2012 MINI Cooper Countryman Pricing

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2012 MINI Cooper Countryman
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
The Mini Cooper Countryman features functionality, with four doors, comfortable room for good-sized people in back, and available all-wheel drive. It's the practical Mini, a more all-purpose vehicle than the other models. Countryman was all new for 2011, so updates for 2012 are few.

Option packages have been re-aligned for the 2012 Mini Countryman, and more personalization choices, such as a full-leather dashboard, have been added.

The Countryman retains the look and fuel economy that have established Mini as a premium brand among small cars while offering real space for four adults and substantially more cargo volume than the other Minis. The Countryman isn't as responsive as the sportiest Mini models, but it's good fun to drive and more engaging than other vehicles in its class,. It's also more comfortable than other Minis.

While the taller, larger Countryman looks a bit different than other Minis, it's based on the same underpinnings and uses the same engines. The base, 121-horsepower four-cylinder is frugal and adequate, even with the optional 6-speed automatic. The upgrade turbocharged version delivers more horsepower and more torque over a broader range, making it more responsive around town and more entertaining.

All-wheel drive is available with the turbo. Front-wheel drive is standard.

Fuel economy ratings range from an EPA-rated 27/35 mpg City/Highway for the base engine with manual to 24/31 mpg for the turbo with all-wheel drive and automatic.

Most Mini Cooper models have four seatbelts, but the Countryman is a realistic four-adult car. It has four traditional side doors, so it's easier to get in or to load kids inside. It delivers 41 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats, with a third of that in the deep trunk with all seats in place. The Countryman will work for families with two small children.

The interior treatment is similar to that in other Mini Coopers. Recurring styling themes, unusual controls and stylized instruments highlight the cabin yet it's functional and quite useful.

Options, including navigation, premium harman-kardon audio, leather and wheel packages, and park-distance control, are plentiful. They can increase the base price $15,000 or more. Model Lineup
The 2012 Mini Countryman is available with a choice of four-cylinder engines, a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter engine and a 181-hp turbocharged version of the same engine. The turbo is available with all-wheel drive. All come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, but all are available with a 6-speed automatic ($1,250). The Sport Package adds 18-inch wheels, rear spoiler, fog lights, hood stripes, and traction control.

Mini Cooper Countryman ($21,750) is powered by a 121-hp 1.6-liter engine with front-wheel drive. It comes standard with vinyl upholstery, six-way manual front seats, sliding and reclining rear seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, power mirrors, locks and four auto-up/down windows, 17-inch alloy wheels, pushbutton start, a rear wiper, adjustable-color ambient lighting, trip computer, center-rail storage with two cupholders and a sunglass case, six-speaker audio with single CD, high-definition and satellite radio hardware, and a one-year subscription to Sirius. For 2012, carpeted floor mats are standard.

Mini Cooper S Countryman ($25,350) features a 181-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter engine and front-wheel drive. Countryman S adds traction control and sport seats to the standard equipment list, and is distinguished by subtly different exterior trim.

The Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 ($27,050) upgrades the S with a full-time variable all-wheel drive system.

Option groups have been re-aligned for 2012, but the most popular extras are available in four packages. The Premium Package ($1,750) includes a universal garage-door opener, automatic climate control, Comfort Access proximity key, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, and chrome interior trim. The Technology Package ($2,000) features rear Park Distance Control, Mini Connected hands-free operation, harman-kardon premium audio and a center armrest. The Cold Weather Package ($750) adds power folding heated mirrors, heated windshield washer jets and heated front seats. Stand-alone options number in the dozens, ranging from piano black cabin trim ($250) to sport suspension ($500) to a navigation system ($1,750). Various cloth and leather interior combinations are available, with a range of paint, color and trim choices. The Mini Yours line, new for 2012, adds even more upscale choices, including a full-leather dashboard and two-tone steering wheel. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)

Standard crash-protection features include front-impact airbags, front passenger knee-protection airbag, front side-impact airbags and full cabin head-protection curtains. Standard active safety features include stability control and anti-lock brakes with cornering brake control and brake hold.

Traction control is standard on S and ALL4 and optional on the base Countryman. Other safety options, available in packages or separately, include the rear Park Distance Control and adaptive xenon headlamps ($600). Walkaround
From a distance of 50 feet, the Countryman looks a lot like a Mini Cooper. Its distinctions are obvious only if it's parked near another Mini model. While it's unique in the Mini line, the Countryman absolutely will not be mistaken for any other brand.

Labeled a crossover by many, the Countryman is the first four-door Mini. Designers have done a great job retaining Mini's familiar visual charm in the Countryman, and that's one reason it's not obvious how much larger than other Minis the Countryman really is. At 161.8 inches in length and 61.5 inches high, it's 17.7 inches longer and 6.1 inches taller than a Mini Cooper hardtop. It's about six inches longer than the extended-wheelbase Clubman. The Countryman has a similar footprint to Ford's Fiesta subcompact hatchback, and it's substantially smaller than other compact crossovers. It's a foot shorter than a Volkswagen Tiguan, and 1.7 feet shorter than a Toyota RAV4.

Countryman's grille is more upright than that on other Mini models. Its headlight clusters are big and oblong, rather than classic Mini round, with two pipes for main beams and a ring of LED elements that serve as daytime running lights (DRLs). Countryman S and ALL4 models have extra openings in front, including a slot above the bumper that replaces the hood scoop on other Coopers to feed cold air to the intercooler. The S also has square, chrome-trimmed openings near the fog lights for directing cooling air to the front brakes.

In side view, the Countryman features what Mini designers call a helmet roof. It's less flat and more domed than that on other Mini models. All of the roof pillars are black, so the contrasting roof appears to be floating.

