First Drive: 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman

Don Sherman

Convincing Mini Family Resemblance
While photos suggest the new Countryman is a biggie, it's not. In basic dimensions, it's 15-inches longer, four inches wider, and six inches taller than the petite Mini hardtop. The wheelbase stretch is 5.1-inches and there's a modest increase in ground clearance but don't take that to mean that the Countryman is off-road ready. The overall package is still decidedly compact; by the yardstick, Countryman is a slightly bulked up VW New Beetle.

Like its predecessors, the Countryman is a two-box design with a happy face consisting of through-the-hood headlamp eyes and upper and lower grilles. The hood is inflated to keep the major elements in proportion. In the side view, the wheels and tires are showcased beneath prominent black arches. Marker lamps are surrounded by bright chunks of chrome neatly aligned with the A-pillars. A high beltline supports three side windows and two full sized doors per side. A large hatch provides access to the cargo area which offers 16.5 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and 41.3 cubic feet of haulage volume with the rear backrests folded.

With no less than eleven body colors, three choices for roof color, and dealer-installed flag decals, the wealth of exterior configurations boggles the mind.

Maxi Interior
Instead of attempting to cram in three compromised back seats, Mini USA chose the comfort approach. That means two real buckets in back with adjustments for fore-and-aft position (5.1-inches) and backrest rake. If maximum legroom is not required, the longitudinal adjuster allows you to stretch the cargo space. The backrests fold but not quite flat. An optional hinged partition can be dropped to bridge the gaps and to provide a fairly level extended load floor.

Thanks to the aforementioned four inch increase in overall width, there is shoulder room in abundance -- roughly two more inches both front and rear than the Mini hardtop provides in its front seat. Outward visibility is superb.

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