2015 MINI Cooper Countryman Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
May 8, 2015

The mildly updated 2015 MINI Countryman is a versatile compact crossover, one of the smallest on the market, that maintains MINI's character and fun-to-drive spirit.

The 2015 MINI Cooper Countryman is the largest MINI model and the only one offering all-wheel drive. It's also one of the smallest utility vehicles on the market, offering more interior space and versatility than other MINI models—in a vehicle that's not nearly as "mini" as the rest of the range.

Although the smaller MINI Cooper Hardtop hatchback and its derivatives are new this year, the MINI Cooper Countryman carries forward with the same underpinnings as last year. Yet simultaneously, this somewhat larger, rugged-themed MINI gets a variety of new styling, interior, and safety improvements.

For 2015, the Countryman gets a new grille, with the sportier Cooper S Countryman identifiable by additional chrome detailing. Most all-wheel-drive models get standard underbody guards, which can be added to the front-wheel-drive models too. Other updates include new 17-inch alloy wheel designs, LED fog lights, and accents in glossy piano black, along with a handful of new exterior colors.

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Otherwise, the shape remains the same: a small, upright four-door-plus-tailgate utility vehicle that's identifiably a MINI--though side-by-side with smaller models in the lineup, you might be hard-pressed to point to similarities. The Countryman styling captures the overall MINI effect in a different form, but its lines ring true to the brand while making the vehicle's more practical uses apparent.

Inside, the 2015 MINI Countryman makes chrome air-vent trim and anthracite-colored dials standard across the range. While the compact size limits interior volume, the load bay will hold at least as much as the trunk of standard sedan, and up to 42 cubic feet of cargo with the split folding rear seats folded down.

The most major tweak for the new model is the latest MINI Connected infotainment system, which not only integrates with smartphones but also offers internet-based services encompassing infotainment, communication, and driver experience. They're provided through a growing range of apps that run on the display screen in the center of the dash, and operated via a joystick in the center console.

The 2015 MINI Cooper Countryman retains the same range of powertrains as earlier years. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all three engines are variations on the same1.6-liter four-cylinders, both normally aspirated (at 121 horsepower) and turbocharged on the sportier Cooper S model (181 hp) and special John Cooper Works model (211 hp). A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with a six-speed automatic is available on all models. The MINI ALL4 all-wheel-drive system is optional. You'll get maximum value for money with the base Cooper ALL4, with the top-of-the-line John Cooper Works ALL4 the one for those craving maximum performance.

The MINI Countryman hasn't been tested for crash safety by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives its top rating of "Good" to the Countryman in all categories tested. Standard safety equipment for 2015 includes a tire-pressure sensor system, daytime running lights, and a parking-alert assistant.

As is true throughout the MINI line, the equipment and appearance combinations for the MINI Countryman are essentially endless. Well-configured in base form, but upgradeable to a number of high-tech and luxury features, there's a Countryman for almost anyone--but beware the bottom line if you have a heavy hand on the optional equipment list.

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2015 MINI Cooper Countryman

Styling

The 2015 MINI Cooper Countryman captures the MINI details, but not the size or profile.

In profile especially, the 2015 MINI Cooper Countryman doesn't at all look like a MINI -- not even the modern MINI we've become accustomed to. But it shows its allegiances and identity in the details.

The 2015 Countryman cuts a unique figure. Sure to stand out from the crossover crowd in any office parking lot, the aggressive front-end, wide grille, flared fenders, and trim dimensions combine to give a sense of fun and athleticism not often found in the segment. Fundamentally, this is a small, upright four-door-plus-tailgate utility vehicle that's identifiably a MINI -- though side-by-side with smaller models in the lineup, you might be hard-pressed to point to similarities.

The Countryman styling captures the overall MINI effect in a different form, but its lines ring true to the brand while making the vehicle's more practical uses apparent. The look is modern and sculpted, but the upright nose, short hood, floating roof, and big round headlights are variations on MINI traditions.

For 2015, the Countryman gets a new grille, with the sportier Cooper S Countryman identifiable by additional chrome detailing. Most all-wheel-drive models get standard underbody guards, which can be added to the front-wheel-drive models too. Other updates include new 17-inch alloy wheel designs, LED fog lights, and accents in glossy piano black, along with a handful of new exterior colors.