The MINI logo at the rear serves as the tailgate release, and the license plate recess has the same shape as the air intake in the front bumper. Unlike the Mini Clubman, with its swing-out barn doors, the Countryman has a conventional hatch. It opens remotely with the key fob or manually by swiveling the center of the logo. A rear wiper/washer comes standard and it clears virtually all the window you see in the mirror.

We couldn't help but notice a sort of insect quality viewed from behind or overhead, with the single center antenna and the various curved sections reminding us of biology-class labs. The Countryman is playful, different and seems quite appropriate for this maximum Mini.

It's available in plenty of colors, some unique to it, with contrasting roof paint. We recommend the lighter shades if you live in a place with high-voltage sunshine. You can accessorize almost indefinitely with chrome, dark light housings, stripes bordering on wallpaper, and a Union Jack, Black Jack or checkered flags for the roof and mirrors. Interior
Anyone who appreciates other Mini Cooper models should feel right at home in the Countryman. Design themes, features and materials are similar in all Minis. The big difference is that the Countryman is a true four-passenger vehicle, with a lot more all-purpose utility.

With larger front door openings, the Countryman is easier to climb into than the other models, and its front seat bottoms are higher than those in other Minis by about three inches. For the same reason, the Countryman is a big improvement in forward visibility. The view outward is very good in all directions, because the roof pillars are fairly narrow and more widely spread out. The edges of the hood can be seen by the driver, the glass is expansive and the rear wiper is very effective. The side mirrors are available with a power-fold option for rare neighborhoods where a Mini is wide.

The standard upholstery is vinyl, or Leatherette as Mini calls it. It doesn't come off as cheap, and we'd be quite happy with it. Upgrades include cloth, a couple types of leather, or a combination of cloth inserts and leather side bolsters on the seats. Contrasting piping is available. Door panel inserts have soft-touch surfaces, the roof is a fuzzy fabric and carpeted floor mats are standard for 2012. Most of the standard trim pieces are well-grained plastic. There are no sharp edges or mold lines where panels meet, and nothing looks like a cost-cutting measure, nor out of place.

Choices in cabin trim are as varied as what's available in some luxury cars, with dark silver, piano black, faux carbon fiber and wood among the choices. Door panel inserts and some control surfaces are available in matching or contrasting colors. The Mini Yours interior options, new for 2012, were until now reserved for full luxury cars. These include a leather-surfaced dashboard with exposed stitching and a two-tone leather steering wheel.

The Countryman's front seats are reasonably comfortable, and the available sport seats are up to the car's capability. The cushions are adjustable for height but not angle, so longer legs may find thigh support minimal and tend to submarine, sliding down and forward, over time. Only one front passenger wished for more lateral support in the backrest (after being flung about like a puppet through half an hour of hard driving). Driver and passenger both benefit from wide foot wells, without wheel-well intrusion to make the outboard leg feel shorter than the other one.

The dashboard is larger than that in other Minis to fit the bigger format, with larger vents in slightly different locations, but it's pure Mini in look and operation. Most switches and controls are black with white labeling, and the optional chrome trim adds rings around everything from the shifter to the tachometer. Instruments and controls are bathed in deep amber at night, while door handles and ambient lighting can be adjusted through a rainbow of colors.

The tilt/telescoping steering wheel and properly placed shifter ensure a decent driving position for all sizes. The pedals are nicely placed for fancy footwork if your shoe size isn't too big. The handbrake is a horizontal bar attached on the right side of the console; it works fine for the driver but sometimes made it difficult to find the passenger's seatbelt buckle. And in hard motoring it will be one of the first things the passenger grabs to hang on.

The tachometer is directly ahead of the driver and most of it can be viewed through the wheel. It includes a digital speed display, which is handy because the parallax error in the central speedo can be up to 5 mph. The tach also displays mileage and trip data, but this readout can wash out with polarized sunglasses.

The huge speedometer sits at the top of the center stack of controls, giving equal property rights to driver and front passenger. It includes the fuel gauge, arcing across the bottom like so many pieces of candy corn. On cars with the optional navigation or Mini Connect system, the speedometer has a stubby needle that rotates around the outside edge, with a TFT image display in the center (not affected by polarized lenses). The nav system is operated via two buttons and a small rotary controller just behind the shifter, and it works better than it sounds. Menu logic and programming is much like BMW's latest iteration of iDrive, so be thankful the bugs were worked out before Mini got it.

Audio controls sit at the bottom of the speedometer. Below these are the CD slot, ventilation controls, toggle switches for the four windows, and door locks. The lock toggle does not correlate push-down with lock and lift-up with unlock. It just moves the locks to the other position whenever you move the switch, and these toggles may also be an issue with long fingernails. Along the bottom are controls for fog lights, sport mode, and stability control-off.

There are map lights on the inside mirror and another pair right over the front seatbacks, though this set seems really useful only for a reclined passenger. Inputs for plug-in audio devices are behind the shifter, and the only standard-equipment concealed cabin storage is in the glovebox.

The Countryman does come standard with Mini's Centre Rail storage and fastening system. Centre Rail is two aluminium rails running lengthwise through the middle of the interior in place of a conventional center console. Various accessories, including cupholders, ashtrays, storage boxes and armrests can be locked anywhere along the rails to the occupants' preference. Every car comes with a two-spot cupholder and sunglass case. Other devices, including armrests, are extra.

Rear-seat space is comparable to the typical compact sedan's, with ample headroom and access through generously-sized rear doors on both sides. The rear buckets aren't as heavily bolstered as those in front, so it's easy to slide in and out. Each seat slides fore and aft up to 5.1 inches, to maximize either rear-passenger or cargo space. With rear seats moved back to maximum depth, there's plenty of leg room for passengers six feet tall. It feels like there is more than the claimed 33 inches of rear legroom, but there is limited toe space under the front seats. The window toggles in the rear doors can be awkward to operate, and it seems that a dog paw might easily break one off.

