The Mini Cooper S Countryman has a 181-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that uses premium gas. According to the EPA, my all-wheel-drive test car with an automatic transmission gets 23/30 mpg city/highway. For better gas mileage, a front-wheel-drive turbo Countryman with a six-speed manual transmission gets 25/35 mpg.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair-Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
Despite its larger size, the Countryman would have struggled to fit now-Duchess Catherine's wedding gown in it. So, let's be clear: The Mini Cooper S Countryman is still a Mini. It won't comfortably take your family car camping, but it can be used to run errands and take shorter road trips.
One thing any family should know about the Countryman is the rear seats are buckets. There are only two seats and that's it, thank you very much. It's not that big of a loss, though, because many smaller cars only tease with the middle-seat position that can't fit a child-safety seat or a larger child.
The Countryman will get rave reviews from the kids once they're in it. My kids each had their own seat and cupholder. The rear bucket seats are separated by a rail that runs the length of the crossover, ending where the gearshift is housed. The center rail system holds all manner of Mini accessories. Two cupholders, a sunglasses case, which we had to move to the backseat's rail, and an iPod holder are standard. The rail and its accessories were simultaneously fun and a pain in the neck. The iPod holder wouldn't fit in the front part of the rail because of the gearshift, emergency brake handle and armrest took up a good portion of the space up there. This was frustrating, and I was surprised such a messy system wound up in the Countryman. In addition, the rail presented a minor problem in the pick-up/drop-off lane at school. The kids can only get in on one side of the car, so one kid has to climb over the rail and any accessories attached to it. Mine perfected the hurdle, but yours may have issues. For those parents not wishing to subject their kids to the hurdle, a two-piece center rail can be had at no additional cost.
We all liked the dual-panel sunroof configuration, which would justify the need for a sunglasses holder in the backseat. Both the front and rear panels tilt open, but only the front panel slides back. It would be great for William and Harry to look out of or more suitably, for their admirers to look into.
All the fun details like the huge speedometer and toggle switches with bumpers that make a Mini a Mini are present and accounted for in the Countryman. The speedometer allows everyone to see how fast you're going because it is located in the center of the dash, not as part of the instrument cluster in front of the steering wheel. That's fine, because the Countryman is small enough that everyone can see everything you're doing anyway. My husband thought the speedometer combined with the round vents on either side of it looked like Mickey Mouse. I thanked him for ruining the display for me, and now you can too.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2011 Countryman has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This means the Countryman received the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact, rear and roof-strength crash tests conducted by IIHS. To receive the safety nod, it also must have an electronic stability system, which is standard on the Countryman. What a good thing to know, especially if your teen driver is a candidate for the Countryman.
With its bucket rear seats that feature large seat bolsters, I feared my kids' booster seats wouldn't fit properly, but I worried needlessly. The bolsters didn't get in the way of the child-safety seats, which is a bonus to what was likely designed to be a comfort feature for rear passengers. My kids' boosters fit great and the seat belt buckles were easy for them to use. The two sets of lower Latch anchors are easy to locate and access. The two tether anchors on the rear seatbacks are easily found.
I was able to fit a rear-facing infant-safety seat in the Countryman, though to do so I scooted the driver's seat up as far as it would go. Because of the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel I was able to sit pretty comfortably in this position, but you will definitely want to try this for yourself.
The Countryman also has standard front-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control and six airbags, including curtains for both rows. Optional safety features include xenon headlights, adaptive headlights, rear parking sensors and all-wheel drive.
[KickingTires Highlights (