.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      desinerd1
      • 3 Years Ago
      I was looking at the reliability chart on CR website and noticed that Mini ranks below BMW in reliability and BMW ranks below industry average.
      woj
      • 3 Years Ago
      I just don't see the appeal of this vehicle. My Mini Clubman S gets 35-37 mpg consistently on combined driving and when the weather turns to snow/ice, I take out my 2011 A4 (2.0T, 6 spd man, quattro) and get 31-32 mpg consistently. Asking the motor from my Clubman to haul around a heavy vehicle makes for poor mileage and not so much fun driving. Why get lousy mileage from an impracticle vehicle when there are so many decent other choices out there. Mini should stick to small cars and not push their luck...
        chadnola
        • 3 Years Ago
        @woj
        Mine is FWD and gets 29 in mixed city/high speed highway. I think that's pretty good for a vehicle of this size.
        Snark
        • 3 Years Ago
        @woj
        It's no less practical than any other five-door hatch - do you also consider the Golf, Mazda3, Fit, or Yaris "impractical?" Of course not. It's not as practical as a midsize A4 wagon, simply because it naturally has less space, but it's a boxy hatch with plenty of interior room. Also, your uninformed suppositions don't hold water. It's very fun to drive, and in my extended test drive I got a solid 30mpg at 70mph on the highway. And that was at high altitude.
        Dar
        • 3 Years Ago
        @woj
        That's great if you can afford two vehicles.
      JonZeke
      • 3 Years Ago
      A buddy of mine has one, an ALL4 in white with the smaller wheels and auto. Great car! He also takes issue with the speedometer, ipod connection, and small fuel tank. I wish they'd make a version with better interior design and a larger tank and badge it as a BMW or something. It's almost there for me as it is.
        George
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JonZeke
        They do. It's called the X1, just not available stateside yet.
      You guy
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wonder if this one will catch fire...
      chadnola
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have two MINIs, one Cooper S and one Countryman S. They are both great. The Countryman is an absolute hoot to drive!! It is so much fun. Never would I expect a car this size to be so much fun. It's like it can be all grown when need be, but quickly takes the shirt and tie off becomes a fun little street racer. The tiny bit of turbo lag just makes it take off like a rocket. Super smooth shifter, easy to handle, and an overall joy to be in. The gas tank could be bigger. The interior could use more storage. But no car is perfect. This one however, leaves a smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel.
      chadnola
      • 3 Years Ago
      There are little things in this car as in all MINIs as well. Things such as hill assist with the manual transmission. It holds the brake for a few seconds if you're on an incline when letting out the clutch. Don't realize it's there until you need it. Nice surprise. Smart little things as well like slowing the wipers down when you're stopped. Or when going in reverse, turning the rear wiper on to a constant speed versus intermittent. Just little small touches like that make these cars even better. I give it to the Germans...they know how to engineer a machine!!
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