As it does with passenger space, the Countryman also provides the most cargo space in Mini's lineup. It has a liftgate, like the Mini hardtop, and delivers a minimum 12.4 cubic feet of space for stuff, even with the rear seats upright and as far back as they'll slide. That's comparable to the trunk in the typical small sedan. Sliding the rear seats forward creates more cargo space, and folding the seatbacks expands maximum cargo volume to 41.3 cubic feet. There's enough height and length to haul two mountain bikes with their front wheels removed, according to Mini.

Cargo room is better still because there's a substantial well under the load floor, which aligns with the hatch opening. There are tie-down points in back and several optional storage accessories, including a basic net. The load height isn't far off the ground, yet the hatch still opens high enough that our 6-foot, 4-inch test dummy didn't whack his head. Driving Impressions
The four-door Mini Cooper Countryman is the largest Mini ever, but it doesn't give up much of the sharp steering or precise handling that defines other Mini models. It's also the most comfortable Mini ever. With Mini's new, optional ALL4 all-wheel drive, the Countryman could quickly become a favorite with Mini buyers in United States, even if those buyers have a slightly different mindset than longtime Mini enthusiasts.

The Countryman is good fun to drive, eager to sprint off into a corner like a rabbit bounding into a vegetable patch. Those who haven't owned Minis may not be aware that you can have this much fun in a small crossover. Those who've owned other Mini models might be the only drivers less than impressed with the Countryman's dynamic performance.

That's because Mini owners are used to a certain level of response, which can be slightly diminished by added weight and a slightly higher center of gravity with the Countryman. A Countryman weighs about 400 pounds more than the Mini Cooper hardtop, or 250 pounds more than the Clubman or Convertible. Those are significant differences for a 3200-pound car. Still, we'd guess that the Countryman's slightly slower reaction times will be obvious only to those Mini owners with the sportiest models, like the hyper-tuned John Cooper Works variants (not yet available with the Countryman), or those who compete in autocross slalom events.

The biggest drag may be the base engine, which has to move the Countryman's extra weight. The 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder will get the job done but needs revs to do it best, so don't be shy with the gas pedal. Both the manual and automatic transmissions are geared properly, though on anything but highway cruise control we left the automatic in Sport mode to get the best of it. Using a lot of the engine a lot of the time, the base engine never felt or showed any sign of stress. It's among the smoothest little four-cylinders out there, and the noise or vibration never became annoying.

Still, the turbocharged engine in the Countryman S is well worth a premium price and the minimal hit you'll take in real-world gas mileage. Matching 181 horsepower with the Countryman's 3200 pounds, it delivers a slightly better power-to-weight ratio than the typical mid-size sedan. With a reported 0-60 mph time of 7.0 seconds, the Countryman S is plenty quick, particularly as crossovers go.

Moreover, the Countryman S generates up to 192 pound-feet of torque for passing and merging. The torque starts to come on below 2000 rpm and is pulling full-steam by 2500. The only difference in noise level is an extra exhaust whoosh in the rear seat under full throttle. In most instances, the S is quieter than the base Countryman because it needs fewer revs to get the job done. On winding roads or grades, the S can run a gear or two higher, and go quicker to boot.

All Countryman models (Countrymans? Countrymen?) come with a Sport button that makes the engine respond to the throttle faster, though engine response is so good the only time we found this advantageous was for blipping the manual's throttle on downshifts. The Sport mode button also affects the effort needed to steer, making it bit heavier without delivering better feel.

The Countryman's steering doesn't feel quite as razor sharp as that in some other Mini models. There's a slight numb spot just as you begin to turn the wheel off center. Yet the Countryman is supremely responsive as so-called crossover vehicles go, and its directional stability, or its ability to stay on the intended track without steering correction, is first rate. With a bit of familiarity, it goes exactly where you point it.

Its ride is decent, too, certainly more comfortable than any of the other Minis models, particularly on beat-up roads. It's most comfortable with the standard 17-inch wheels, as opposed to the upgrade 18-inchers. There's a bit more suspension travel in the Countryman, though drivers may also notice a bit more body roll (side-to-side sway) through bends than they will in a Mini hardtop or Clubman.

Mini's ALL4 all-wheel drive system is offered only on the Countryman S. In technical terms, ALL4 uses a power take-off at the front differential and delivers power to the rear wheels with an electro-hydraulic, multi-plate clutch. In real world application, this means that in normal driving circumstances all of the engine's power is turning the front wheels, as it does in every other Mini model. But if those wheels slip in any fashion, a bit more than half the engine torque can flow to the rear wheels, balancing the Countryman's traction.

ALL4 adds 154 pounds to the Countryman's operating weight (not much for an all-wheel drive system) and lowers EPA mileage ratings to 25 city, 31 highway, compared to 27/35 for a standard front-drive Mini Cooper Countryman. Still, the Countryman S ALL4 gets better mileage than just about any all-wheel drive vehicle available in the United States. And with ALL4, the Countryman can do things other Minis, including the JCW models, simply can't do.

It can, for example, accelerate hard from a stop with no tire squeal and no torque steer tugging your hands through the steering wheel. That's because ALL4 spreads power to rear wheels so those in front aren't overwhelmed with power, and the process is predictive. If you mash the gas pedal when the on-ramp signal turns green, All4 engages rear drive as fast as the engine makes power, and you're off.

