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.
On 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.
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