December 21, 2011
November 18, 2011
"Nice car!" That's what my young, bright classmate yelled to me as I waved and called out to her the other night. Yes, our long-term 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman All4 is a nice car. And like Anna, I too love the styling.
But the shifter isn't great. After driving it again for a few days to the LA Auto show I can confirm that it's very rubbery, and also hesistant to engage each slot. Additionally, I don't find the clutch engagement to be smooth, especially when starting from stopped.
These three things combine to make our Countryman difficult to drive smoothly.
Too bad. Otherwise, it's a nice car.
Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 16,500 miles
October 07, 2011
It was just yesterday that I was blabbering on about the new turbocharged four-cylinder in our new Ford Explorer. In that case, the extra juice gives the 2.0-liter engine just enough kick to make it feel perfectly adequate in the big crossover.
Last night, it was a different story, sort of. The tiny 1.6-liter engine in our Countryman S also benefits from a turbocharger, but it has far less mass to move around.
The result? It gives the Countryman S strength beyond its size. I'm not talking about a little spurt that makes it feel zippy, but a wave of torque that allows you to slice through traffic in fifth gear without even thinking. I checked several times too. Third gear? Nope, fifth. Now that's some nice power. Makes the "S" version seem worth it in my book.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com
September 27, 2011
Mini isn't letting up with this whole Manual Up thing, the earlier ads (Manual Up, Stick Happens, Get Your Shift Together, Buy Two Pedals, Get One Free) have now given way to a new Mini sponsored infographic posted on Hunch.
Would you guess that manual drivers are more likely to prefer grapes, raspberries and bananas while automatic drivers are prone to strawberry, cherry and pineapple? Or that manual drivers prefer Richard Pryor while automatic drivers like Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais? Or that manual drivers like the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Face the Nation and NBC Nightly News while automatic drivers like Anderson Cooper 360, Today and The Situation Room?
Or that automatic drivers are 25% more likely to play FarmVille, 38% more likely to not have had access to a car in high school and 12% more likely to be introverts?
Click here to see a lot more random and pointless facts about statistical differences between those who can and those who cannot drive a manual transmission.
May 19, 2011
Scott has already told you that you gotta press the Countryman's Sport button. And I'd like to reiterate that you have to press that Sport button every damn time you get into the car. The same goes for our long-term BMW 5 Series and the rest of Munich's finest with these silly multi drive settings.
I don't know why BMW defaults to normal/lame/annoying mode every time you start the car. I think it has something to do with fuel economy. But if I want Sport disengaged, I'll do the disengaging thank you. Besides, this is a freakin' "Ultimate Driving Machine," or rather the tiny British version of one. Why the hell is defaulting to suck mode?
The flip side of this is Audi. I drove the new A7 last weekend and the thing stayed in Dynamic mode every time I started the car. Apparently, Audi trusts that I really do want to continuously be dynamic with my driving and prefer to keep "Comfort" or normal to the little old ladies who apparently demand it.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 7,095 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
When you drive our long-term 2011 Mini Countryman, you gotta push the Sport button. Or atleast I do. This is nothing new. Our old long-term 2007 Mini Cooper S was the same way.
Pushing the Sport button does three things according to the Countryman's owner's manual:
1) The engine responds more spontaneously to movements of the accelerator.
2) Steering response is more direct.
3) The engine sounds more sporty in coasting mode.
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.
Yes, it's a lot smaller than the way cheaper Kia Sportage or entry-level luxury SUVs that start at our particular tester's elevated price, but as I essentially said in regards to Cruze (yet never before in any other situation), "Size isn't everything."
See, I've known four people who bought Minis and didn't even consider something else. Regardless of whatever logical reasons there were to buy a cheaper, bigger compact car, it just didn't matter. The Mini character appealed to them in a way that only a Mini could, and that was it. It's the same reason I lust after an Aston Martin instead of a 911 Turbo.
Now, imagine how many people were kept from getting that beloved Mini (or were forced to sell it) because they needed to carry a child seat or child, period? They don't need something as big as Sportage, just something with four doors and a good-size back seat. The Countryman now provides that with the styling, character and "go kart handling" that makes a Mini.
Sorry, I think the Countryman makes a lot of a sense and it's indeed worth more than your average compact SUV. Is it worth that much, though? Well no, but then the Cooper shows people will happily pay for Mini's particular brand of character. I know at least four people who'd agree.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor