Mini Misfire After years of producing stylish cars that are as fun to drive as they are fuel-efficient, Mini has hit a bump in the road with its Countryman SUV.
Overview We were disappointed by the new Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4, which we found sluggish and less nimble than other Minis we've driven. The Countryman's big advantage is that it offers more interior and luggage space (the rear seat is downright roomy) than the regular Mini, as well as all-wheel drive. The trouble is that the S ALL4 weighs 3,208 lb., 540 lb. more than a regular Mini Cooper S, which affects pep and handling, as well as hurting fuel economy. If you're looking for a fun-to-drive second car, we prefer the regular Mini or Mini S. If you're looking for a small SUV, there are numerous less expensive alternatives (the Toyota RAV4 comes to mind).
Interior The cabin is similar to other Minis, with quirky ovoid door-handles, a large round speedometer, and toggle switches. The rear seats slide back and recline, creating room for tall passengers but reducing luggage space from 16.5 cu. ft. to 12.2 cu. ft.
Engine The base engine is a 1.6-liter inline-four-banger rated at 121 horsepower and 118 lb.-ft. of torque. In the S Countryman, the engine is turbocharged and horsepower climbs to 181, torque to 177 lb.-ft.
Power Train The base engine only comes with front-wheel drive. A six-speed stick shift is standard; a six-speed automatic is optional for $1,250. The S Countryman offers the same transmission choices but is available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive (for an extra $1,700).
Performance The base Countryman is very slow: The company says it accelerates from zero to 60 in 9.8 seconds with a stick shift, 10.9 seconds with an automatic. Times fall to 7.0/7.4 seconds for the S, and 7.3/7.7 seconds for the S ALL4. We clocked our test S ALL4 at 8.3 seconds.
Fuel Economy The base model gets 28 miles per gallon in the city, 35 on the highway, and 31 combined with a stick, dropping to 25/30/27 with an automatic. The S is rated at 26/32/29 with a stick, 1 mpg less with an automatic. Mileage drops to 23/30/26 in the S ALL4 with an automatic.
Safety The Countryman is a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard gear includes seven air bags, stability control, brake force distribution, and cornering brake control. Traction control is standard on the S, optional on the base model.
Price Starting price is $22,230 for the base model, rising to $25,950 for the S and $27,650 for the S ALL4. The average selling price is $26,308 for the base model, $31,013 for the S, and $33,236 for the S ALL4, according to the Power Information Network. That compares with $23,170 for the Nissan Juke and $25,249 for the Toyota RAV4.