November 21, 2011
I refueled the Mini Cooper Countryman All4 and found one thing I liked and one thing I didn't. Liked: Fuel door with a handy place to insert the tethered cap (remember when we used to leave caps on top of the gas pump?). Didn't like: the fuel log crammed into the also-mini glove box. The thing is, the map pocket is absolutely ginormous and easily accommodates the steno-pad fuel log, so I'm not entirely clear why it needed to be mangled.
August 31, 2011
Why is the Mini Countryman so expensive? Well, for one, it can be because people are willing to pay a premium for the Mini name and image. However, there's more to it than that. Drive the Countryman or even just close its door, and it immediately feels like a more solidly engineered and sophisticated machine than other compact SUV-ish things. That costs more money to create.
There's another reason as well. The other night I was watching "How It's Made" on Science Channel. In between pretzels and nautical toilets was a segment about car seats. Although they didn't call out the manufacturer, the factory in question was clearly making Mini seats. It was immediately apparent why placing your butt in a Mini may be a tad pricier than something else: the immense variety.
June 07, 2011
This borders on being a gimmick, but if you're geeked up on Minis (as I have been since, oh, about late 2001), the way Mini has done the seatbelt chimes for its model line also borders on being cool. See, they all play the same song, same number of beats -- da-duh, da-duh, or something like that.
But the regular-size Mini Cooper hatch and convertible have a tenor version of the chime to tell you to buckle up; the bigger Mini Clubman has a baritone version of the same song; and the biggest-of-all Mini Countryman has the deepest version of all. 'Round about now, I'm kicking myself for not making videos of the seatbelt warnings in the Cooper and Countryman because I couldn't find any samples on YouTube.
So you'll have to take my word for it if you haven't been in these cars (or maybe you'll have to make fun of me), and enjoy the following sample of our 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman's bassy seatbelt chime.
Why does my opinion of the seatbelt chime matter on the Long-Term Road Test blog? Because each time I hear it, it reminds me that some Mini product planner in Munich has a sense of humor -- and I feel a little bit happier to be in the Countryman and don't mind so much that it's bigger and less entertaining than the Cooper hatch.
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.
May 23, 2011
Over the weekend I took my family (wife, three-year-old, newborn) out of town to relax a bit and have a picnic at local farm that has fun things for kids to do. It seemed like a good test of the Countryman to, well, head out to the country.
I was a bit skeptical at first that the Countryman would work out as we now have the newborn to cart around, and that requires a bulky reverse-facing safety seat. To my surprise, though, the seat fit without much of a problem at all. It was a snug fit when I put it behind the driver seat, but I was pretty much able to keep my ideal driver position (I'm 5-foot, 10-inches). My wife and three-year-old were happy, and the luggage area was perfectly suited for holding our picnic cooler and other assorted items.
For family (of four) day trips like this one, our Countryman is quite suitable.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,571 miles
April 13, 2011
There's a lot of hate being fired at the Countryman. I heard one blow-hardy writer call it the stupidest car he's ever driven. Really? Folks apparently think that because Mini had the audacity to expand its product portfolio with a vehicle more people can use, they've somehow tarnished their brand. Hogwash, I say. The Countryman may be big for a Mini, but it's still properly mini amongst even compact SUVs.
Want proof? Check it out parked behind my wife's Mazda 3. That's a 15-inch difference in length right there. Now, the 3 is actually longer than quite a few compact SUVs -- the Outlander Sport (7 inches), Kia Sportage (2), VW Tiguan (2). Only the Nissan Juke comes close to the Mini with a difference of 14.4 inches, but the fact remains that amongst little crossovers, the Mini is still the miniest.
I'll buy criticisms that it's overpriced and less practical than those aformentioned SUVs (let alone Mazda 3s). But the exact same criticisms could be leveled at the regular Cooper relative compact hatches. I say Mini was quite true to its brand with the Countryman -- in look, in driving demeanor and relative size.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 5,730 miles
April 04, 2011
I just spent a very sunny southern California weekend cooking in our long-term 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4.
As you can see in the photo above, the Mini's sunroof does not have a retractable solid shade. Instead it's retractable shade is perforated fabric. Many cars have this and it usually isn't a problem, but the Mini's shade is too porous.
Too many holes. Or the holes are too big. Whatever. I had the Countryman's air conditioning working overtime to battle the incoming solar rays.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 3,303 miles
March 04, 2011
So the Mini Countryman is really quite expensive. Our long termer is $35,400, which seems pretty hefty given its lack of leather, power seats and navigation.
But then I got to thinking: Just as the Cooper S generally nets a premium over a similarly equipped GTI, how does the Tiguan compare to the Countryman? They're both small European SUVs with turbocharged engines -- seems like an apt comparison.
Well, a fully loaded Tiguan SEL with leather and navi hits the register at $37,390(!) A Countryman would be $36,400, albeit without power seats (why not Mini?). Interesting.
Now, for comparison, a loaded Kia Sportage Turbo goes for $31,990. Hmm, is that Mini character and superior handling worth an extra 5 grand? For further comparison, a comparably equipped Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic would cost $46,370.
I'm not sure what conclusions I can draw from this. Perhaps just that SUVs are getting really freakin' expensive.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
February 18, 2011
The striking thing about the Countryman is that it feels like a genuine Mini to drive. It may be less nimble and a bit slower than the Cooper hatchback, but every control feels as if it were lifted unchanged from its little brother -- the quick turn-in and hefty weighting of its steering; the mechanical clack of every gear change; the distinctive clutch action that takes some acclimation; the distinctive turbo snap of the S engine; and, yes, the firm ride. When people drive the Countryman, I guarantee a good chunk of them will use that trite cliche: "go kart handling."
This is why the Countryman will be a success.