April was a busy month for the long-term 2011 Mini Countryman, with over 2,500 miles added to the odometer and a heaping helping of people and things passing through its doors. When I picked up the Countryman, I was impressed by the fact that all four of its winter tires were neatly stowed behind the front seats. However, the biggest of Mini models didn't fare so well when the rear seats were occupied.

Mini CountrymanOn a shopping day with the kids, a relatively small amount of goods proved to be far too much for the Countryman's diminutive trunk. As a result, I had no choice but to disperse boxes at the feet of my wife and kids, which was a decidedly unpopular move (don't let the smiles fool you). The kids didn't love the lack of roominess, but I can assure you that my 2,500 miles were mostly enjoyable.

I got a huge kick out of the Countryman's spirited handling, even though I didn't find our long-termer to have the same go-kart-like demeanor of its smaller siblings. The good news, however, was that I was able to average 26 miles per gallon during my month with the Mini, with a high of 30 mpg and a very entertaining low of just over 20 mpg. But don't blame the Countryman for that 20 mpg number – that tank of gas was all about exploring the performance limits of our smallest long-term loaner. And even so, my own average fuel economy is higher than the dismal numbers that Editor Ewing brought up in last month's update.

One thing I didn't like about the Countryman was a sometimes jarring ride, which we've attributed, in part, to the dreaded run-flat tires. The throttle was also a bit odd, as the first few degrees of pedal travel felt a bit dead. It took a few days to get used to it, and it helps to always drive in Sport mode.

The Countryman did require a non-scheduled trip to the dealership during its month in my hands. After just a few days with the car, I noticed that the fan kicked on at full blast every time I turned on the car. I didn't think much of it at first, until I came back outside one day and discovered that the fan was still on after about 10 minutes of the vehicle being turned off. The 'check engine' light illuminated the very next day, so off to Motor City Mini we went. As it turned out, the engine's thermometer was on the fritz, and the dealer replaced the part under warranty. That one issue aside, we've enjoyed nearly 15,000 miles of carefree Mini motoring.

Our Mini will spend the month of May shuffling between a number of staffers, with a few road trips planned as warmer weather starts to grace southeast Michigan. Stay tuned to see how the Countryman fares.

Keep your eyes locked on the official Autoblog Facebook page for the majority of our updates, as well as the official Autoblog Twitter account (@therealautoblog, look for the #ablongterm hashtag).