The interior of the Countryman is like that of its brand-mates: quite quirky. Big circular gauges dominate the information displays, while ovals, levers, and switches form the rest of the control theme. Chrome air-vent trim and anthracite-colored dials are now included across the range. While the compact size limits interior volume, the load bay will hold at least as much as the trunk of standard sedan, and up to 42 cubic feet of cargo with the split folding rear seats folded.

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2015 MINI Cooper Countryman

Performance

The MINI Countryman is one of the most engaging to drive in its class.

The Countryman drives as it looks -- like a MINI in the details, but otherwise as something larger and perhaps more conventional.

Front-wheel drive is standard, and all of the engines are 1.6-liter four-cylinders, both normally aspirated and turbocharged. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic is available on all models.

The base Countryman gets 121 horsepower from the sans turbo version of the engine, getting it to 60 mph in about 10 seconds. It's just as slow as you might assume, in a vehicle that weighs around 3,000 pounds in base form (to contextualize, a Prius is actually quicker). You can play mind games by using the Sport button, which improves the responsiveness of the automatic-transmission version; but otherwise you'll want to go with the sportier Cooper S model, with a turbocharged engine(181 hp). That gives the Countryman a much-needed sense of pep. The Cooper S Countryman scoots to 60 mph in around 7.5 seconds.

The 211-horsepower John Cooper Works Countryman is where the fun is to be had, though. Zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds isn't much quicker than the Cooper S, but a sharper setup and appearance helps get the most out of the Countryman's performance potential.

The MINI ALL4 all-wheel-drive system is optional. You'll get maximum value for money with the base Cooper ALL4, with the top-of-the-line John Cooper Works ALL4 the one for those craving maximum performance. It's not intended for rugged off-road use (nor is the Countryman itself) but it does enhance traction in low-grip situations like gravel roads, snow, or rain. An electronically activated differential splits power 50:50 front-to-rear in normal driving, and up to 100 percent rearward when traction fails in front. An electronic limited-slip differential is standard.

One thing that does truly carry over to the Countryman's driving experience is that it feels light and nimble. It's not go-kart-like as with the smaller Cooper Hardtop, but compared to any other vehicle this size and weight, the Countryman responds crisply, with electric power steering providing positive feedback and brakes offering good bite and pedal feel.

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2015 MINI Cooper Countryman

Comfort & Quality

The 2015 Countryman comes up a bit short on cargo space, although passenger space is reasonably good.

The 2015 MINI Countryman offers utility and versatility, but not quite as much space and comfort as you might expect.

It can fit up to four adults comfortably, although the second row isn't all that roomy -- even compared to that of other vehicles this size. Fit and finish in the Countryman is good, too, although we note that we've seen multiple vehicles that have developed persistent squeaks and rattles.

In front, 99th-percentile head and hip room plus wide and adjustable seats means it's easy for almost anyone to find a comfortable position. As for the back, MINI changed the layout last year, cutting the availability of the original two-seat layout and carrying over the more popular three-position bench seat (but adding a new 'center-rail' layout with an additional power outlet and double cup holder). Leg room is tight in back for taller passengers, although headroom is quite good.

As for cargo, the space behind the rear seats is just 12.2 cubic feet--about the size of a small sedan's trunk. With the rear seats folded down, that space grows to 40 cubic feet. That makes room for more stuff, but the small height and width of the cargo space prohibits many large objects.

This year, the cabin has been dressed up with chrome air-vent trim and anthracite-colored dials standard across the range.

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2015 MINI Cooper Countryman

Safety

Safety equipment and a good safety record are assurances, even if there's no full set of crash tests or big active-safety options.

With a decent set of safety equipment, a high seating position, and good safety ratings (for what few ratings have been given), the 2015 MINI Cooper Countryman offers up what should be better-than-average occupant protection for this size vehicle. Although advanced-technology options like blind-spot monitors are missing from the options list.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested the newest Countryman, and given it a top rating of 'good' in all crash-test categories -- and it even achieves a top 'good' rating in the tougher (and more relevant for a small car, some would say) small overlap frontal test, which earns it a Top Safety Pick award. The federal government, by the way, hasn't at all crash-tested a Countryman in the nearly five years that this model has been on sale.

