We Like the MINI Countryman. Some Don’t.

MINI’s new crossover will come to life at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Until then, you can see pix and commentary all over the Web. We will sample some of that and give you our (mostly positive) thoughts on this new car.

The name Countryman hearkens back to the 1960s and the Morris Minor (if anyone but me remembers that machine). This hatchback has four doors, upright seating, and clever use of space. Outside, it’s the traditional MINI look as newly interpreted by BMW. Inside, you’ve got a Center Rail extending front to rear with lots of storage boxes, cupholders, and containers for all the “kit” people tend to carry these days.

MINI ClubmanMore important than the Countryman’s looks is its performance: Three gas engines and two diesels are available in Europe, ranging from 90 to 181 hp in the MINI Cooper S Countryman (what a great handle that is, worth buying the car for). The two top trims offer the All4 all-wheel-drive system (as an option), which can feed varying amounts of power to front and rear automatically as conditions demand. Nice. No specs for U.S. cars yet, but MotorAuthority says prices here will range from $29,000 to $34,000 for the all-wheel-drive Cooper S.

We like the way BMW has managed to keep much of the British sporting look while giving the car a rugged crossover treatment. The proportions seem right, and the front end looks tough—something not easy to achieve in a small car. Yet matters of car styling always seem to bring out the cynics and the censors. The Brits especially like to carp about design: Scroll down here for some of their sniveling, negative natterings.

And, we offer you still more amusement at the British approach to automotive press release writing—as in this tidbit which should just make you feel… right at home:

Within the interior again typical of the brand, the MINI Countryman boasts innovative design and function elements throughout. The slightly elevated seating position guarantees comfortable and pleasant access to the car, optimises the driver’s all-round view, and underlines the powerful character of this new model. The Central Display and air vents are surrounded by coloured rings. The MINI Center Rail quite unique the world over, extending from front to rear instead of a conventional centre console, opens up new, individual options for integrating all kinds of storage boxes, cupholders, external audio devices, mobile telephones and other comfort features. Flexibly positioned clip-in elements enable the driver and passengers to subdivide the storage boxes individually as required, keeping travel utensils within easy reach, wherever they are required.

Have a jolly good day—and do drop us a comment about the Countryman. Does it thrill you or chill you?

—jgoods

4 Comments

  1. No, the Countryman moniker was never applied to any Morris. Their estates were always called Traveller.

    It was instead the name used, of course, by Austin for their estates. It is memorable to greatest number probably with the A55 and A60 Austin Cambridge Countryman from 1958 to 1969. There are still nice examples of these about at various modern classic meetings.

    Not such a stretch to remember the Countryman name though. It was last used up to 1996 on the good-selling special edition of BMW’s very capable and much missed 7 seater Rover Montego Estate. Its 2 litre Perkins direct injection turbodiesel engine (only the second of its kind onto the market), could return 60 mpg in this big, versatile and well-equipped motor car.

    Why did the company just walk away from that market niche where they had such a strong and successful commercial presence?

  2. Ha ha, the picture with the surf board is classic. I’m sure this vehicle will cater to the surfers :)
    That is just marketing gone haywire.
    Good looking car, but there is nothing new here. No innovation really, just a really high sticker tag for very little car.

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