2011 Mini Cooper Countryman

When I tested the Mini Cooper Countryman S with All4, I wanted to see if it could handle family car duties.

The back seat is very roomy. In fact, it’s so spacious that you forget you’re in a Mini. The center rail’s neat, but I realized it isn’t ideal for families. You can put snacks in the dishwasher-safe cup holders, but the rail will be hard to clean. It’s a haven for crumbs. But when Jamie had the Countryman, she put her dogs in the back, which made a mess. She cleaned it and had no problem.

Center rail cup holder with cereal bars

The Countryman takes premium gas, but has EPA ratings of 23/30 mpg city/highway on the automatic S with All4. If premium is $4.30 a gallon, and you drive 8,250 city miles and 6,750 highway miles annually, you’ll pump $2,508 into it. The Audi A3 with AWD, for comparison, gets 21/28 mpg city/highway, which will cost $2,722 for premium gas annually. The Countryman saves you $214.50, which equates to about seven packs of diapers at $30 each.

On Sunday, I lugged a medium suitcase and two plastic tubs outside. With the rear seats up, these fit with room to spare, but 16.5 cubic feet isn't much space for an entire family’s luggage. 

Trunk with rear seats up
Trunk with rear seats collapsed

Things got hairy when the autos team installed car seats. Rear-facing seats force you to push the passenger seat forward. I’m 5’8” and when I sat up front, I had no leg room. Forward-facing seats fit just fine.

Rear-facing car seat

The Countryman is a fuel-efficient family car with limitations. It’s fine for big kids, but bad for rear-facing car seats, easy cleaning and long vacations.