A reasonably skilled driver can also turn the Countryman S ALL4 with the gas pedal. Like all Mini models it understeers a bit, or pushes on its front wheels out toward the edge of the pavement, if it's driven really hard into a curve. But with the Countryman ALL4, a squeeze on the accelerator pedal can actually tighten up its line through the curve, because the all-wheel-drive system will power up the back wheels and turn the back of the car. In such circumstances, other Minis will just churn the front tires and keep pushing toward the edge of the road until the driver lifts of the gas pedal. For the enthusiast driver, this ability to steer with the gas pedal adds an element of control, and fun.

For the rest of us, ALL4 adds an extra layer of traction and a bigger margin of safety, particularly on wet or snowy roads. It does not add significant off-road capability, and that is as much a function of ground clearance and tires as anything. Most Countryman variants come with tires more suited for grip on smooth, dry pavement than sloppy or rough surfaces. For that reason, graded dirt roads are as far into the countryside as a Countryman should go.

If you like the Countryman's size and are considering all-wheel drive but don't want the power or price of the turbocharged model, a second set of wheels with dedicated winter or rougher-terrain tires will get you just as far, maybe farther, than an ALL4 on the standard tires. All4 and that second set of appropriate tires are the best choice of all for action through Midwestern winters or mud.

The Countryman's brakes work just the same as they do on any Mini Cooper, which is to say very well. They respond immediately as the pedal begins to move, and you don't need to press it very far to get a high rate of deceleration. Turning or braking, or both simultaneously, the Countryman stays planted and doesn't lean too far sideways or forward.

Stability control is standard, as is cornering brake control, which that uses the braking system to help direct the car where you aim it by braking wheels individually to maximize directional movement. Both these systems tend to stay in the background, and you really have to screw up before they engage. Summary
The 2012 Mini Cooper Countryman delivers no-excuses room for rear passengers, easier entry and exit than other Mini models, a lot more cargo space and the all-season advantage of optional all-wheel drive. It's powered by the same engines as other Minis, with an adequate 1.6-liter four-cylinder and an entertaining turbocharged upgrade. It offers the same style choices and personalization options, including a new, full-leather dashboard. The Countryman raises Mini's practicality quotient substantially, without a huge dip in mileage or motoring fun, and it will expand Mini's reach to a broader swath of potential buyers.

G.R. Whale contributed to this NewCarTestDrive.com report from Austin, Texas; with J.P. Vettraino reporting from Vienna and Detroit.

Model as tested
Mini Countryman ALL4 ($27,050)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Graz, Austria
Destination charge
700
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
21750
Price as tested
35250
Options as tested
6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission ($1,250); Technology Package ($2,000) includes Park Distance Control, Mini Connected hands-free operation and harman-kardon premium audio; Premium Package ($1,750) includes universal garage-door opener, automatic climate control, Comfort Access proximity key, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights and chrome interior trim; Sport Package ($1,500) includes 18-inch Anthracite wheels, rear spoiler, fog lights and hood stripes; Cold Weather Package ($750) includes power folding heated mirrors, heated windshield washer jets and heated front seats; rear cargo net ($250)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Mini Countryman ($21,750); Countryman S ($25,350), Countryman ALL4 ($27,050)
Safety equipment (standard)
front-impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags, right-front passenger knee-protection airbag, full cabin head-protection curtains, tire pressure monitor, electronic stability control, ABS, Cornering Brake Control
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
1.6-liter dual-overhead cam 16-valve turbocharged I4
Transmissions
6-speed torque-converter automatic with manual-shift feature

Specifications as Tested
vinyl upholstery, six-way manual front seats, air conditioning with micro-filtration, six-speaker audio with single CD, HD and satellite radio with one-year subscription, power mirrors, locks, and auto-up/down windows, cruise control, center rail storage with sunglass case and two cupholders, sliding and reclining rear seats, rear wash/wiper, adjustable-color ambient lighting, trip computer, sport control button, 17-alloy wheels, floor mats

Engine & Transmission
Engine
1.6-liter dual-overhead cam 16-valve turbocharged I4
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
181 @ 5500
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
24/31
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with ABS, EBD, brake assist
Suspension, front
independent, coil springs, antiroll bar
Tires
225/45VR18
Suspension, rear
independent, coil springs, antiroll bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
4
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.9/na/40.4
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.5/na/33.8

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
41.3
Wheelbase
102.2
Length/width/height
161.7/70.4/61.5
Turning circle
38.1
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
60.0/61.1
Ground clearance
5.7
Curb weight
3252

2012 MINI Cooper Countryman
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
The Mini Cooper delivers agile handling, crisp performance and an interminably cute bulldog appearance in a tidy, efficient, front-wheel drive package, with plenty of space and comfort for front seat passengers.

The number of Mini Cooper body styles has expanded to include Hardtop, Clubman, Coupe, Convertible, and Roadster versions, all similar in terms of mechanicals, structure, front sheetmetal, and interiors. All ride on the same 97-inch wheelbase except the Clubman, a stretched version that rides on a 100-inch wheelbase.

The styling of the Mini Coopers was freshened for 2011 with new bumper, tail light and wheel designs. The front ends were also reshaped to meet new requirements for pedestrian safety.

For 2012, updates for the Mini Cooper models were confined to cosmetics, including a new line of trim options aimed at giving owners more opportunity to individualize their cars. Offered as a new collection of custom options called Mini Yours, the choices include a two-tone leather-clad instrument panel with fancy stitching; a two-tone leather steering wheel; Soda pattern Lounge Leather upholstery; 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels; and new interior and exterior colors.

The 2012 Mini Baker Street and the Mini Bayswater are special edition Hardtop models with expressive design features and exclusive equipment influenced by contemporary London style as the city prepares for the Olympic Games. Mini Baker Street is oriented around the fresh, youthful style of the brand, and comes with the 118-hp Mini Cooper engine. Mini Bayswater is focused on the sporting verve and agile handling for which the Mini is renowned and is available with either the Mini Cooper engine or the 172-hp Mini Cooper S engine.

