2011 MINI Cooper Countryman Styling

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Styling

The MINI Cooper Countryman--yep, that's its formal name--has the bigger size and softer profile of a crossover, but with all the MINI cues that tie it directly to the smaller Clubman and Cooper hatchbacks.

But while the Clubman is like a limo-stretch Cooper, the Countryman is a little less direct in its references. Sure, the front end has the ribbed grille, the front fenders have Band-aids of chrome with marker lights, and the sideview has the colorful hardtop. The Countryman even the right glass-to-metal ratio. In back is where the analogy to smaller Coopers doesn't hold up as well. The rear's more amorphous and soft, the clear compromise in the design. Call it a 50-footer: your brain would think "MINI" at that distance, while up close it would parse it and sniff out the curvy X1 hiding underneath.

The 2011 MINI Countryman proves you don't have to be built from a Cooper to look like one.

The Countryman cockpit feels less MINI-chaotic, and more German-disciplined. Big round gauges are evocative of the Cooper. So is the big circle sitting in the center of the dash: it's almost the size of a Frisbee, so it can frame the speedometer and when equipped, the navigation system.

The dash itself is a continental-looking piece that could find its way into any soft-roader from Nissan or Skoda or Jeep. The window switches, an L-shaped parking brake and half-moon door handles dress it up to something like MINI spec. A jet-black interior would bring things in line with heritage nicely, but as is, the Countryman's still impressive in its continuity with other MINIs.

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