Bottom line: This isn’t the least-expensive compact all-wheel-drive wagon available, or the most practical. Look to the Ford Escape, Fiat 500L, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Juke for those attributes. But none rivals the BMW-sponsored Mini in sheer driving pleasure. Few beat its performance in the mush. Life is about trade-offs. Choose.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Ride is good to very good, depending on road surfaces. Handling easily is among the best in the small-car segment.
Acceleration: Ha! Forgive me for gloating. But, dear Dodge Charger driver on I-87, how’s that traffic ticket fitting in your bank account?
Head-turning quotient: A nonconformist’s delight. No small wagon looks as good. None is as distinctive.
Body style/layout: This is a compact, front-engine, all-wheel-drive family wagon with four side doors and a rear hatch. Distinguish between the base Countryman model, the S All4 and the John Cooper Works All4. The latter is more fun — and more expensive.
Complaint: Can someone at BMW tell me why a car this costly comes without a standard backup camera?
Engine/transmission: The Countryman S All4 with John Cooper options, driven for this column, comes with a turbocharged (forced air) 1.6-liter, 16-valve direct-injection in-line four-cylinder gasoline with variable valve timing. It is linked to a standard six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with manual capability is available.
Capacities: Seats five adults. Maximum cargo with rear seats folded is 42.2 cubic feet. Fuel tank holds 12.4 gallons of gas (premium grade is recommended).
Real-world mileage: Carrying two adults and a bit more than 200 pounds of cargo, it was 23 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front disc brakes and solid rear discs, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, electronic brake-force distribution, stability and traction control, and rear parking-distance monitoring.
Pricing: Beware of options and make sure you are getting the model desired. BMW/Mini options can be confusing . . . and expensive. The Countryman S All4 driven for this column had a base price of $27,400 with a dealer’s invoice price of $25,210. Price as tested was $37,695, including $8,500 in mostly John Cooper Works options and a $795 factory-to-dealer transportation charge.