Something a little different perhaps? This week I’m testing the 2015 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4, a small car that has a large name and is the largest car in the Mini lineup of vehicles. Supposedly Mini’s “SUV” because that is the most popular segment of vehicle, this Mini really is just a slightly upsized Mini Cooper.
But that’s cool right? Some people want a Mini Cooper that has a little more ground clearance so they can pretend to be adventurous. But really the appeal here is the four doors, which make this Mini much easier to live with for the average family, or even a single person with friends. Of course I now wonder if the all-new five-door Mini eliminates this vehicle or not. I suspect that like the Subaru XV Crosstrek, they may sell more lifted Mini Coopers than lowered ones.
This model is only available in “S” or “JCW” form and comes standard with all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. The automatic transmission can be added for $1,300 and my tester is so equipped. The engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant that offers 181-horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque — it doesn’t feel like that many though, but more on that later — the JCW version adds 27 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque. Both versions also have an overboost feature that creates more power for short bursts, an added 15 lb-ft of torque.
The Countryman All4 starts at just under $30,000 but expect to pay around $35,000 out the door even for the least expensive version. Mini does let you customize your vehicle very specifically for your tastes and if you are not careful you could come out with a $40,000 or more Mini when you leave the dealership. My tester is equipped with some of the more popular features and packages and comes in at close to $37,000 before taxes.
Pricing: 2015 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4
Base price: $29,950
Options: Essentials Package ($1,400), Loaded Package ($1,100), Wired Package ($1,400), Automatic Transmission ($1,300), Black Headlights ($100), Anthracite Roofliner ($180), Front Window Electric Defrost ($190), Park Distance Control ($500), Metallic Paint ($590)
A/C Tax: $100
Price As Tested: $36,710
Sigh… my Mini SUV could not fit my curling broom in the trunk today – and this is the new broom that is slightly shorter and with a flexible head that I got for Christmas. The Cooper S Countryman is still a very small car, getting into it this morning I took a moment (a very brief one as the temperature was -35 with the wind chill) to size up the Mini.
Looking at it side by side with a “regular” Mini it certainly is larger, but it is not so much so in any one dimension. As a result it does not look any larger than a “regular” Mini if you do not have that context to compare it to. Next to my SUV it’s an absolutely tiny little car and the curling broom fiasco this morning proved that to me.
That said, the Countryman is still comfortable inside for four passengers. The trunk space is where most of the leg room for the second row was stolen from, similar to the Fiat 500L, which has a rather small cargo area. The deep well in the Countryman does allow you to pile bags if needed.
The ergonomics and controls are the same as the rest of the Mini line, a little quirky, but you get used to them after a while. The system is intuitive and easy to use and the navigation screen goes completely black if you disable it, which I tend to do on dark nights.
The speedometer in the centre of the dash has really just turned into a novelty as it is difficult to read in its current form. I’ve been relying solely on the digital display inside the tachometer directly in front of the steering wheel. One thing is certain: the Countryman is pure Mini and despite its larger dimensions still feels nimble and small like every other Mini I have ever driven.
So how does this slightly larger Mini actually drive? I’ve noticed some interesting characteristics and most of them are positive, with the only negative the lack of oomph in non-sport mode. That’s right I said lack of oomph. The Countryman Cooper S feels downright lethargic in its regular mode; it does not want to move and even once up to speed the vehicle will slow quickly without liberal application of throttle.
In Sport mode the car is faster, that’s for sure. The transmission shifts quicker and is less eager to upshift for fuel savings and the throttle is noticeably sharper. The paddles provide super-quick up and down shifts, almost as fast as a dual-clutch transmission in sport mode, in normal mode it lazily changes gears. But even in Sport mode the vehicle isn’t really that quick for a Cooper S.
The all-wheel-drive system and weight obviously play a role here. But that AWD system does work great – it seems to be rear-biased, so step on the throttle hard and this Mini will oversteer, finally a Mini with bite! And that bite is what makes this Mini fun to drive. It also handles well and never feels soft or unsure, yet it still offers a compliant and comfortable ride.
Visibility is good all around as there are a lot of window surfaces, but the side mirror on the passenger side is far too low. i find it pretty weird that I can’t see a quarter of the mirror as it is below the door line.
The brakes work excellently but do squeal like a stuck pig when cold, and loudly, so loud, in fact, that I was told it could be heard inside the house when I left for work and my driveway is over 100 feet long.
The Mini Countryman is enjoyable to drive and it certainly is a CUV that you can have a little fun in as well. Although calling it a CUV is still something I’d rather not do, it’s a slightly larger Mini that is equipped with all-wheel drive and not much more.
The only real disappointment was the fuel economy I achieved this week. Yes it was blisteringly cold but I never let my cars idle so the cold plays a smaller part in fuel consumption for me than for those that would leave their cars idling for 20 minutes before driving off.
With a small 1.6-litre engine on board and mostly highway driving I mustered a rather poor 10.2 L/100 km average this week with the Mini Cooper S Countryman. I’ve seen better in much larger and more powerful cars, even in the cold – this was utterly disappointing when the official rating is 7.1 L/100 km.
The Countryman is quirky and fun and in this category, and if you are looking for those traits there isn’t much competition. But don’t expect this Mini to deliver you mini fuel usage or maxi cargo room, so be sure you can live with these two downfalls before plunking your money down.