Review by Gary Chan
- Great fuel economy
- Sure footed all-wheel drive handling
- Sport mode that really increases responsiveness
- Center rail is intrusive and limits loading options
- Engine noise from the turbo-4 when accelerating
- Premium sticker price for a non-premium car
I finally had the opportunity to drive a MINI and this one had 4-doors and all-wheel drive! Boy was this car an attention getter. Wherever I went it garnered comments and stares: my neighbor remarked, “I’m jealous … yours looks more aggressive than mine [2-door Cooper S].” People at church stopped to assess the body and look at the interior, and one kid jumped in and said the interior was “cool”.
Out driving, I noticed many people checking out the car. One MINI driver, after passing, slowed down and followed me for a bit. My wife added that this car definitely garnered the most attention of all the cars I’ve tested, which speaks to its attractive design and looks.
The new MINI Cooper S Countryman is a fun car to drive. The steering feels a little disconnected, but is still very responsive to inputs. I had the opportunity to drive it to the small Sierra town of Sutter Creek during a very rainy weekend and the ALL4 all-wheel drive system handled the inclement weather without making anyone nervous, despite the slick and curvy roads.
With 181hp, the Countryman’s 1.6-liter turbo motor has plenty of power, most of which is available at higher rpms. When I needed to pass and floored the gas pedal, the motor whined loudly as power and turbo pressure grew. To speed up the process, I did drop the 6-speed transmission down a gear using the paddles on the steering wheel, or I could keep the MINI in Sport mode (button on the center stack behind the shifter), which seemed to maintain higher engine speeds for any given gear.
At normal highway speeds and around town, the engine is smooth and fairly quiet. Braking power is excellent from high speeds, but with little modulation at low speed and minimal pedal stroke bordering on being grabby. This may be due to the newness of the car: just over 1500 miles on the odometer. Because of the elevated stature of the Countryman, ground clearance is excellent and visibility is very good. Additionally, I discovered that parking this compact crossover is a breeze.
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