Mini Mania Test Drive: 2011 NEW MINI Countryman

A team from Mini Mania took advantage of the opportunity provided by Niello MINI in Sacramento to test drive one of the new MINI Countrymen. This latest model from BMW MINI seems to be focused to yet further expand the base of customer types that would find a MINI fit into their life style.


First Impressions: My first impression is that the new BIG MINI for the family is not really all that big. While for the most part the car was not positioned right next to the now normal hatchback, yet alone an original classic Mini, it just came across as simply being a 4 door slightly oversized version of the MINI Cooper. This feeling of sameness was continued as you sat into the car. Again, it did not feel much different than normal. I suppose you could imagine that as you sit down into the MINI Hatchback, while in the new Countrymen that you simply sit in the car, but that would be a stretch. For sure you do not have to climb into this 4 wheel drive SUV MINI.

Once in the driver’s seat this MINI feeling is further enhanced by the sameness of almost everything in front of you. The ignition, the steering, the switches, etc. are all the same as any MINI. The very unique MINI-Connect central screen did get my attention, but not in an awkward way, just different. Seat adjustment and steering position all seemed just like my daily driver. The emergency handbrake handle is indeed very different from a normal MINI but not in a negative way.

For years now, the MINI has been touted as a ‘personal’ car that lends itself to being used to make a personal statement about lifestyle etc. of its owner. Thus it was note worthy that the most significant observation of this new 4 door MINI has to do with a passenger rather than the driver. The entry to the rear is generous with doors of the same size as the front. The real features are seen once inside the rear, not only to the seats slide front and back providing tremendous leg room, but the back of the seal also tilts for total control of passenger comfort. The rear bucket seats are also slightly raised on the base platform to make it all the more comfortable for your friends and family to see out of the front windshield.


Once driving the car the very first impression was that perhaps the A-Pillars on either side of the front windshield ‘felt’ closer in and perhaps made me feel a little enclosed. But within a minute or so this potential distraction disappeared as if it was just my imagination. The actual driving of the Countryman was simply like driving a MINI. While his particular model was an automatic that is not the same as my daily driven 6 speed, it was just the same as previous MINI automatics that I have driven in the past. And in fact, perhaps in this application a MINI automatic may be my first choice.

Bottom line, I will have one of these before too long as my daily driver.