The Mini Coopers are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine available in three levels of power output. All Minis are available with an optional 6-speed automatic.

The Mini Cooper models come standard with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. This engine works best with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, which adds to the sportiness and makes the Mini Cooper fun to drive. Acceleration performance isn't quick but it's adequate. The Mini Cooper delivers excellent fuel economy, earning an EPA rating of 29/37 mpg City/Highway, or 28/36 mpg with the automatic. Premium gasoline is required, however.

The Mini Cooper S models come with a turbocharged version of the same engine that generates 181 horsepower and a substantial 177 pound-feet of torque, making it one of the world's most powerful engines for its size. All the Minis are fun to drive, but in Cooper S trim they deliver exhilarating performance and nimble handling that's most easily appreciated on a twisty back road. With all that torque, this engine works well with the automatic though we still prefer the manual for sportiness. In spite of the significant performance difference, fuel economy is still excellent, earning an EPA-estimated 27/35 mpg or 26/34 mpg with the automatic. Premium gasoline is required.

The Mini Cooper Hardtop is quite practical when viewed as a two-seat car with cargo capacity. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive seats, and they are large enough to accommodate all sizes of drivers and front passengers. With its hatchback and folding rear seats, the Hardtop can haul reasonable amounts of gear. It has a two-place rear seat, but it is hard to climb into and offers very limited leg room. The back seats are best left for small children or, better yet, stuff.

Those who want more room might choose the Mini Cooper Clubman, which is essentially a small station wagon. The Clubman is 9.4 inches longer overall than the Hardtop, and 3.2 inches longer in wheelbase. The extra wheelbase converts to more rear legroom, making it more practical for rear-seat passengers. Access to the rear seat is eased by a third, rear-hinged door on the passenger side. The Clubman also features side-hinged swing-out doors at the back, for easy access to the cargo area, though they don't improve the appearance.

A wide range of styling options allows owners to personalize their cars, and it's a major part of Mini's appeal. The choices cover upholstery style, material and color; exterior graphics; trim pieces; ambient lighting; and exterior paint, including contrasting colors for the roof. Functional options include high-end features like adaptive Xenon headlights, rear obstacle warning and a navigation system. The basic Minis are reasonably priced, starting under $20,000. Check too many options, however, and the ticket can soar into luxury territory, approaching $40,000.

The most expensive Minis are the high-performance John Cooper Works models. The JCW models play on the brand's heritage as a multiple rally and touring-car racing champion in the 1960s. With 208 horsepower, 192 pound-feet of torque and ultra-firm suspension tuning, the JCW package turns the Mini Cooper into a little hot rod, just the thing for charging up the Monte Carlo stages. The JCW package is available for all models (except the Mini Countryman crossover). For 2012, the Mini Cooper JCW performance package includes the aero body kit as standard equipment.

Mini Coopers offer a great combination of style, driving fun, low operating costs and practicality. Engineered by BMW, Mini Coopers come standard with as much safety equipment as any small car available. Model Lineup
The 2012 Mini Cooper models are powered by 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines, with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed automatic with Steptronic manual shift control ($1,250) is optional on most models.

The Mini Cooper Hardtop ($19,500) is powered by a non-turbo version of the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. It comes with leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, power windows with auto-down, cruise control, remote keyless entry, outside temperature display, a cooled glovebox, rear wiper, 15-inch alloy wheels and AM/FM stereo with a single-disc CD player and six speakers. For 2012, both HD and satellite radio are standard, with a one-year Sirius subscription.

Cooper S ($23,100) turbocharging raises output of the engine to 181 horsepower and peak torque to 177 lb-ft. The Cooper S also has a firmer suspension, 16-inch wheels and unique exterior details.

The JCW Hardtop ($29,900) is the raciest model of all, with a 208-hp version of the turbocharged engine, even firmer suspension, larger brakes and 205/45R17 run-flat tires. The JCW models are manual transmission only.

The Mini Cooper Convertible ($24,950) is equipped comparably to the base Hardtop, except for its power-operated soft top and standard 16-inch wheels. The Cooper S Convertible ($27,950) and John Cooper Works Convertible ($35,100) approximate corresponding Hardtop models in standard equipment and performance.

The Mini Cooper Clubman ($21,200) has a slightly longer wheelbase than the Hardtop, with an equal increase in rear seat legroom. It also has a short, third side door on the passenger side for easier access to the rear seat, as well as the swing-out double doors in the back. The Clubman is also offered in S ($24,900) and JCW ($31,400) models.

For 2012, a new line of Mini Yours options is available for further personalization. Personalization is a key component of the Mini brand, with an extensive list of factory- and dealer-installed appearance options that includes exterior graphics, paint combinations, various chrome baubles and special interior colors, upholstery and trim.

Most factory options are grouped in four major packages. The Sport Package ($1,250) includes suspension, wheel/tire and other performance upgrades, as well as competition stripes, depending on the model. The Convenience Package ($1,250) adds rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror and proximity key. The Premium Package ($1,750) includes a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control and a high-power Harman-Kardon audio upgrade. The Cold Weather Package ($500) adds heated front seats, power folding mirrors and heated washer jets. Many of the items from the various packages are also available as stand-alone options. Other significant stand-alones include a limited-slip differential ($250), xenon headlights ($500), adaptive headlights ($600), Rear Park Distance Control ($500), and navigation ($1,750).

