2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

A. J. Mueller

The Countryman muddies the purity of the Mini brand, stretching the limits of the word "mini" and leaving the marque's signature styling looking somewhat bloated. Still, as the father of two small children, this is definitely the only Mini I would consider buying at this point in my life, so I can't say that I blame BMW for growing the Mini lineup. And it shouldn't be forgotten that, back in the day, the original Mini was available in multiple forms besides the iconic two-door hatchback, such as long-wheelbase wagons (the Countryman’s namesake), pickups, panel trucks, and beach cruisers. I believe this is the first factory four-door Mini, but in the age of the Porsche Cayenne, nothing should surprise us anymore. Like the Cayenne, the Countryman is arguably a brand abomination that will nonetheless likely add greatly to its parent company's bottom line.

Like any good Mini, the Countryman drives quite well, and, although it's obviously not as nimble as its little brother, it's still fun to drive, much more so than most other all-wheel-drive small crossovers. It’s impressively peppy, too, especially considering its 1.6-liter engine. The car does ride rough, but what do you expect when beat-up roads interact with gorgeous, black, faux-two-piece eighteen-inch wheels?

I think it’s a bit unfortunate -- although not surprising -- that the Countryman retains the regular Mini’s design-centric interior that’s tricky to use in some instances (e.g. tiny radio buttons, convoluted HVAC interface, over-reflective central speedometer). I am a fan of the giant (optional) sunroof, the bum-searing heated seats, and the highly adjustable cargo area, with sliding rear seats and a big underfloor storage compartment.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

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