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  • 41 Comments
      Making11s
      • 2 Years Ago
      I still fail to see the purpose of this vehicle. Is this what you buy when a real Mini is too small but you insist on having something that looks like that? Also, why do they all say Cooper on the back? Surely they can get the word Countryman in the same font.
        nettsu
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Making11s
        The purpose is to give people with families who have previously owned a Mini something to step up into to stay in the brand. Mini was finding that a lot of people once they had kids were moving away from Mini into other brands because the current range of products (hatch, cabriolet, clubman) didn't fit people's needs. Cooper is a model designation like say the 20i on BMWs - that's all. That's why every model in the Mini range has a Cooper, Cooper S, JCW, Cooper D, Cooper SD (in those markets where the diesels are available). The Mini's are recognisable enough without having to have Mini Countryman Cooper... (and that's a question I asked my local salesperson as I was curious about it too) but it's related in part to the BMW naming convention as a 3series is a 3series. It's not a 320i sedan, or a 320i coupe or a 320i convertible.
          Snark
          • 2 Years Ago
          @nettsu
          Why is that so odd? Mini is more that just size. They're reasonably stylish, quite utilitarian, offer excellent handling, and have excellent resale value. That's what I'm attracted to the brand for; it doesn't need to be a titchy little hatch to satisfy my desire for the brand's attributes. I know you're on a smug trip, so this will probably continue to confuse you, but the Mini brand can easily accommodate something that's only the size of a Honda Fit.
          Making11s
          • 2 Years Ago
          @nettsu
          Thanks for the info. It's odd to me that people insist on having a Mini when they need something larger, but to each his own. Label whoring is nothing new. As for the naming, that actually makes it worse. With a 3-Series there is also a 5- and 7-Series. The Cooper hatch is the only one that should be a Cooper. Mini Roadster, Mini Coupe, Mini Clubman, Mini Countryman... They're all fine, recognizable names that are already simple enough to remember.
      Wetstuff
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just keep your piggybank full when you buy these.. AUTOMOBILE mag had to replace a clutch on their 4WD model at something like 15k ... How much?! Sitting down: $3,000. Jim
        Snaisa
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Wetstuff
        My car guy looked up the labor for a clutch on a 2 dr Mini Cooper, and he said something like 15 hours worth for an estimate. Both shocked.
      jayss2k07
      • 2 Years Ago
      I haven't driven this model, but the MINI that I did drive had a very cheap interior with a lot of brittle plastic on the instrument surrounds. For my money, I'd get a Golf TDI or a GTI and enjoy the nicer interior and in my opinion the better ride quality.
        Snaisa
        • 2 Years Ago
        @jayss2k07
        My Cooper S (the normal flavor) has been with me since 2008 and my patience for its impracticality is running a bit thin. Now I'm looking for something with even better gas mileage (I get 30 combined), larger cargo, better ride quality, and nicer ergonomics. I read about that article of VW/Audi building a cheaper & stronger chassis for their future cars and that's when I thought that I need to wait 2 years for the new 2014 Golf TDI to come out. Well ideally, I'd love for a car company to produce an offspring between a Mazda CX5, Golf TDI, and Mini Countryman. I like the relative size of the CX5, the clean turbo diesel in the TDI and VW's interior & ergonomics, and Mini's legendary handling. So much to ask for. Though my Cooper S is fun, that's all it is.
      JD
      • 2 Years Ago
      i went to test drive one, and it sounded cheap when shutting the doors... rattled the whole interior which was a big turn off
      MacProMan
      • 2 Years Ago
      Complaining over the size of the Countryman, really? It's a MINI! How could it drive like the smaller Hardtop, physically impossible, so, really?
      Justin Campanale
      • 2 Years Ago
      I completely disagree with this reiew. My Countryman is a very spacious vehicle. In fact I don't even use my station wagon (Magnum SRT8) anymore to transport my kids and their extracurricular activity equipment.
        Al Terego
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Justin Campanale
        Just look all that room! In the picture with the kids, there are groceries in the foot-wells. Now that there is roominess.
        Fun Bus
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Justin Campanale
        OH I guess the independent reviewer was wrong then. The moron who bought one of these must know better, or is just desperate to defend the stupidest purchase sine his Magnum. TOP TIP, when you are in a hole stop digging.
      Shiftright
      • 2 Years Ago
      Uh, it's a 'thermostat' not a 'thermometer'. You call yourselves auto journalists?
        rem
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Shiftright
        Based on the description, it was actually probably a temp sender, not the thermostat. A temp sender is technically a 'thermometer' although that's not the most accurate term to use.
      razorpit
      • 2 Years Ago
      Man, I know I'm going to stir the trolls but I have to ask. With the noted dismal fuel economy and lack of storage space what are the advantages of one of these over a Tiguan? I'm genuinely asking people who have either test drove both and/or owns one or the other.
        torqued
        • 2 Years Ago
        @razorpit
        The Tiguan is a legit competitor. This is why we chose the Mini: My wife likes the way it looks and so do I. Obviously this is subjective. Both offer car-like rides, but the Mini is more engaging / fun and handled better. I was only willing to look at manual transmissions. Mini lets you get AWD + manual. VW offers AWD, but only in Auto. The Tiguan gets terrible gas mileage. Tiguan (FWD) = 18/26, Mini (AWD) = 25/31. Even if some reviewers see variations in that (which has EVERYTHING to do with how you drive it. EPA estimates aren't perfect, but they're a lot better than one-off anecdotal experience.) the Mini wins that battle hands down - even with the AWD penalty! The Tiguan does come in a bit cheaper. Depending on options, it's probably about $1000-2000 cheaper. The Tiguan has a little more room in the truck, but less leg room in the back seats.
        Al Terego
        • 2 Years Ago
        @razorpit
        Your poseur level goes up by 1000. Other than that, .............
        MacProMan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @razorpit
        VW does not have the driving dynamics of a sports oriented Countryman nor the better reliability of the MINI brand versus VW's ratings, not to mention the styling (REAL free maintenance). That's my $.02
          torqued
          • 2 Years Ago
          @MacProMan
          @Baylok - If maintenance isn't free, then it's included in the price. So you get more for your money from the Mini.
          Baylok
          • 2 Years Ago
          @MacProMan
          Uh, the is no such thing as FREE maintenance. The cake is a lie!
        Snark
        • 2 Years Ago
        @razorpit
        The Tiguan is really no more utilitarian, despite its poorer fuel economy and larger footprint.
        Snark
        • 2 Years Ago
        @razorpit
        The Tiguan is painfully bland and gets crappy fuel economy. If I'm going to deal with small size and lack of storage space, it better be stylish and/or efficient.
        JonZeke
        • 2 Years Ago
        @razorpit
        Tiguan is a pretty decent compact crossover, that said we chose the Mini because it feels better in both driving and usage. There's a real heft to the controls ala BMW, which the Tiguan lacks. Not to say that it isn't a decent quality piece, its just that the Tiguan felt more like a German Hyundai than a upscale compact. In driving the Mini is worlds more fun, with an ability to hustle that would humiliate a hard-driven Tiguan. They claim the VW is a GTI on stilts - in my experience that is a dubious claim. I did however suprise the bejesus out of an e90 BMW M3 driver with my Countryman chasing him down on a twisty road! Of course when the road went straight he was gone, but every corner I reeled him in. Impressive stuff for what is ostensibly a tall, FWD BMW hatchback. Utility wise? We got stuck with the center rail in the Mini - score a win for VW utility. There seemed to be more oddment storage in the Tiguan up front, but I haven't lived with one for long enough to be certain. Trunk space is limited in the Mini, but the Tiguan isn't much different than a GTI/golf. Seating positions are similar, though I think the Tiguan has better outward visibility than the admittedly pill-box-esque Mini. Buy the Mini for the character, funky engineering, fun-to-drive... buy the Tiguan if 3-across rear seating is critical.
          Snaisa
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JonZeke
          I thought the rear bench seat is supposed to be an option for September 2011? I guess it will never be? I looked at a Countryman while I brought in my Cooper S for service. As soon as I opened the rear doors, the space wasn't very appealing. Would you say it's like a Clubman on stilts?
          razorpit
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JonZeke
          Thanks Jon for a non bashing review. That's extremely rare around these parts... ;-)
      Snark
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't wait for an OEM that has adequate control over their supplier quality to take a crack at the Countryman formula. I don't want a CR-V size mom van like the CX-5, though that's getting close, and the Sportage has a lot of style but rides and handles poorly. The Tiguan is another close call, but its fuel economy is crap for the class and it's stylistically undistinguished. I just want a small AWD crossover with some style, enough room for camping gear for two, a reasonably affordable MSRP, decent fuel economy and power, and a great ride and handling balance.
      Schobz
      • 2 Years Ago
      For those who can't afford it. Would you even consider the non-turbo?
        nettsu
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Schobz
        the non-turbo is fine actually - I drove both the ALL4 Cooper S and the base model Cooper. The base model Cooper did just fine! It's zippy enough and there is (here in Australia at least a substantial price difference between the two).
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