2013 MINI Cooper Countryman Review

Consumer Reviews
0 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 3, 2013

The biggest MINI, the Countryman adds crossover flexibility to the lineup without diluting the fun-to-drive factor too much.

Though it may be brand's largest vehicle, the MINI Countryman is still compact in absolute terms. Whether that clouds the message or not, the MINI Countryman does two things unexpected--it hangs on to plenty of the MINI driving essence, while lifting its roof to give four adults lots of space and comfort.

At a distance totally MINI, the Countryman goes soft-focus close up, losing some of the distinctly MINI proportions in the sacrifice for interior room and a more palatable package. It's bigger, taller, and has a front end made for being recognized at a distance, which is to say, it's pronounced. The details can still evoke the old Minis with some success, from the chrome-surrounded marker lights to the contrast-color roof, but it's clear in the family of MINI vehicles this is a cousin, not a firstborn son. That's a little less obvious from the inside out, though, as the Countryman's dash has almost all the chaotic layout of the smaller Cooper hatchbacks without their all-black plastic unity.

The Countryman is not so much a Cooper under the skin, either. It's a new architecture that brings with it ALL4 all-wheel drive capability, but the usual range of four-cylinders, turbo or no, and six-speed transmissions. Power is not quite abundant with the 121-horsepower Countryman; it's much better in the 181-hp Cooper S trim, but it's a sporty ride for a crossover nonetheless--even before you opt for the John Cooper Works edition and its max output of 221 hp. Acceleration peaks in about 7 seconds, 0-60 mph, with the JCW, while gas mileage hits its stride in the base car and its 35-mpg highway ratings.

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. There's a more refined ride than in any of the smaller Coopers, thanks to more weight and a longer wheelbase, but the difference from a typical MINI is measured in small degrees, not in a major paradigm shift.

Review continues below
Despite its MINI package, the Countryman offers impressive space for passengers in all positions, but it lacks a bit in cargo space. The 2013 model also has a redesigned armrest with relocated power-window controls and a larger console storage area. Also, the second row seat is now a three-person bench, with a two-person bucket arrangement now a no-cost option.

The NHTSA hasn't yet rated the Countryman, but the IIHS gives the nearly identical 2012 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.

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.

8

2013 MINI Cooper Countryman

Styling

There's just enough MINI in the Countryman's shape to draw away from its tall-wagon proportions.

It's a crossover with some major MINI cues--or is it a MINI that's been inflated to crossover proportions? The MINI Cooper Countryman (yep, its real name) vexes some, and pleases others, as it marches the brand up the ladder in size and passenger count.

The look bears less in common with the MINI hatchback lineup, though. The Clubman's a stretched Cooper, no doubt about it; the Countryman has the right grille shape, the floating roof, and the round headlamps, and little Band-aids of chrome on the fenders to house its marker lights. But otherwise, it's more a callback to MINI tradition than a pure derivative. At the back, it gets amorphous and soft, and the roof takes a half-step to create more headroom, veering further off the MINI footprint. From fifty yards away, your brain would think MINI, no problem; at fifty feet, you're starting to question your knowledge of car history.

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. The cutdown in chaos is welcome, but the cues are still there, like the big round gauges that evoke the Cooper. That big circle sitting in the center of the dash is MINI, through and through; it's also the size of a Frisbee, so it can frame the speedometer and when equipped, the navigation system.

8

2013 MINI Cooper Countryman

Performance

Almost as fun to drive as other MINIs, the Countryman adds a John Cooper Works edition this year.

The MINI Countryman represents a cautious step up in size for the small-car brand. Is it possible to keep the same sprightly feel with a longer, taller vehicle?

After a few drives, we'd answer "mostly." The Countryman may not have the low, immediate feel of a Cooper hatchback, but it's a nimble crossover that doesn't feel strapped by its extra height and weight.

The Countryman lineup consists of a single five-door wagon, with front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive, and a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with or without turbocharging, offered with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

The basic Cooper Countryman has the 1.6-liter four, non-turbo, and 121 horsepower with either the manual or automatic. It's not a thrilling drive, but it doesn't run out of breath as it pulls out 0-60 mph times of about 10 seconds. A Sport button speeds up shifts and holds gears longer, which helps extract the power available, and taps the decent torque that's there, fairly low in the powerband. Add paddles for shifting, and the automatic would be our preferred gearbox choice.

The Cooper S Countryman slashes 0-60 mph times to 7.5 seconds, with a turbocharger that boosts output to 181 horsepower--or in the new John Cooper Works edition, to 211 horsepower (or 221 hp with the overboost function). With either transmission, the manual shifter's the choice here, with light and direct shifts that feel a little more intimately connected to the inner workings.

