After spending September in the San Francisco bay area with Senior Editor Damon Lavrinc, our long-term 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 moved to southern California during the month of October to serve our esteemed photographer, Drew Phillips. In early November, I handed Drew the keys to our long-term 2011 Jetta TDI and stole the Countryman from his driveway. He hasn't seen it since.

I like the standard Cooper S hardtop. It is fun to toss the little 2,668-pound two-door around and it delivers decent fuel economy. However, after four weeks of living with this maxi-Mini four-door (a whopping 540 pounds heavier), I have come to the conclusion that bigger isn't necessarily better – there is simply too much sugar in this Mini's sweetly flavored drink.

Once I stopped hyperventilating over our test vehicle's $38,000 sticker price, it was time to settle into the cabin and take in the human interface. It's landscape will be very familiar to Mini loyalists but with even more switchgear than its less complex siblings. I was frustrated by the goofy and hard-to-read pizza-sized speedometer, the uselessly shaped cup holders, the confusing array of toggle switches (quick – try to roll down the right rear passenger window without looking) and an odd center rail that does little more than look cool when it glows at night. Want to plug in your smartphone or USB device? Make sure you don't slice its cord with a parking brake handle that does its best to mimic an old paper cutter. Blame sappy Mini cuteness for compromising interior ergonomics.

The Countryman is not a sports car, but there is a "sport" button to perk things up. Oddly, it is ridiculously hidden at the very base of the center stack. I pushed it every time the vehicle was started (of course it doesn't remember its last position) and the steering gets heavy and the throttle response changes – for the better. True, there was a bit of spunk in the Countryman's step, but its harsh suspension combined with heavy 18-inch wheels and stiff runflat tires meant the Mini got very jumpy when the surface wasn't perfectly smooth. A very high center of gravity didn't help matters one bit, either. It was another case of Mini style over function.




The Countryman theoretically satisfies those who need a bit more room. As such, it has a liftgate and a four-passenger cabin with configurable sliding/folding second-row seats. The additional cabin space is well-suited for moderately sized bulky items, but all of my human passengers complained about a lack of side bolstering and uncomfortably stumpy arm rests in the second row. The back seats are also rather flat.

The all-wheel-drive system, rear passenger footwell and necessary cargo space all rob the Countryman's fuel capacity. The tank holds just 12.4 gallons of premium unleaded, which is nearly a gallon smaller than the 13.2-gallon tank on the standard Mini Cooper. Combine that with city fuel economy in the low 20s (my last three full tanks have averaged 23.46, 21.81 and 19.33 mpg) and the Countryman's useful city range with a two gallon reserve is just over 200 miles. This little CUV is definitely a candidate for rail-mounted auxiliary drop tanks.



Our big Mini is being picked up next week for a transport ride to Detroit where it will spent winter in freezing weather. That is probably a good thing, as the snow and ice should make us forget about the cutesy compromises and focus on its competent all-wheel-drive system, gutsy turbocharged engine, strong HID headlights and smoking-hot heated seats.

Let's hope the guys in the Midwest like the Mini, as the Countryman's Kool-Aid was far too syrupy for my tastes.


