The 2012 MINI Cooper Countryman enjoys a relatively sparse segment in the market, though that is set to change in the coming years. However, the vehicle still manages to offer a lot, including a healthy dose of practicality, some off-road capability, and plenty of style.
Some rivals on the horizon include the recently revealed Ford EcoSport and Buick Encore, though neither of these is due until the 2013 model year or later.
If you’re in the market today for a compact crossover that’s pretty much smaller than any other crossover out there, then the MINI Cooper Countryman is the vehicle for you. The next closest rival is probably the Volkswagen Tiguan, though the VW is easily one size up.
Despite its small proportions, the MINI still offers four doors and four useable seats. Taller, bigger, and with a more boldly-styled front end than your regular MINI Cooper, the Countryman is instantly recognizable, both as a MINI and as something out of the ordinary. Inside, the Countryman is more similar to its smaller siblings, with all of the retro design and odd ergonomics that brings.
You’ve basically got two powertrains to choose from: a base Countryman with a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four or a sportier Countryman S model with a turbocharged version of the base model’s engine and a 181-horsepower rating.
Note, if you pick the Countryman S, which we strongly advise you do, you also get the choice of standard front-wheel drive or optional ‘ALL4’ all-wheel drive. Whichever wheels are doing the driving, it’s a bit of a shock how good the thing handles though you’ll never mistake it for a sports car like you may with the regular MINI Cooper.
All models are available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Fuel economy is, accordingly, more or less in line with other MINIs despite the added bulk: the non-turbo base model rates 27/35 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and 25/30 mpg with the automatic. The Countryman S does only slightly worse with the manual at 26/32 mpg, and actually a little better with the automatic at 25/32 mpg. Adding all-wheel drive to the Countryman S is only a 1-2 mpg penalty depending on the transmission chosen.
Power is not quite abundant with the Countryman, even in Countryman S ALL4 trim, so if you like your performance you may want to look elsewhere or hold out for the rumored John Cooper Works model
For a more detailed look at the 2012 MINI Cooper Countryman, head over to our sister site The Car Connection
for the full review.