The Countryman offers a fair suite of standard safety equipment, including: airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability and traction control; and the mandatory tire pressure monitoring system. All-wheel drive is available (on ALL4 models), as are adaptive headlights and rear parking sensors.

The high position and plenty of glass means visibility is generally very good with the Countryman, despite the thick roof pillars.

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2015 MINI Cooper Countryman

Features

Let your wallet be the limit. The MINI Countryman can be configured and customized -- all to an escalating sticker price.

As is true throughout the MINI line, the equipment and appearance combinations for the MINI Countryman are essentially endless. Well-configured in base form, but upgradeable to a number of high-tech and luxury features, there's a Countryman for almost anyone--but beware the bottom line if you have a heavy hand on the optional equipment list.

The 2015 MINI Countryman is, as before, priced at a tantalizingly low entry level. But it can be seen as a blank canvas for customization and personalization desires, so if you pile too much on, beware that the price can inflate to luxury-brand levels.

All Countryman crossover models come with standard cruise control, air conditioning, and power accessories (windows, doors, locks). An AM/FM/CD player with MP3 auxiliary input is also standard, as is cloth upholstery. Upgrades available across the Countryman range include leather seats, heated seats, and a panoramic sunroof.

Each trim level also brings with it some features upgrades; the Cooper S adds sport seats, a contrasting roof, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and satellite radio. Cooper S options include Harmon Kardon sound and an anti-theft alarm. ALL4 models also get fog lamps. The John Cooper Works Countryman comes standard with ALL4 all-wheel drive.

Noteworthy options include a panorama roof, Park Distance Control, xenon headlamps, adaptive turning lights, and premium Harman Kardon.

There's also a wide range of MINI Connected services that allow you to tap into smartphone-based apps for information and entertainment (like Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, and Rhapsody).

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2015 MINI Cooper Countryman

Fuel Economy

The light weight and small size of the 2015 Countryman make it a green option if you don't want to go hybrid.

Compared to most crossovers on the market -- even those this compact -- the 2015 MINI Countryman does better with respect to gas mileage. In part that's because at around 3,000 pounds for the base model, it's relatively light for its class.

The result is an EPA rating of up to 28 mpg city and 35 mpg highway for the base engine and manual transmission combo; the automatic drops it to 25 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The Cooper S Countryman with front-wheel drive scores 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway (manual) or 25/32 mpg city/highway (automatic).

The most capable Countryman, the Cooper S ALL4, and the quickest Countryman, the John Cooper Works, both rate 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway (or 23/30 mpg with the automatic).

Of course, if you do mostly city driving, and take advantage of the MINI's quick responses and generally perky performance, you're not going to meet those city numbers. If mileage matters in those cases, you'd be much better served with a hybrid.

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April 2, 2016
2015 MINI Cooper Countryman FWD 4-Door S

Fun vehicle to drive

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We have the Countryman over a year. Meets expectation and great purchase
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February 17, 2016
2015 MINI Cooper Countryman FWD 4-Door

A good looking and adaptable vehicle

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We have had the countryman for six months and it has fulfilled all our needs. It is an all- purpose vehicle.
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November 18, 2015
2015 MINI Cooper Countryman ALL4 4-Door S

This car has exceeded my expectations in terms of reliability and has been so much fun to drive... I smile every time I get in.

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Great car. Love driving it, and think it has more style than most cars on the road. Wish I had gotten the complete communications package, but do enjoy being able to connect my iPhone. Some of the instrument... + More »
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July 28, 2015
2015 MINI Cooper Countryman ALL4 4-Door S

Fun, Safe Ride with manual Shift.

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I Love my mini countryman. it's fun to drive, good mileage and safe. The car handles exceptionally well with good visibility and accessible controls throughout. This is my second mini and it gives me lots of... + More »
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June 14, 2015
2015 MINI Cooper Countryman FWD 4-Door S

I love my Mini!

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This car is fun to drive! I get 28 MPG no matter if I'm in the city or the hi way. It's comfortable, has great amenities like seat warmers, steering wheel controls, blue tooth for the phone, a great sound... + More »
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