2012 MINI Cooper Countryman Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
February 13, 2012

The 2012 MINI Countryman brings the right mix of sport, utility, and comfort to the compact crossover game.

A bigger MINI might sound like a contradiction in terms, but even the biggest MINI--the Countryman--is compact compared to the competition. With its size, the Countryman adds a healthy dose of practicality, too, with better off-road capability, four doors and four usable seats.

The Countryman also marked the debut of a new styling direction for MINI, and the 2012 Countryman sticks to its guns. Taller, bigger, and with a more boldly-styled front end, 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 good (quirky design, surprising roominess) and bad (odd ergonomics) that brings.

The Countryman, however, is not very MINI under the skin; it's actually based off the platform under BMW's X1. That brings with it ALL4 all-wheel drive capability, a more refined ride, and somewhat more weight, but the difference from a typical MINI is measured in small degrees, not major paradigm shifts. Power is not quite abundant with the Countryman, even in Cooper S ALL4 trim, but it's a sporty ride for a crossover. All three Countryman trims (base, S, and S ALL4) are available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Base models use the same 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in other MINIs, while the Cooper S Countryman models (including the ALL4) use the 181-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder common to the Cooper S range. It's a bit of a shock how much MINI there is in the Countryman's handling, but no surprise that in the end, it's more sporty crossover than real sports vehicle.

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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 with the manual transmission and 25/30 mpg with the automatic. The Cooper S Countryman 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.

Also, like its MINI family, the Countryman is almost infinitely configurable, with many color-customizable paint elements, interior options, and equipment packages. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth or vinyl upholstery, ambient lighting, HD Radio, and power accessories. Available options include leather upholstery, MINI Connected with navigation, a Premium package with automatic climate control, keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights, a Cold Weather package, a pair of Sport packages, and a Technology package.

The NHTSA hasn't yet rated the 2012 MINI Cooper Countryman, but the IIHS gives the nearly identical 2011 model a rating of "good" and a Top Safety Pick. Standard stability and traction control, corner brake control, anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, and more are all baked right in, helping it earn its top marks.

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2012 MINI Cooper Countryman

Styling

Even BMW underpinnings, all-wheel drive, and a full four-seat, four-door layout can't take the MINI out of the 2012 Countryman.

The farthest departure from classic--or even modern--MINI styling yet, the Cooper Countryman is bigger, bolder, and burlier than its siblings. But it still shares the family genes.

The proportions, profile, and many of the details are like those of the more road-oriented MINIs, but up-sized. In fact, the Countryman's design was the inspiration, or at least the predecessor, of the redesigns the rest of the lineup have seen recently.

It's not so much what makes the Countryman like its cohorts that's interesting, however--it's what makes it different. The large, flared fenders, tall ride height, plastic-clad bits, and four-door layout make it clear that this MINI is meant for suburban utility as much as urban mobility.

Inside, the Countryman shares more in common with its Cooper counterparts in design terms, with familiar, quirky MINI sensibilities: large, round gauges, including the center-mounted speedo; ovoid pedals; a levers-and-knobs center stack; and ample MINI-wing badges. If anything, it's somewhat less busy and complicated than the average MINI--perhaps because the details are spread out over a slightly larger area.

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2012 MINI Cooper Countryman

Performance

Free-revving four-cylinders, punchy turbocharged upgrades, and light weight make the 2012 MINI Countryman a capable, fun-to-drive car.

Though it wears a MINI badge and MINI design cues, the 2012 Countryman is more BMW under the skin. Based on the same platform that underpins the X1 crossover (not yet on sale in the U.S.) the Countryman pairs front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine available in a variety of power configurations.

The base Cooper Countryman comes with a normally-aspirated engine rated at 121 horsepower. The Cooper S Countryman adds a turbocharger and a rating of 181 horsepower, while the Countryman John Cooper Works, due to be unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, is expected to generate up to 225 horsepower. The Cooper S Countryman ALL4 gets the 181-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive--the others drive the front wheels only. The S Countryman is good for a 7.5-second 0-60 mph dash. Both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available.

Like all MINIs, however, the Countryman is surprisingly nimble, thanks in part to its relatively light weight. Steering isn't sports-car sharp, of course, and there's more body lean due to the higher ride height, but it's still filled with MINI-ness.

While the Countryman isn't intended as a real off-roader, and in front-drive trim, isn't particularly suited for more than mild unpaved roads and trails, the ALL4 model at least offers improved all-weather capability.

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2012 MINI Cooper Countryman

Comfort & Quality

Despite its MINI package, the Countryman offers impressive space for passengers in all positions, but it lacks a bit in cargo space.

A study in contradictions--it's the biggest MINI, after all--the Countryman nevertheless succeeds, mostly, in making space inside while taking up as little as possible outside.