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, all-wheel drive is offered on the Cooper and Cooper S, and is standard on the John Cooper Works edition. The ALL4 model at least offers improved all-weather capability; its electronically activated differential splits power 50:50 in normal driving, and up to 100 percent rear when traction fails in front. An electronic limited-slip differential is standard.

Like all MINIs, the Countryman is surprisingly nimble, thanks in part to its relatively light weight. We've sprinted around the sinewy roads of the Smokey Mountains in the Countryman, where it reveals its upsized feel. The ride quality doesn't suffer as much for its standard 18-inch are standard on the Countryman--and yet, it's pliable on most road surfaces, with amazingly little suspension and tire noise, something you'd also sense immediately in any Cooper. The Countryman's meaty electric power steering mimics some real responsiveness and weights up nicely in deep plunging curves; The electric steering feel's quite good, and the MINI's brakes bite quickly and answer pressure with the right counterpressure.

8

2013 MINI Cooper Countryman

Comfort & Quality

Cargo space is a bit small, but the Countryman's passenger space is quite good, and a three-row back seat's now standard.

Compact on the outside, the MINI Countryman has more than reasonable space on the inside for four adults--it lives up to its contradictory status as the biggest MINI, that's for sure.

In front, there's head and hip room for everyone inside the 99th percentile, and the seats are wide and adjustable enough to fit themselves to wide bodies and narrow frames alike. The 2013 model also has a redesigned armrest, which allows the power-window controls to be relocated from the console to the armrest--and that in turn makes for a larger console storage area.

Also this year, the second row seat is now a three-person bench, with a two-person bucket arrangement offered as a no-cost option. In either case, we've found the rear seats are just as good as those in front, with ample headroom for six-footers, even with the optional sunroof installed. Knee room isn't quite as ample as you'll find in the front seats, but the rear seats slide on tracks for flexibility between leg room and cargo space, as needed.

In its smallest configuration, that cargo hold isn't too expansive. It's just 12.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats; many sedans offer more trunk space. 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

2013 MINI Cooper Countryman

Safety

An IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2012, the Countryman's scored well in initial safety tests.

Now in its third year on sale, the MINI Countryman still hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

However, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has performed tests on the crossover, and last year it called the Countryman a Top Safety Pick. Scores haven't been updated yet for the 2013 model year, but we expect the results to carry over, in the absence of major structural changes.

The Countryman earned that top ranking by virtue of its full suite of standard safety equipment. Each one comes with the required airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability and traction control; and tire-pressure monitoring system.

All-wheel drive is an option, and adaptive headlights and rear parking sensors are available--but the Countryman lacks some other advanced safety options like a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control.

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

8

2013 MINI Cooper Countryman

Features

The Countryman has two paths to option heaven--through the accessories catalog and through MINI's tech features.

The MINI Countryman comes configured with plenty of features to justify its substantial base price. It's easy to tip the scales into excess, too, thanks to MINI's custom-order cosmetic and performance upgrades, and the latest high-tech features piled on courtesy parent group BMW.

All Countryman crossovers have standard power windows, mirrors, and locks; cruise control; air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD player; and an auxiliary jack for MP3 players. Cloth upholstery is standard.

Moving up into the Cooper S Countryman (all Countrymen have the "Cooper" name attached, for history's sake) adds on sport seats; a contrasting white roof; a leather-trimmed steering wheel; and satellite radio. Options include a Harmon Kardon sound system and anti-theft alarm system. On ALL4 all-wheel-drive versions, fog lamps are also specified; John Cooper Works version comes standard with all-wheel drive and their own styling add-ons.

All versions of the Countryman can be upgraded with leather seats, heated seats, and a panoramic sunroof. One of the recommended features is MINI Connected, an optional connectivity kit that conjoins your iPhone to the Countryman's audio system, for direct control of features such as 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. Just beware that piling on the options, individualization, and extras equates to piling on the cash.

7

2013 MINI Cooper Countryman

Fuel Economy

It's one of the greenest crossovers you can buy: the MINI Countryman earns gas mileage ratings of up to 35 mpg highway.

The 2013 MINI Countryman is one of the greenest crossovers you can buy--owing in part to its compact size.

From the most powerful versions to the least, the all-wheel drive Cooper S ALL4 model makes for the least-green Countryman variant, but not by much: with the manual gearbox, it scores 25/31 mpg, while the automatic rates 23/30 mpg. John Cooper Works editions are rated at the same levels.

The front-drive 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.

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.

Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
USED PRICE RANGE
$10,995 - $23,999
Browse Used Listings
in your area
8.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
Compare the 2013 MINI Cooper Countryman against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the MINI Cooper Countryman?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
See More Used