Safety features include dual-stage front impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and full-cabin head protection curtains. The Convertible has a pop-up rear rollover bar. Dynamic safety features include Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and full-feature antilock brakes (ABS), with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Cornering Brake Control. All models with the manual transmission feature Hill Assist, which activates the brakes when starting on an uphill start to prevent the car from rolling back. Adaptive Headlights became available for the first time on Minis in 2011. This technology allows the headlights to follow the line of upcoming corners for better illumination of the road surface. Rear Park Distance Control obstacle warning is optional. Walkaround
The Mini Cooper lineup has multiplied since this second-generation version was launched as a 2007 model. Each new variant has been a bit different than the standard two-door Hardtop, as Mini calls the hatchback version. Yet none of the subsequent models will be mistaken for anything other than a close sibling to the chic, irrepressible cute Hardtop, or for that matter any Mini model sold since the brand was re-introduced in 2000.

All Mini models were freshened a bit front and rear for 2011. The updates include new bumper designs and tail lights, and five new wheel designs. Also, the front ends were reshaped, primarily to meet new requirements for pedestrian safety.

The Mini Convertible closely resembles the standard Hardtop, and matches its dimensions. The soft-top maintains the same basic silhouette as the Hardtop, though the heated glass rear window is tilted farther forward. The rear side windows are about a third of the size of those on the Hardtop because the cloth top wraps farther around the sides of the car. When the Convertible top is down, it stacks at the back of the car. The look is fine, but it blocks the driver's lower line of sight to the rear.

The Convertible's insulated fabric roof opens at the touch of a button in just 15 seconds at speeds up to 18 mph, which is very convenient. There are no latches to unhook, simply press the button. A sliding roof function opens just the portion of the top that's over the front seats. It's like a big sunroof that can be opened at speeds up to 75 mph.

The Clubman is identical to the Mini Cooper Hardtop from the front bumper to the back of the doors. Of its 9.4 inches of added length, 3.1 inches are located behind the doors and in front or the rear wheels, increasing rear legroom by a roughly equal amount. Another 6.3 inches are found behind the rear wheels, for more cargo space, but the Clubman still manages to keep a wheels-pushed-to-the-corners look.

The two biggest changes with the Clubman, compared to the Mini Cooper Hardtop, are the substitution of split rear barn doors at the back and the addition of a rear access door on the passenger side. The right-side access door, called the Clubdoor, is a rear-hinged demi-door that doesn't open independently of the front passenger door and provides easier access to the back seat. At the rear of the car, the handles for the split rear doors are placed together where the doors join. The rear glass is fixed and does not open.

Mini Cooper S models are distinguishable from the standard versions, no matter the body style. Black mesh grilles replace the shiny bars, lower brake ducts with optional chrome frames guide cooling air toward the brake discs. Most noticeable is the chrome-ringed hood scoop on Cooper S models.

The current group of Minis represents the second generation of the re-launched brand, but Mini heritage dates to the late 1950s. The original was a landmark design by Alec Issigonis for the British Motor Corporation. With its transverse front engine, front-wheel drive and surprisingly roomy interior, it changed the game in minimalist transportation. It became even more famous for winning the Monte Carlo Rally. Production of the original Mini finally ended in the 1990s.

BMW revived the marque with a totally new Mini Cooper in Europe for the 2000 model year. It was completely redesigned for the 2007 model year. Interior
Mini interiors were updated for 2011 with new features and materials and improved noise counter-measures, and the 2012 Mini Yours line of optional upgrades lend an opportunity for owners to personalize and upgrade their cars. Mini affords numerous interior trim options that can give each one an individual character.

All Mini Cooper cabins are charming with excellent finish. The plastics have a quality look and feel. This also goes for the base Leatherette upholstery (vinyl). Multiple leather options are available, including a cloth and leather combination, a full leather option, and the glove soft Lounge Leather with contrasting piping, similar to classic British sedans. Ambient lighting is standard on most models, and it softly illuminates the door panels and footwells with subtle LEDs. The driver can change the color of the lighting across a spectrum from soft orange to crisp blue.

Despite diminutive exterior dimensions, Mini cabins are surprisingly spacious up front. Even a 6-foot, 5-inch driver can be comfortable in the front seat. The basic manual levers, controlling height, seatback rake, and front-rear travel, allow just about everyone to easily find a comfortable spot.

The Mini driving position is excellent. We found the seats comfortable for long-distance trips, and they're nicely bolstered to keep you in place when you inevitably hustle through the turns. The available sport seats are even better.

A round, plastic transmitter replaces a conventional ignition key. It slides into a slot next to the steering column, and the driver fires the engine by pressing the adjacent a start/stop button. The button is cute and inoffensive, but no more effective than a standard key. The optional proximity key allows the driver to leave the transmitter in purse or pocket and just press the start button. We'd prefer a traditional key, but that's not an option.

All models follow Mini's sporty tradition of a big, round speedometer in the center of the dash. The tachometer is mounted on the tilt/telescoping steering column, moving with the wheel as it's adjusted it up and down. The Convertible has a unique Openometer next to the tach. It tracks the number of hours you drive with the top down and displays the owner's enthusiasm for open-cockpit motoring, a cute feature.

Heating and air conditioning controls sit below the speedo, and they're straightforward in base models. The available automatic climate control system is cleverly configured in the shape of the winged Mini logo. The switch layout is generally effective, though sometimes it's a bit too clever.

The audio controls sacrifice ease of use for design symmetry. The tuning knob is centered with most other audio buttons at the bottom of the speedometer, while the volume control sits further down the center stack, closer to the HVAC controls. At first, you may find yourself changing the station when what you really want is to turn up the volume. The integrated design of the audio controls makes it nearly impossible to fit any aftermarket sound system, and the buttons are obviously plastic, with a matte-gray in finish, and detract from the otherwise high-quality interior appointments.

