Review: Mini Cooper Countryman offers personality and sporty handling

The Mini Cooper is one of the success stories that began with the Plymouth PT Cruiser and the Volkswagen New Beetle — cars that were functionally modern but bore the unmistakable exterior features of an earlier time. Many of these cars, including the PT Cruiser, New Beetle and Chevrolet HHR, are long gone, but the Mini soldiers on, with multiple body styles and power options.

The Mini is based on a British subcompact sedan that never made much of a dent in the U.S. market, but was beloved worldwide for its style, functional capabilities and unexpected prowess as a race car.  Introduced in the early 1960s, it was discontinued in 1999 but returned just three years later after a major redesign. Under management of the German automaker BMW, the Mini was a modest success in the previously standoffish U.S. market, peaking at 66,502 units sold in 2013.

Owing to U.S. drivers' preference for bigger vehicles, especially SUVs, Mini sales have declined since then. The largest Mini, the Countryman, is one of the brand’s biggest sellers in the current era, which saw 36,092 Minis leave the showroom in 2019 — the last year before the industry-wide COVID-19 slump of 2020.

We were provided with a 2021 Countryman, a minicar that is both entertaining and functional. With adequate space for four or even five adults, and up to 47.6 cubic feet of cargo space forward of the rear liftgate, the Countryman is a far more useful vehicle than the original two-door Mini, yet has most of the same assets — including a fun personality and sporty handling.

Our Countryman, priced at $43,450, was powered by a 4-cylinder, 189-horsepower turbocharged engine with an 8-speed shiftable automatic transmission. It wore 19-inch rubber all around, and was equipped with all-wheel drive. Fuel economy, with the required premium gasoline, is 23 mpg city, 31 highway.

The price may seem on the high side for so small a car, but the Countryman's performance, refinement, quality materials and technology add up to strong value. 

The base Countryman starts at $29,100. Our test car's features included the $8,000 Iconic package, which transformed it into a near-luxury sport activity vehicle. Among the optional features were a power liftgate, panoramic moonroof, power front seats, navigation system, satellite radio, premium audio system and wireless charging. 

More Information

2021 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4


Price: $43,450
Engine: 2.0-liter Turbo TwinPower Four, 189 horsepower, 207 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Curb weight: 3,719 lb.
Wheels: 19-in. turnstile spoke two-tone
Tires:  P225/45R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 17.6 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 47.6 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 16.1 gal.
Fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 31 highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

While the Countryman is responsive and sweet-handling, it isn’t quite as road-grippy as the two-door Mini. Mini’s offerings include the Countryman with conventional or hybrid power; two-door hardtop and convertible models; the Clubman, a wagon with clamshell rear doors; and a two-door Mini electric with an estimated range of 114 miles. Performance-oriented Minis wear the John Cooper Works badge.

Engine choices in the Countryman range from 134 horsepower in the base model to 189, and 301 in the John Cooper Works version. The hybrid, with a combined gasoline-electric horsepower rating of 221, can travel up to 18.1 miles on electricity alone, on a full charge.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Brookfield, Conn.