Rain Dancing With a MINI Cooper Countryman

Recently, I decided to dodge the Tampa rain and head out for a much needed test drive. After some thought and persistent persuasion from the NEVO family, the test subject was agreed upon: the 2013 MINI Cooper Countryman.

Dabbling in the crossover market, the Countryman is MINI’s largest vehicle to date. The increased overall dimensions make for a roomier interior and respectable backseat not found in other MINI Cooper models. Price as tested was right around 28k for the front-wheel-drive 4 door S Countryman.

From the exterior, the Countryman is classic MINI. A step inside and I quickly realized this MINI means business. Form and function take priority with the Countryman interior. The design is cleanly expressed through crisp lines, aviator style toggle switches, and subtle textures that scream British luxury. Even with its high-end feel, MINI shows a sense of humor with the retro, conspicuously placed and largely oversized speedometer. From the moment I took the driver’s seat, whatever apprehension I may have had about the MINI Countryman, vanished.

Inserting the circular key fob into the ignition readied this MINI for drive time. With a quick touch of the ignition button, the MINI came to life with a powerful, yet understated rumble. Driving the MINI Countryman was fun to say the least. Then I was introduced to “Sport Mode”. A quick flip of a toggle switch changed the already entertaining Countryman into an impressive driving machine. With stiffer steering, tighter suspension, sportier shift points, and a throatier exhaust tone, it was time to find a backroad.

Off the main road, I took the now sportier MINI Countryman through its paces. Grasping the properly proportioned steering wheel and giving the accelerator a gentle push had the 181 horsepower Peugeot engine screaming. The Countryman reaches speeds quickly without issue. Around corners, the stiffer suspension shows its use keeping the MINI tight to the late apex. My only gripe with the Countryman’s handling comes with the factory brake setup. The brakes felt a bit slow to respond when shifting vehicle weight during the test drive. While I doubt this would cause issue during daily driving, it may be cumbersome for those weekend ventures or high stress crash avoidance situations.

While the MINI Countryman impresses with its design, power and performance, its passive safety features cant be overlooked. The Countryman’s rigid body is equipped with a 7 airbag/air curtain system, advanced crash sensors, and an engine immobilizer. These features make the MINI Countryman a top safety pick in its class according to IIHS.

If you are in the market for a fun, well priced, well designed crossover, be sure to head to your nearest MINI dealership. My test drive was compliments of Mike Womack at MINI of Wesley Chapel. Walking around the showroom was an experience on its own. The design and decor of the MINI extend outside of the vehicles and into their showrooms. After passing two suspended, limited edition JCW models, I headed to view the vehicle option packages.

The option packages are where a potential buyer will need to be careful. MINI is one of the most option rich vehicles I have come across. If they can charge you for it, they will. While many options are personal, I would highly recommend the Brembo Brake upgrade to improve on the sluggish response of the basic brake package. Whatever your tastes may be, this British import has something for you.

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