A retro touch, chrome toggle switches that look like something out of an airplane or racecar cockpit, are positioned at the base of the center stack to control the windows, auxiliary lights, and stability-control system. The toggles are duplicated above the rearview mirror to control interior lights, the optional sunroof and the Convertible top. The steering-column stalk switches for wipers and turn signals are pleasing to look and satisfying to use.

The navigation or Mini Connected systems add a rectangular 6.5-inch video screen in the central speedometer, with a digitally generated speed needle around its perimeter. Maps are stored on a built-in flash drive. Both Mini Connected and the full nav system add Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port, and they make it easy to integrate mobile devices. Audio can be streamed via Bluetooth, and album cover artwork and mobile-phone caller lists can be displayed on the monitor. BMW is a leader in this area.

Interior storage space is not abundant, but it's adequate. There are bins in the door panels, map pockets on the front seatbacks, a small center-console bin and an average-size glovebox. The glovebox can be cooled with the air conditioning, and it's enough to keep a bottled drink reasonably cool, or to keep chocolate bars from turning to mush. The optional Center Rail storage and fastening system replaces the standard center console with two aluminium rails running lengthwise through the middle of the interior. Various accessories, including cupholders, storage boxes, trays or armrests can be locked anywhere along the rails to the occupants' preference.

In the Mini Cooper Hardtop, the rear seat is barely habitable for adults, and only for very short rides. Access to it is anything but convenient. The Convertible has even less rear leg room, 28.1 inches compared to 29.9 inches, so adults or even children won't fit back there unless the front seats are moved far forward.

The Clubman offers more interior space. Its additional wheelbase length translates into additional legroom for rear-seat passengers, and those in back have more shoulder room, as well. The Clubdoor makes the Clubman's rear seat of the Clubman much easier to access from the passenger side. A slot was added on the door for 2011 that keeps the front seatbelt out of the way when rear passengers duck in. The third door is particularly handy for parents who need to deal with child safety seats.

The Convertible has the least cargo space of the Mini models. Room in the trunk doesn't change when the top is lowered, which is good, but there is only 6.0 cubic feet of space to begin with, which is bad, and hard to use, which is also bad. The rear seats fold down, and Mini claims that opens up 23.3 cubic feet of space. But that space is hard to get to, and big items won't slide in behind the front seatbacks or through the short trunk opening. In short, the Mini Convertible is an impractical car.

The Hardtop, with its large rear hatch and separate folding rear seatbacks, does better as a cargo hauler. With the rear seats in place, there's a miniscule 5.7 cubic feet of storage, enough for an airline roll-aboard and a brief case. But with the rear seats folded down, cargo volume expands to a readily accessible 24 cubic feet. That's more than enough for two passengers on long trip.

The Clubman provides a more usable 9.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and a shade-type, pullout cargo cover is provided. With the rear seatbacks folded, it presents a flat load floor and nearly 33 cubic feet of space. The Split Rear Barn Doors are hinged on the rear pillars and open out, providing wide access.

Forward vision is excellent in all Minis, at least when the road ahead is clear. Given the Mini's diminutive size, larger cars can block the view in the same way big SUVs can block the view from the driver's seat of midsize sedan.

Rear sightlines are good in the Hardtop. The Convertible has a couple of issues, however. When the top is down, the lower portion of the driver's rearward line of sight is compromised. With the top up, its corners block vision in the rear quarters. Backing out of a parking spot can be a challenge, making the Park Distance Control warning system an important option. In the Clubman, the line where the rear barn doors join is a bit of a distraction in the rearview mirror. Driving Impressions
We've driven all the Mini Coopers on race tracks, streets and highways around the world, and rank them among the most fun and responsive front-wheel-drive cars available, enhanced by outstanding real-world fuel economy. All Minis have a basic sporting character. Yet most are quite comfortable as daily drivers.

The current-generation Mini, introduced as a 2007 model, is in nearly all respects a better car than the version that re-launched the brand in the U.S. as a 2001 model. It's even easier and safer to drive quickly, and benefits from changes to the suspension and increased engine torque.

For 2011, Mini upgraded its 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine across the line. The changes were aimed at improving efficiency, with less engine weight and friction, accessories that sap less power, and BMW's full, no-throttle Valvtronic variable valve timing. Still, engine output has increased slightly.

The 1.6-liter engine in standard Mini Coopers delivers 121 hp at 6000 rpm, 114 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. The turbocharged 1.6-liter in Cooper S models generates 181 hp at 5500 rpm, with a minimum 177 lb-ft available from 1600-5000 rpm, plus an overboost feature that will deliver 192 lb-ft in short bursts. The extra-racy John Cooper Works models peak at 208 hp at 6000 rpm, 192 pound-feet of torque at 1850-5000 rpm plus an overboost delivering 207 pound-feet when needed. Measured by specific output, a technical label for the amount of power an engine delivers for its size, the Mini JCW four is one of the most powerful engines in any automobile.

Mini touts its new Mini Coupe (reviewed separately) as the quickest member of the lineup, but we think the Hardtop is the best body style from a driving standpoint. It seems the most fun to drive in the purest sense.

Mini says the Hardtop hits 60 from a stop in 8.4 seconds, which is not particularly quick, while the Mini Cooper S performs this feat in 6.6 seconds, which is quick.

The turbocharged Mini Cooper S engine reacts almost instantly to the gas pedal, with only the tiniest hint of turbo lag, and produces satisfying acceleration at all speeds. Its steady, even power delivery across a wide rpm range is impressive, as we've learned in a race track test drive, as well as public road experience.

