2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 new car reviews

Feel the need to leave the road? The MINI Countryman can be ordered with all-wheel drive.
Big enough to hold a bicycle.

Better than: MINI Coper Countryman
But not as good as: MINI Cooper S
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 67.83

Just like the original MINI Cooper, the new Countryman variant is available in more than one flavor: turbo, no turbo, all-wheel drive, two-wheel drive, etc., etc. In addition to the base car, we also spent some time with the Cooper S Countryman ALL4, which is pretty much the fully loaded model. It adds all-wheel drive and a turbocharger.

Fully loaded also means fully priced, as our test car's suggested retail price came mighty close to $35,000. Technically the final tally was $34,900 thanks to $8000 in options, including $750 for the Cold Weather Package, $1750 for the panoramic sunroof-adding Premium Package, and another $1250 for the Steptronic automatic transmission. Even the cargo net was $250.

Other staff views

Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar

It's a bigger, heavier MINI Cooper with an entirely unnecessary all-wheel drive system. Unlike the standard Countryman, the S version at least has the grunt to move this still-smaller-than-a-Mazda-3 beast with some alacrity, but our paddle-shifted version did so with no aural authority. It's supremely disappointing that a car dubbed sporty sounds so much like a vacuum cleaner.

MINI continues to develop its cute interior's cuteness to the point where they're compromising its utility. Sliding cup holders on a rail that runs up the center of the car? Cool. Forgoing a third rear seat and the ability to slide over for such a marginally useful feature? Let's just say your city-dwelling buddies won't appreciate having to dodge traffic when they have to climb in the driver's side as much as they'll appreciate having two distinct rear buckets. It is comfortably roomy for rear-seat passengers though, and having rear doors certainly helps. The regular Cooper's rear seat is a chore to get into.

What's more, though it's so small, it passes my test of basic utility--a test a certain much-pricier urban-chicmobile fails. I can, without significant effort or difficulty, fit a bicycle in the trunk with both wheels still attached. It's a cute ute you can use.

One minor gripe: I hate the way the turn signal functions. Instead of locking into an up or down position as it ticks away and returning to center when it's disabled, it returns to center all the time regardless of whether it's still ticking. Owners will no doubt get used to it over time. But the fact that a huge speedometer is so admittedly useless that a redundant digital speedo is installed directly in front of the driver? That will always bother me.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

This one definitely puts form ahead of function. Sure, it looks cool and has those details that have made MINIs so darn popular, but in this case it feels more like window dressing than good, solid design. The interior, for example, looks neat, but much of it had a somewhat cheap, flimsy feel. I know we're not a cup holder magazine, but the ones in the Countryman felt like they were good for a season or two. I just don't see this one aging like a Lexus.

The turbo engine works well, though, and I can see the non-turbo one being a stone. Just do the math on that one. To be honest, I'm surprised you can even order something this big with so little horsepower. Pulling out into traffic with a full house must be a pants-filling experience.

Some final thoughts: We first saw this one in Japan, and it did look tough on the right wheels and dressed in all black. Not sure I could drive around in our test car, though. For one, at $35k there's no way I could justify it. I could do a top-of-the-line Forester for less.

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