2011 Mini Countryman: Interior Fail
May 25, 2011
In prior years with the regular Mini Cooper, I think I was willing to let a lot of Mini's interior design flourishes slide. After all, it's a sporty little coupe (or convertible), so why not have a little fun? But I'm finding myself growing weary of "quirky" in our Countryman.
I think it's because I'm expecting more out of the Countryman. This is supposed to be the Mini for people who need a real back seat (i.e., car enthusiasts with small families, like me), and that in turn puts a greater emphasis on usability. But there are so many little interior design gaffes that they really reduce my appreciation of the car as a whole.
I've made a list of 10 of them.
1- The oversized and useless speedometer. I'm sure you saw this coming. But what was useful for brand identity back in 2002 just seems like a complete waste of dashboard real estate to me now. If you get the Mini Connect and navigation it's not a complete loss. But the Countryman would be much more appealing if instead of the Mickey Mouse speedo it had a real display screen for the audio and climate controls.
2- Sun visors that don't telescope. This is car design 101, right?
3-The sunshades for the sunroofs that let in too much light.
4- Hard-to-reach secondary controls. It takes a bit of a stretch to reach the lowest controls on the center stack, which includes the door lock switch and the window switches. They'd be a lot easier to use if they were just on the doors.
5- Touchy window switches. Too often the windows act as one-touch up or down when all I want is a couple inches.
6- No off button for the automatic climate control. Hasn't BMW learned by now?
7- The lack of storage space. The rail system is supposed to be versatile. Instead it's more of a nuisance. As such, there's just not many places to put your stuff.
8- Armrest and parking brake interference. If you order the optional armrest and leave it in its lowered position, it gets in the way of pulling the parking brake.
9- Exposed iPod interface. The Countryman isn't the only car to have this issue. Even so, it's annoying to have to disconnect your MP3 player every time you exit the vehicle if you don't want it to be visible to thieves. (Though in my case I've just pushed my iPod off to the side of the rail system, so it's mostly hidden.)
10-The sport button that doesn't stay on.
Now, I'm not saying that Mini should anesthetize Countryman's interior. It just needs to be better thought out. And most of the stuff I listed above could be easily solved.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor