Class: Subcompact Crossover
Miles driven: 484
Fuel used: 17.7 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 27.3 mpg
Driving mix: 30% city, 70% highway
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||B+|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22/31/26 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $31,000 (not including $850 destination charge)
Options on test car: Special paint ($500), Technology Package ($2250), automatic transmission ($1750), leather steering-wheel trim ($250), satellite radio ($300)
Price as tested: $38,500
The great: Fun to drive, roomy cargo area
The good: Front-row passenger space
The not so good: Requires premium fuel, pricey options
As members of the Mini product family, the larger variants like the Cooper Countryman or the now-discontinued Paceman have never been as enticing to this reviewer as the mainline Mini cars. However, the new generation of the Countryman that bows for 2017 does seem to do for the subcompact SUV field what the Mini Hardtop and Convertible do for subcompact cars.
The Mini cars hang their hats on providing lively driving dynamics and a dash of offbeat styling in a class usually more centered on practicality and economy—though the Minis do ask a lot costwise for these differences. The Countryman reads from the same script in the tiny SUV arena but at least it does so with more size and power for ’17. It takes these steps by adopting the core platform of the X1 from corporate parent BMW.
Consumer Guide® tested a Countryman S with ALL4 all-wheel drive, which carries a starting price of $31,100. As an S, it comes with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine but not the same one it had before. The 1.6-liter 181-horsepower powerplant of yore has been replaced by a 2.0-liter job that makes 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard but can be swapped out for an extra-cost automatic, itself a new unit with 8 speeds. Virtually devoid of turbo lag, the engine is an enthusiastic performer, even in base “Mid” driving mode. A lever at the base of the shifter boot also lets drivers select “Sport” or “Green” modes that modify fuel delivery and—in Sport—steering response. There’s good grunt and timely transmission kickdown for easy passing, and enough power for easy highway cruising.
EPA fuel-economy estimates for the automatic Cooper S ALL4 are 22 mpg in city driving, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. This driver logged 27.5 premium-fueled mpg in a 244.1-mile test stint (including a one-way run from Chicago to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin) that was composed of 30 percent city-type driving.
The Countryman rides a little higher than most Minis. A washboard section of Wisconsin Interstate set the test vehicle to bounding a bit over the sequential bumps, and did so with an increase in road noise. However, most individual road cracks were negotiated promptly and with a muted thump for palpable but not annoying registration in the cabin. Steering is direct, cornering lean is pretty well controlled, and braking is secure.
Expanded interior space provides good headroom and legroom in both rows. Bolsters in the standard front sport seats provide some grip that’s handy in aggressive driving, and extendable cushions add leg support. Three weight-conscious adults might squeeze into the back seat for a short hop, but the middle rider will have to straddle the driveline hump. Rear seats are adjustable fore and aft, and the backs recline. The heightened SUV stance doesn’t add too much extra effort for entries and exits, and vision is good at nearly every angle.
Rear seat backs are arrayed in a 40/20/40 split. When folded, they rest almost flat to greatly extend the good cargo-area space—though there is a noticeable gap between the seats and rear cargo floor. Personal-item storage is served by an agreeably large glovebox, big door pouches with bottle holders, and pouches on back of both front seats. An adjustable central armrest flips up to lend access to some open space and a USB port. The top portion of the armrest opens to expose a compartment for small items; in the case of the test car, it held the optional wireless charger for smartphones.
Controls adhere to Mini Cooper orthodoxy—which is to say they are somewhat unorthodox. Speedometer and tachometer gauges are attached to the tilt/telescoping steering column. A large, round display at the center of the dash serves the audio system, vehicle information, and rearview camera, and is framed in an ambient-light ring that changes color. A row of toggle switches for things like the starter and traction-control system are arrayed horizontally on the lower portion of the instrument panel. A complex console-mounted central controller manages the various conveniences that appear on the dash screen but simpler rotating dials set temperature and fan speed for the standard dual-zone automatic climate system.
Standard on all models are a panoramic sunroof, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless access and starting, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and rear parking sensors. Other equipment built into the Countryman S runs to heated front seats, LED headlights and fog lights, roof rails, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Mini Connected system with app integration, and AM/FM/HD radio audio system. Among the options on the test car were a head-up display and navigation on an enlarged central touchscreen, both of which were included in option groups that contributed to a final delivered price of $38,500.
No matter which segment they’re in, Minis aren’t especially cheap. However, if you’re the type that finds worth in driving fun, then the premium might not be too dear.
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