Cooper S models come with a sport-tuned suspension, but their behavior is still quite refined, and more so than some other cars capable of similar track speeds. With a MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension, the Cooper S is flat and stable in corners, and absorbs small bumps and joints without discomforting passengers. With front-wheel drive, the car never feels at risk of spinning out, even with radical changes in throttle position or braking in the middle of corners.

A key factor in the Mini's sporting feel is its electromechanically assisted steering, which uses an electric motor, instead of a hydraulic pump, for steering assist. Despite the fuel-saving electric power assist, the steering shaft is still mechanically connected to the steering box, so the driver continues to enjoy great feel for the road. This system also varies the steering ratio and effort according to speed.

The effect of the electric steering is most apparent in tight, slow parking lot maneuvers, where very little effort or wheel motion is needed to make large changes in direction. In comparison, at highway speeds an equal rotation of the steering wheel results in smaller and less sensitive directional changes. Another advantage of electrically assisted steering, from the performance perspective, is that steering ratios can be optimized for various portions of a curve, and not just varied with vehicle speed. In the Mini, this means that the initial turn into a corner is cushioned slightly, so the car doesn't feel as go-kart twitchy as the previous generation. It feels a bit numb on center.

The 6-speed automatic transmission works reasonably well with both the standard and turbocharged engines. Paddles on the steering wheel let the driver override the automatic and shift manually; and when the driver stops using them, the transmission reverts to Drive, picking the gears itself. Automatics also come with a Sport mode button that switches to a more aggressive shift algorithm that holds gears longer to keep more power on tap. On all models, the Sport button quickens throttle response and chooses a quicker steering ratio.

The 6-speed manual gearbox offers more driver engagement than the automatic and wrings the most from the Mini's small engine. We strongly recommend the manual for the low-powered base models, and prefer it for the high-powered models. It's crisp, precise, and makes the driving experience more fun.

Mini brakes are first-rate. The four-wheel discs are large for cars of the Mini's weight, and they provide quick, stable stops with good, consistent pedal feel. They're also managed by one of the slickest control programs in small cars. Both the base and S models benefit from Mini's brake cornering control, which can use the ABS to apply individual brakes to inside wheels to help get the car through a corner.

The Convertible is almost as sporty as the Hardtop. This latest version handles better than the previous-generation, thanks to a stronger body structure that substantially reduces cowl shake and body shimmy.

The Clubman is nearly as fun to drive as the regular Mini Cooper Hardtop, and its extra length is an advantage in some ways. The longer wheelbase makes the Clubman a bit more stable in turns. The Hardtop is slightly more eager in quick changes of direction, but the Clubman is still nimble compared to similarly sized cars in tight quarters.

On the road, most drivers should find the Clubman a little more comfortable than the Hardtop. The longer wheelbase makes for smoother ride quality. If ride comfort is a top priority, the Countryman should be the Mini Cooper of choice.

Tires play a crucial role in the Mini ride-quality equation, and there is a variety of tires to choose from. All-season tires on the smaller rims deliver the most comfortable ride. This is most obvious in the Convertible, which tends to emphasize road shock and shakes. The run-flat performance tires on the Mini Cooper S Convertible with a Sport Package made us dread the early spring potholes blooming on Chicago streets. Be sure to actually drive a car with the sports suspension and big rims, regardless of the Mini variant, before buying. They may make the ride too stiff for some tastes. Summary
The Mini Cooper models are nimble and visually unique. In Cooper S trim, they are quite fast. There is plenty of room for the passengers in front, but the Clubman is the better choice if the rear seat will be used for people. Prices range from just over $20,000 for a basic hatchback up to $40,000 for a loaded Convertible. Any way you choose, the Mini provides as much style and sheer fun as any small car extant, and even more personalization options.

Kirk Bell reported from Chicago, with J.P Vettraino reporting from Detroit.

Model as tested
Mini Cooper Clubman S ($24,800)
Basic Warranty
5 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Oxford, England
Destination charge
700
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
19500
Price as tested
32100
Options as tested
Premium Package ($1,750) includes dual-pane panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, and Harman Kardon audio upgrade; Convenience Package ($1,250) includes rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, universal garage door opener, iPod adapter, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and proximity key access and starting; Cold Weather Package ($750) includes heated front seats, heated folding mirrors and heated washer jets; cloth/leather upholstery package ($1,000); sport seats ($250)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Mini Cooper Hardtop ($19,500); Cooper S Hardtop ($23,100); John Cooper Works Hardtop ($29,900); Clubman ($21,200); Clubman S ($24,900); John Cooper Works Clubman ($31,400); Cooper Convertible ($24,950); Cooper S Convertible ($27,950); John Cooper Works Convertible ($34,100)
Safety equipment (standard)
front-impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags, full-cabin head protection curtains, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control, tire-pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
1.6-liter dohc 16v turbocharged inline-4
Transmissions
6-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, AM/FM audio with single CD, six speakers, Sirius satellite and HD radio receivers, speed-sensitive volume and RDS, power windows with auto-down, remote keyless entry, leather-wrapped tilt/telescope steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, trip computer, outside temperature display, color-adjustable interior lighting, cooled glovebox, interior air filter, three 12-volt outlets, split-folding rear seat, steel foot pedals, rear wiper and defogger, sport-mode adjustment for throttle and steering, rear spoiler, fog lights,17-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires

Engine & Transmission
Engine
1.6-liter dohc 16v turbocharged inline-4
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
181 @ 5500
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
27/34
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson struts
Tires
195/55R16
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, coil springs

Accomodations
Seating capacity
4
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.0/NA/41.4
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.7/NA/32.3

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
32.9
Wheelbase
100.3
Length/width/height
155.9/66.3/56.4
Turning circle
36.1
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
57.2/57.5
Ground clearance
5.4
Curb weight
2712


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