The front seats are roomy, with plenty of hip and head room for all but the largest adults, and they're adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of body types with comfort. The rear seats are just as good, with ample headroom for six-footers, even with the optional sunroof installed. Knee room isn't fantastic, but it's more spacious than larger crossovers like Acura's ZDX. The rear buckets even slide on rails, trading cargo space for leg room as required.

Cargo space, on the other hand, isn't expansive. At just 12.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, many sedans offer more--in their trunks. With the rear seats folded forward, however, that opens up to a more useful 40 cubic feet, though the smallish dimensions of the area will prohibit larger hard items.

In terms of build and finish, the Countryman is very good--at least initially. Materials are mostly quality, though there may be a bit more hard plastic than you'd like to find in a car in this price range, and the assembled bits fit together well. Over time, however, like other MINIs, squeaks and rattles have a tendency to present.

8

2012 MINI Cooper Countryman

Safety

As a 2012 IIHS Top Safety Pick, the 2012 MINI Countryman is a comforting companion for the daily commute.

As an IIHS  (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) Top Safety Pick, the 2012 MINI Cooper Countryman should satisfy even the strictest driver's requirements--despite the lack of NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) testing.

Helping the Countryman earn its top marks in IIHS testing is a full suite of standard safety equipment, including: dual front, side, and side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability and traction control; and tire-pressure monitoring system. Rear parking sensors are available.

Some high-tech gear you might expect isn't available, such as a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, or adaptive cruise control. On the other hand, adaptive headlights, and xenon bulbs are available for improved night time visibility.

Visibility in general is good, with the high seating position making even rearward sightlines acceptable despite the thick roof pillars.

8

2012 MINI Cooper Countryman

Features

Almost infinitely customizable, available with a healthy set of techie upgrades, and well-specified even in base form, the 2012 MINI Countryman can be built to suit nearly anyone--for a price.

As a MINI, you'd expect a high degree of customizability with the Countryman, and you'd get it. As a BMW Group product, you'd expect a few high-tech goodies as well--and you'd get those, too.

MINI Connected is the highlight feature, an optional system that adds a range of iPhone apps compatibility including Pandora and text messaging. Navigation, Bluetooth and USB, push-button start, HD Radio, a trip computer, and an immense range of style and appearance accessories are also available.

As you step up the Countryman range from Cooper to Cooper S, you also get more equipment in addition to more power; a contrasting white roof, sport seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel and SiriusXM satellite radio are all included. A Harmon Kardon sound system and anti-theft alarm system can also be added.

Upgrading to the Cooper S Countryman ALL4, you'll add not just all-wheel drive, but also standard fog lamps.

All versions of the Countryman can be upgraded with leather seats, heated seats, and a panoramic sunroof. Just beware that piling on the options, individualization, and extras equates to piling on the cash.

7

2012 MINI Cooper Countryman

Fuel Economy

With highway gas mileage up to 35 mpg and around-town economy not lower than 23 mpg even with all-wheel drive, the 2012 MINI Countryman is one of the greenest crossovers available.

The 2012 MINI Countryman is one of the greenest crossovers you can buy--owing in part to its compact size.

At 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, the base model with manual transmission is the greenest choice. Opting for the automatic cuts gas mileage to 25/30 mpg.

The Cooper S Countryman gains 60 horsepower but loses a few mpg in manual-transmission trim at 26/32 mpg. The automatic, however, improves to 25/32 mpg.

Adding all-wheel drive with the ALL4 model makes for the least-green Cooper S variant, but not by much: with the manual gearbox, it scores 25/31 mpg, while the automatic rates 23/30 mpg.

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November 1, 2015
2012 MINI Cooper Countryman FWD 4-Door S

Great but expensive car

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I loved this Mini Cooper sad countryman it had great style,ample power and the build quality was really good.the only problem was that it went through three sets of front tyres having only done 15,000 miles.i... + More »
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June 16, 2015
2012 MINI Cooper Countryman AWD 4-Door S ALL4

Its a MINI SUV and so its for the sports car driver to haul stuff faster

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My 2012 Countryman All4 is perfect for me as a larger man in my 60s. I have more leg room than a Taurus an the handling and safety of a Mercedes. It hauls 4 adults or a unch of yard good too. I love it.
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April 28, 2015
2012 MINI Cooper Countryman AWD 4-Door S ALL4

Finally found a car I want to keep!

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I had been jumping from car to car for at least the last 10 years. Always found some flaw or got bored with the cars I'd chosen and traded them in. But after 3 years of ownership, I still love my CountrymanS... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2012 MINI Cooper Countryman

Love my car

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Great ride, great dependability Love the fit and finish
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