If you’ve read enough of my reviews, you’ll notice my disdain for the compact crossovers on the road today. Each one looks more ridiculous than the other with very little internal room and oftentimes with punchless engines.
This week, I’m behind the wheel of yet another Mini crossover. Note the capital M in the word mini there. That’s because my tester this week is one of the original compact crossovers: the Mini Cooper Countryman, which was mini before mini was chic. (That has to be a record for number of times anyone has used the word mini in one sentence.)
Some of what I find annoying about subcompact crossovers is endearing in the Mini Countryman. The quirks are part of the brand’s charms. And they generally work on the Cooper Countryman.
All Minis drive the same way, and that’s a good thing – just as all Minis have the same unique look inside. And again, that’s a good thing. Distinction in today’s world of cars is a good thing. The Mini Cooper Countryman is a square peg in a round hole.
To add further distinction, my tester is a plug-in hybrid version, which is a new offering from Mini this model year. A 1.5-liter 3-cylinder has an electric motor assist on the Countryman S E. This new engine offering can rival Mini’s fastest Countryman, the John Cooper Works, which has a twin-turbocharged engine.
The Countryman S E with both motors produces 221 horsepower and uses a standard six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission feels a little dated and probably works better as a manual. As such, with this engine pairing there are some weird shift habits, but they’re easy to forgive as this little crossover is so much fun to drive. My tester even had all-wheel drive for tremendous handling!
As I mentioned, all Minis drive the same way. They all feel like go-karts and thus perform like that; this little Countryman is no exception. If all subcompact crossovers could be like this, I’d be a much bigger fan.
On looks, the Mini Countryman looks and feels very European. The styling has a lot of personality. It differentiates itself from others, yet also blends in so well, too. The teeny tiny grille and the bulbous headlights just work and are truly different from anything else on the road.
On profile the Countryman sits higher and has a more SUV look than the standard Mini. The roof racks show that it’s more family oriented. The back end is more understated. It almost has a Subaru vibe which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it just loses some of its European distinction on the back end.
The biggest pet peeve I have with these subcompact crossovers is the poor quality of the interior. The Mini’s interior is quite extraordinary. It’s a nice blend of high-quality materials with distinctive styling. I used the term quirky earlier and it applies here.
The quality of the Countryman’s interior is impressive. Soft leather surfaces and good touch points give it a luxurious feel. But the big circular multi-function display dominates the dashboard. The styling is different. While I found the overall system to be clunky and not intuitive, the styling of it gets high marks.
Rear passengers will enjoy ample head room and legroom, which is something you don’t often see in small crossovers. The cargo room is on the small side, especially in the hybrid version where there is only 17.2 cubic feet of room behind the seats. Fold the seats flat and there’s 47.4 cubic feet of cargo room.
The Countryman S E is the only trim with the hybrid assist. It has a base price of $36,800. My tester had a few options like the ultra-cool ambient lighting as well as park assist and a head-up display. All told, my tester’s final price was $40,000.
It takes about eight hours to fully charge the Countryman S E using a standard 110 outlet. That charge time only yields about 12 miles of gas-free driving. This number seems small and almost pointless.
This compact crossover is ideal as an urban dweller. With the electric assist, the Countryman S E gets about 65 mpg. The numbers skew based upon how long you can get the car to run without using gasoline. That all varies on air temperature and any number of other factors. Even uncharged, I found it to be quite the fuel sipper, especially considering how zippy it was.
All in all, the Mini Cooper Countryman S E redeems itself amongst a group of punchless, no-personality competitors. It has power and magnetism in spades. And now this year it has extra good fuel economy for the win.
2018 MINI COOPER COUNTRYMAN S E
- Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $36,800/$40,000
- Mileage…………………………………… 65 mpg/combined
- Engine……………………………………… 3-cylinder turbo charged with electric motor assist
- Horsepower…………………………… 221 hp/284 lbs.-ft.
- Transmission…………………………… 6-speed automatic
- Drive wheels……………. All-wheel drive
- Final assembly point……………. Born, Netherlands
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