2011 Mini Countryman
2011 Mini Cooper Countryman. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2011 Mini Countryman

Clearly, the base 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman is not targeting my demographic. This pricey Mini with glandular issues just made me kinda grumpy. Conversely, my 13 year-old daughter and her two friends, whom I drive to school every day, were over the moon for this Surf Blue box of whimsy.

“It’s soooo cute!”

“Every thing in here is, like, oh my gawd, round!”

“Look at the speedometer. It’s huge!”

“The cup holders, they slide!”

And so it went. The Countryman inspired them to roll down the windows and wave to strangers. They were so, like, happy. So why am I so, like, grumpy?

2011 Mini Countryman
2011 Mini Countryman
2011 Mini Cooper Countryman. Click image to enlarge

Maybe because I’m quite fond of the regular Mini Cooper hatchback, and admire BMW for capturing the spirit of the original (one of which I owned as a youth) in a thoroughly modern car. Maybe because this four-seat not-so-mini Mini crossover is a bit too style over substance for my tastes.

First and foremost, Minis should be fun to drive. In base Cooper trim with six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed auto with paddles costs $1,490), and carrying a not insubstantial MSRP of $27,850 ($32,150 as tested), the Countryman falls flat.

Coopers across the 2011 Mini line-up see a bump in output from the sweet running and economical 1.6-litre four, going from 118 to 122 hp, and 114 to 118 lb.-ft. This mill is perky in the 1,150 kg Cooper hatchback, but throw another 190 kg (419 lbs) into the mix and it loses its sparkle. The engine labours under acceleration, and with four adults aboard, the poor Cooper Countryman is more impedance than conveyance.

2011 Mini Countryman
2011 Mini Cooper Countryman. Click image to enlarge

While the ride is considerably smoother than that of the hatch, handling suffers due to the extra weight and higher centre of gravity. Granted, the steering is classic Mini, sharp and well weighted, but the rest of the car just doesn’t want to play along. It tips and understeers if driven with any vigour. So un-Mini-like.

Inside, visual treats abound. Those hip to Mini-ness will feel right at home here – the frisbee-sized central speedo and row of funky toggle switches are all cues taken from the original car, blown up here to Fisher Price proportions. Running the full length of the cabin between the seats is a funky track on which things like cup holders, armrests and sunglass cases can slide.

Cool or cartoonish? Your call.

Build quality is pretty good, although some of the plastic trim bits feel hard and cheap, and a persistent rattle from somewhere in the headliner made me… grumpy.

In the plus ledger, the four “leatherette” bucket seats are comfortable and there is plenty of headroom, elbowroom and legroom for all. I loved the optional double sunroof. Cargo space behind the rear seats is limited, although the seats easily fold down, opening up 1,170 litres.

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