The Mini cars all have backseats, but legroom back there comes only via the generosity of front-seat occupants. The Clubman has been the roomiest to date, and now the Countryman delivers adequate legroom without demanding a sacrifice from the folks in front. Again, the floor height had my knees raised a bit, but it was plenty comfortable regardless. Using a canvas loop on the inboard side of the seat, you can recline the backrest. The two bucket seats also adjust forward and back to increase cargo space if small passengers, or no passengers, are in a rear seat.
The cargo area is covered by a liftgate, like the Coupe, rather than two opposing side-hinged doors, like the Clubman. The cargo cover is the brand's familiar rigid one, which rises up on strings along with the liftgate. The volume behind the backseat is 12.2 cubic feet, though you can squeeze up to 16.5 cubic feet out of it if you slide the rear seats forward. If you fold those backrests down flat, the maximum volume is 41.0 cubic feet, according to Mini. For comparison, the next-largest Mini, the Clubman, offers minimum and maximum cargo volumes of 9.2 and 32.8 cubic feet, respectively. As the table below reflects, the Countryman's space is on the lower end of comparable small crossovers, greater than the Juke but smaller than the Outlander Sport and others.
2011 Small Crossover Cargo Volume (cu. ft.)
Behind backseat Backseat folded
Nissan Juke 8.9 29.3
Mini Countryman 12.2 - 16.5* 41.0
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 21.7 49.5
Volkswagen Tiguan 23.8 56.1
Nissan Rogue 28.9 57.9
*Volume range reflects sliding backseat.
The Countryman also has decent underfloor space; it's a few inches deep and almost as wide as the cargo floor itself. The rigid floor panel hinges upward and latches in place. It's a handy feature, though it's a challenge to put back down if you have anything in your arms: The release latches are far outboard, requiring two well-spaced hands.
The Interior Design is Mini
Mini's distinctive styling carries into the Countryman. Some of the whimsy remains, but thankfully all the 2011 Minis have black center controls, steering-wheel spokes and door trim, where the earlier years had silver plastic. Mini calls this color "sportier." If "sporty" is a euphemism for "less chintzy," I'll agree. It's a big improvement. Unfortunately, not all the Countrymans (Countrymen?) at the drive event had read the whole memo, because some still had glittery silver-gray plastic around the vents and such. The large oval-shaped trim on the smaller cars' inner door panels now extends from the front to the rear door on either side. It's now a piano-black finish rather than silver-gray.