The Countryman looks fresh and friendly.
With its bug-eyed headlamps, cheeky smile and Union Jack-inspired taillights, the 2021 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 is cuter than a basket of puppies. Behind that adorable façade is a remarkably upscale interior, one that’s also far roomier than you might expect from a company whose name is synonymous with small. The Countryman makes a good first impression, but dig a little deeper and you’ll soon learn it’s far from picture perfect.
LikePremium interiorRoomy backseatSpunky styling
Don’t LikeWhat?! I can’t hear you over the tire noiseAcute lack of driver aidsDisinterested dynamicsNo Android Auto
The Countryman competes with mainstream small crossovers like the Hyundai Kona and Subaru Crosstrek, but a broad model range allows this Mini to have a foot in the premium camp as well. Its more upscale rivals include the petite Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Lexus UX.
In top-shelf Iconic trim, the Countryman’s interior is one of its most appealing features. There are plenty of low-sheen soft plastics and high-quality controls, and how can you not love Mini’s retro-inspired toggle switches? My tester’s dashboard is partially covered in a nutty-brown leather that looks great and feels even better. These cow hides spill over to the seats, where the material is embellished with a diamond-stitch pattern and contrast-color piping.
The front bucket chairs are chiropractor-approved, and I especially like the extendable lower bolsters, which provide additional support for taller folks. Helping keep glare at bay, the driver gets a secondary, headliner-mounted visor to prevent the sun from shining in from the side. Despite being a Mini, there’s miles of space in this vehicle’s backseat, too. Lanky passengers are treated to ample room in all three dimensions.
As a schlepper, the Countryman is decently commodious, offering 17.6 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seat and 47.6 cubes with the backrests folded down. There’s also a generous underfloor storage cubby, a great place to stash smaller items out of the way. These figures are right in line with an Audi Q3, but a little shy of what the Volvo XC40 offers. Annoyingly, however, you can’t fold the rear seat down from the cargo area. Instead, you have to pull three separate lanyards in the second row to fully drop the 40/20/40-split backrest.
The Countryman’s interior is stretch-out spacious and features plenty of upscale materials.
Beyond that, there are other ergonomic oddities. The interior door handles, for instance, seem backward. The place where you grab these semicircular chrome levers is at the front, so you have to twist your wrist around to access it. I found this kind of annoying, but Mini owners apparently do not, as the company says it hasn’t had complaints about this, so maybe I’m just an outlier.
The Countryman has a digital instrument cluster, but it doesn’t offer any driver-selectable information screens, which is unusual. What you see is basically what you get. At least for 2022 you’ll be able to change the color scheme.
In-vehicle tech is a notable sore spot with the Countryman. My tester’s very wide but short 8.8-inch multimedia display with embedded navigation feels cramped. Thoughtfully, you can control things in two ways, either via the touchscreen or a command knob on the center console. Closely related to BMW iDrive, this Mini infotainment system is performant, booting up instantly and smoothly responding when you pinch-and-zoom on the map, though it isn’t the most intuitive multimedia array you’ll find. Managing radio presets is not fun and there’s no discrete tuning knob for quickly buzzing through stations. With so many menus to scroll or swipe through, and a rather steep learning curve, it’s definitely not one of my preferred infotainment systems, though there are much worse options out there.
Simplifying things, you can always mirror your smartphone, right? Maybe. Wireless Apple CarPlay is offered with the Touchscreen Navigation and Touchscreen Navigation Plus packages, though it is not included with the standard infotainment system because, according to Mini spokespeople, that base hardware isn’t up to snuff. The Cooper S Countryman All4 I’m testing here should have CarPlay, though I spent at least 15 minutes trying to make it work and could not, disconnecting and reconnecting my phone, plugging into different USB ports and digging through the owner’s manual for answers, but no dice. If you’re a Google enthusiast, I have more bad news: Android Auto is not supported at all. Mini reps say they are working on implementing this technology, though there’s no timeframe when it might be available.
The infotainment system is super responsive but isn’t the most intuitive.
The Countryman comes with forward-collision warning, but other advanced driver aids are nowhere to be found. Lane-centering technology isn’t on the menu and blind-spot monitoring is not available on any Mini model at all. At least adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability is offered on the Countryman, bundled in the Driver Assistance Package along with a head-up display and automatic parking. Unfortunately, though, my tester is not fitted with this $1,250 options group. Things are improving slightly for 2022, as lane-departure warning is now standard across the Mini product portfolio and items found in the Countryman’s driver-assistance package come standard with the Iconic trim (and are available on lower-end variants, too). But still, this brand is behind the tech curve.
Underneath its curvaceous hood, this Countryman is fitted with the uplevel 2.0-liter turbo I4. It delivers 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, appreciably more oomph than the standard three-cylinder engine provides, though the plug-in hybrid Countryman is stronger than that and the zippy John Cooper Works model more potent still. In this example, twist is routed to either the front or all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Even though it’s fitted with a torque converter, it often feels like a dual-clutch gearbox at low speeds as shifts are sometimes a little clunky. Once underway, things do smooth out.
Expect 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway from the Cooper S Countryman All4. Combined, it’s rated at 26 mpg, though I’ve been averaging 25 and change in mixed use, which is pretty much right on target.
Performance is good, if not outstanding. This crossover’s engine is smooth and quiet.
A dynamic dud
Minis are known for their spunky performance and go-kart-like handling. This is true of the original that debuted in 1959 and especially the modern version that launched in the early 2000s. But with each year and every generation, these cars get bigger and bulkier, drifting further away from what made Minis so sensational. This is particularly true of the Countryman, which, to date, is the brand’s largest and most-versatile model. Despite its frisky styling and sporting pretenses this crossover is a bit of a dud, no better to drive than something as mainstream as a Honda CR-V.
Conspiring to make the Countryman feel completely ordinary, its transmission is indecisive and sometimes unrefined, the brake pedal is soft under your foot, and unless you put it in Sport mode, the steering has a noticeable dead spot on center. This Iconic trim’s adaptive dampers help keep the body well controlled, stiffening by 10% when you switch to Sport mode, but the ride is always a skosh firmer than necessary. No, the Countryman isn’t so stiff that it crashes over bumps or bounds over undulations, but it probably doesn’t need to be as starchy as it is, especially since this firmness doesn’t seem to provide any real handling benefit.
This vehicle’s alloy wheels may be stylish, but the 225/45R19 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires they’re wrapped in transmit lots of noise to the cabin, especially on weather-beaten pavement. At least the engine is soft-spoken and smooth, able to move the Cooper S Countryman All4 from 0 to 60 mph in around 7.1 seconds. This performance is entirely respectable, even if the vehicle never feels particularly quick. Switch over to the fuel-saving Green driving mode, however, and the powertrain becomes nearly unresponsive, requiring you to practically push the accelerator halfway to the floor before any change in vehicle speed manifests.
If you’re a Mini enthusiast, the Countryman is right up your alley.
For the Mini faithful
The Countryman starts at about $30,000 including $850 in delivery fees. If you need all-wheel drive, it will cost you an additional two grand. Naturally, the pinnacle example tested here is pricier than that, checking out for $43,600, a hefty sum considering the driver aids and other features it lacks.
The Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 is one of the more disappointing vehicles I’ve tested in recent memory. Its iconic styling and upscale (and surprisingly roomy) interior are certainly laudable, but the vehicle’s uninspiring dynamics, lack of features and ambitious pricing are its undoing. Unless you count yourself among the Mini faithful, there are better options than the Countryman.