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  • 32 Comments
      BRKF06
      • 3 Years Ago
      Somebody sucks at the maths. 21.5 MPG X 12.4 gallons = ~267 miles, not a little over 200 miles. 38k sticker is if you opt for every feature available. The center speedo has nothing to do with your real speedo (located directly in front of the steering wheel). There's no reason to ever touch the center speedo. Like all Minis - do not opt for 18s. There's no reason to put 18s on this car (or really any car). Ditch the RFTs and put it on 17s, then you'll get a nice ride, quieter, better handling. FWIW, I stopped by a dealership to take one for a spin. Lame dealership only had automatics. Who in their right mind would by a BMW/Mini product with an automatic?
        Michael Harley
        • 3 Years Ago
        @BRKF06
        On my most recent tank (filled last night) I got 19.33 mpg. The tank is 12.4 gallons, but only about 10.4 of that is really useful (nobody runs a tank dry). So, 10.4 gallons x 19.33 mpg = 201.032 miles per tank. The center speedo is useless when optioned with the NAV. I agree. - Mike
          Michael Harley
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Since the car is being trucked away tomorrow, I just went and filled it up again. I let the pump stop, then I pumped more until it shut off again. Total miles on the odometer since my last fill-up was 42 miles. Total pumped was 2.618 gallons of 91 octane. My math says 16.043 mpg. Now, here is where it really gets odd. I drove home (2.9 miles), shut the Countryman off and unplugged my iPhone. Mini Connected says "Fuel Level 11.6 gallons," even though the gas gauge shows it is completely full. Where is the missing fuel? The team at Edmunds is actually quite bright. They are most likely using their Countryman on the highway a lot more than I am — my month was spent running errands and driving to soccer practice/games, nearly all surface streets (my best tank was 26.42 mpg when I commuted to the LA Auto Show). Infiniti's analog clock rocks. - Mike
          BRKF06
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          1. you gave 3 fillup marks and then made it sound like the average was 200. That's simply not the case. 2. You do know the 12 gallon tank has more space right? You're not running it bone dry. And even if you were...it's not your car. Like a lease, beat it, put it away wet, let the next owner wonder what the issue is. Edmunds is beating on their Countryman All4 and yet they're getting over 24 MPG. If those clowns can get 24 MPG average in LA maybe it's a sign of another problem (maybe a problem between the wheel and seat)? You really have to abuse a 1.6 turbo to get such poor mileage. I beat mine daily in city traffic and still got 30. 3. The center speedo is ALWAYS useless on a cooper. It has no purpose but to create a talking point. Like Infiniti's analog clock, the mini's center speedo is all show.
      woj
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not to beat a dead horse, but Mini really does deserve to get beat up over the gas mileage. My daily driver is a MCS Clubman and I get 35-36 mpg consistently. The silly gas gauge is not linear in it's reading, but is relatively accurate. Mini should have brought over the diesel that is offered in their range of models in other parts of the world. My daughter's Golf TDI has much better functionality and mileage and if they offered 4motion, it would the obvious choice. The RFT do make a racket in my R55 and in my wife's R56, as they did in my former 135i. I had a blow out in my 135i oon a Sunday and was stranded in NJ...$565 and 2 days later I had to drive back to NJ to pickup the car..so much for driving home on a flat. We won't be buying another Mini as it has become a matter of liking certain aspects (size, handling) and hating the associated technical faux pas with no wheel travel leading to world class horrible ride quality, uncomfortable interior, and just plain noisy on the highway from the NVH issues associated in small car with lots of glass, RFT and modest sound insulation. Countryman appears to embody lots of the negatives of a Mini and not much on the positive side of the ledger.
      docfink
      • 3 Years Ago
      I changed to non-RFs and the car is far improved. It's a unique, fun car. It's worth it to me. It fits its niche well and provides utility in the smaller size I need. It's no Land Rover Evoque, but it wasn't available when I got this car a year ago. I actually dig the quirky ergonomics, although I wish the arm rest was longer. Of course it needs more suspension compliance, but otherwise it should be a fun 4 years.
        Michael Harley
        • 3 Years Ago
        @docfink
        I have heard that non-RFT tires make a huge difference in ride quality and handling (so do taller sidewalls). - Mike
      Alexandre
      • 3 Years Ago
      at that price it needs to be more premium. improve nvh. give it atleast jcw power. give a bench-like seat in the back as an option. improve interior quality and ergonomics. It's not that hard. it would be a lot more appealing! the 17 inches on the type of vehicle seems to be the way to go.
      Done Deal DR
      • 3 Years Ago
      I cross shopped this with our Nissan Juke. There is simply no way I could opt for this over the Juke since it is so absurdly more expensive. Say what you will about the exterior (and I know people will), but I'd rather take better driving dynamics for 13K less with a controversial exterior. It's not to say I dislike this, it's just overpriced by 10k.
        Dayv
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Done Deal DR
        Coincidentally, the autoblog test car has 10k of options added.
      Spartan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wife and I test drove this car, and for the life of me, I don't understand what people see in these cars. It drove well, but the interior was complete utter crap for the amount of $ they charge for it. And they could at least give you a power seat for that kinda coin.
        Justin Campanale
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spartan
        Mini interiors are tacky looking, but they are actually very high quality.
          Spartan
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Justin Campanale
          High quality compared to what? Hard plastic, uncomfortable seats, and for $38k you shouldn't have to slide your own seat up in a crossover, especially the driver seat. The same argument is said of BMWs. "The materials are nice but the layout looks old fashioned and spartan". Yeah, you still have to look at it.
      Dayv
      • 3 Years Ago
      You guys need to stop harping on the price every time. You added just about every option they offer on an a la carte designed car. You can get a Cooper hardtop a few thousand shy of 38k with the same options, or a JCW one even higher.
      buckhorn
      • 3 Years Ago
      Look at that angry scowl! Grrrrrrr! Those twin racing stripes and flared wheels arches saying, Wanna Race?! OK, Mini, enough already.
      yayMX5
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Our big Mini is being picked up next week for a transport ride to Detroit where it will spent winter in freezing weather." I hope you like squeaks and rattles. The countryman is an orchestra-gone-wrong of annoying noises in cold weather.
      Jake
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have really wanted to like this vehicle as I have a couple of kids, but it just seems like they got so many things wrong on this vehicle that it is tough to forgive it all. I keep looking forward to the Focus SVT instead. Not exactly the same type of vehicle but...
      tgoldenvoy
      • 3 Years Ago
      two thumbs up for the mini countryman, i drove one and ordered one. btw, this section is heavily biased against...go to northamericanmotoring.com and read the heavily biased for. so in the end, test drive one and if it fits your budget and needs, buy one and if not, dont. you can get a countryman for mid 20ks....dont let this article or haters prejudice your feeling about this vehicle,
      Jay
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've always felt like Mini was simply trying to attract "practical" buyers with this car to increase it's profits, rightfully so. But it's big, soft, and a bit lethargic. Hardly has any Mini DNA. If I was in the market for a Mini with more space I'd just get a Clubman.
        BRKF06
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jay
        When my son was born I dropped my Cooper S and tried a Clubman S. It had more room but the 3 door arrangement didn't improve the biggest issue: getting to a babyseat easily. The Countryman is aimed at small families as it offers the one thing the mini lacks - 4 doors.
          tump
          • 3 Years Ago
          @BRKF06
          Nobody wants a damned minivan. They're also too big.
          desinerd1
          • 3 Years Ago
          @BRKF06
          I think a minivan is better suited for your situation.
          desinerd1
          • 3 Years Ago
          @BRKF06
          I think a minivan is better suited for your situation and they are cheaper too.
          axiomatik
          • 3 Years Ago
          @BRKF06
          @desinerd1 - No one with only 1 or 2 kids needs a minivan. @You guy - If it has 4 doors, why not?
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