For the longest time I have resisted the urge to like the Mini Countryman. After a test drive and some research, I think I am sold.
Today I made a trip to a dealership that I thought I would never make. I went to the Mall of Georgia Mini dealership to see about the Mini Countryman. After hearing the bigger Mini called a fat or bloated Cooper for so long I was not interested.
There is a little information you need when you read a Mini review. I am a 6’2″, 43-year-old family man that has two kids in sports . Going in I expected to be crammed into a car that would not meet my needs. I could not have been more wrong.
To start, the Countryman is easier to get in and out of than most sedans I have driven. The ride height and seats make entry and exit a breeze. Once that had been established my eyes were wide open. My concerns of leg room and roof height were all swept away.
The interior was young and exciting. While the center-hung gauge cluster is interesting, it takes a while to get used to. The John Cooper Works model I had to test drive was trimmed out quite well. The overhead switches and control layout are rally race inspired. It was a fun car to play around in. The selectable ambient lighting was a little much, but not out of place.
The Mini Countryman does look like a blown up Mini. That is a large part of the appeal. The rounded edges and signature front end let you know immediately what the car is. The livery of the John Cooper Works is stand out but not ostentatious.
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One of the reasons I was interested in the Countryman, I was looking for an alternative to a sedan that was not an SUV. The Countryman fits that perfectly. It also does it with a sporty flair that is hard to get in a modern sedan under $40,000.
All the styling and interior would not mean much if the car was not fun to drive. Pulling off the lot, the first time I hit the gas I realized this was going to be exciting. The dealer tried to describe it as “go-kart-like”, not sure if that is how I would describe it, but it is not inaccurate. It is quick, responsive and loves to go around corners at speed.
In the sport setting the engine revs high and shifts hard. It is exactly what I had hoped it would feel like. The corner responsiveness was very impressive as I stomped the throttle coming out of a curve. There was not much I can say I did not enjoy driving the Mini Countryman through the streets.
Interior size wise I compare the Mini Countryman to a sedan. It is not as big as even a midsized SUV. While there is abundant space with the back seats folded down, up space is limited.
I like how Mini has set up pricing on the Jonh Cooper Works line. You pick the John Cooper Works chassis and then you can option it up to what you want to pay. Most top end packages do not give you the variety of options that Mini does. There are packages that start at just over $30,000 that can get up to $40,000.
For me, it comes down to what you are looking for. I liked the standard Countryman, but it was a bit underpowered. The John Cooper Works I drove priced at $37,000 is a much more fun option than similarly optioned Malibu’s or Taurus. It might not be the fountain of youth, but driving the John Cooper Works Mini Countryman made me feel younger.