After starting with the basic retro-styled two-door hatchback in 2002, BMW’s MINI organization developed a series of offshoots. Introduced for 2011, the four-door Countryman is the only one that’s available with all-wheel drive (ALL4). Otherwise, the Countryman—like other MINIs—comes with a choice of three engines. Back in the Sixties, the original MINI also came in a few variant body styles.

Pricing and Equipment

Starting at $22,750 (plus $850 destination charge), the Countryman comes in four levels: base-model, Countryman S, Countryman S ALL4 with all-wheel drive, and John Cooper Works ALL4. Other MINIs have switched to BMW-derived TwinTurbo engines, but the Countryman retains its original powertrains.

The base model holds a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 121 horsepower, with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission. Countryman S and S ALL4 get a turbocharged 1.6-liter that develops 181 horsepower, while the high-performance John Cooper Works model contains a 208-horsepower rendition of the 1.6-liter turbo four.

Standard Cooper Countryman S ALL4 equipment includes:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Cooper S 181-horsepower engine
  • Getrag six-speed manual transmission
  • Electric power steering
  • Tilt/telescope steering column
  • Leatherette seat upholstery
  • Mesh grille and hood scoop
  • 315-watt, six-speaker audio with HE radio
  • Cornering brake control
  • Bluetooth hands-free phone
  • Roof rails
  • Heated power mirrors and washer jets
  • Seventeen-inch alloy wheels

An automatic transmission is optional ($1,250). Also optional are a moonroof, premium Harman/Kardon sound system, Sport Package, Park Lane Edition, Mini Connect infotainment, and a navigation system.

Performance Pros

MINI Countryman Side
  • All-wheel drive availability. AWD is a sensible option for anyone living in areas where inclement weather is an issue, though it's a bit unexpected for a MINI. Then again, with its tall wagon profile, the Countryman isn't quite an ordinary MINI.
  • Crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are Good in every category, though the federal government has not tested the Countryman.
  • Steering and handling aren't on par with other MINI models, including the basic Cooper hatchback, but the Countryman behaves better than any rivals on the road.

Performance Cons

  • Acceleration with the base model is on the sluggish side, especially with all-wheel drive.
  • Active-safety features are mostly absent, even as options.
  • Electric power steering feels somewhat numb, though maneuverability is a strong point, as on all MINI models.

Interior Pros

MINI Countryman
  • Comfortable front seats aid the driving experience.
  • Unlike Cooper hardtops, the Countryman retains a variant of the center-mounted speedometer that long served as a hallmark of the brand--though many buyers favor the more modern layout, with both the tachometer and speedometer ahead of the driver.
  • Available MINI Connected infotainment system can integrate smartphones and provide internet-based services.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

Despite its different body shape, the delightful nature that defines the MINI brand hasn’t disappeared. It’s overshadowed somewhat, but the driving pleasure from other members of the group can still be observed and enjoyed—with almost enough room in back for a pair of actual adults.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Considering that regular Cooper hatchbacks and convertibles have adopted new TwinPower turbo engines, including a three-cylinder base engine, continuing with the previous 1.6-liter four-cylinders in the Countryman seems a little odd and behind the times.

The Bottom Line

MINI Countryman

As much as we enjoy and admire various members of the MINI lineup, the Countryman seems more like a distant cousin—maybe even an outsider. With so many small wagons and compact or smaller crossover models available these days, many with available all-wheel drive, it’s hard to see the Countryman as a viable competitor.