The concept of a MINI sport-utility vehicle is one that at first might seem at odds with the brand's small car aesthetic, but leave it up to the British brand to do things in its own unique way and produce an automobile that straddles two very different worlds. The 2012 MINI Countryman offers a look that is distinctly tied to the Cooper and Clubman models that came before it, but the vehicle's plus-sized dimensions make it far more useful on a daily basis than any other members of the MINI family. In essence, the Countryman has been able to preserve the soul of the MINI experience while expanding the number of potential buyers exponentially.
Let's take a look at 10 things you need to know about the 2012 MINI Cooper.
1. The 2012 MINI Countryman Is The Largest Member Of The Lineup
It only takes one visit to the dealer lot to see that the 2012 MINI Countryman is clearly larger than its MINI Cooper coupe and MINI Clubman brethren. Even more apparent than the fact that the MINI Countryman is considerably longer and wider than a standard Cooper is the presence of four full-size doors - something not found anywhere else in the MINI stable. The vehicle's longer wheelbase also translates into substantially improved rear legroom, and with the Countryman's unique 2+2 seating arrangement those riding in the backseat will also have plenty of real estate for their shoulders and elbows.
2. The 2012 MINI Countryman Provides Plenty of Practicality
The reasoning behind the decision to build a bigger MINI is easy enough to understand. The 2012 MINI Countryman offers MINI Cooper owners the chance to upgrade to a more useful automobile while staying within the family, instead of defecting to any number of other compact crossover options currently on the market. The MINI Countryman provides a total of 41.3 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear row of seats folded forward, which is 17 cubic feet more than a Cooper. Although 41.3 cubic feet might not seem like an excessive amount of room when compared against much larger vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 or the Ford Escape, the MINI Countryman does very well against similarly-sized hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Fiesta in terms of overall utility.
3. The 2012 MINI Countryman Comes With Two Engine Options
The 2012 MINI Countryman starts out with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood that is good for a healthy 121 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. This motor can be yoked to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, and fuel economy for the small unit is rated at 28-mpg in city driving and 35-mpg on the highway.
An additional dose of performance is available by ordering the Countryman's 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mill. The forced induction setup squeezes out 181 horses and 177 lb-ft of twist, while maintaining both six-speed transmission options. Fuel economy for the more robust motor checks in at 26-mpg in stop and go driving and 30-mpg during highway cruising.
4. The 2012 MINI Countryman Offers All-Wheel Drive
A further advantage of specifying the 2012 MINI Countryman in turbocharged trim is that it opens up the availability of the automaker's very first all-wheel drive system. MINI uses the same basic system - dubbed ALL4 - in the vehicles it plans to campaign in the World Rally Championship, and it splits torque evenly (50/50) between the front and rear axles, giving the Countryman a unique driving feel that is absent from other models in the brand's portfolio. The decision to include the ALL4 system exclusively with the turbocharged model goes a long way towards negating the performance damping effect of the additional weight of the four-wheel drive hardware attached the MINI platform.
5. The 2012 MINI Countryman Will Be Available In A Special John Cooper Works Model
It was only a matter of time before MINI confirmed that the 2012 MINI Countryman would be receiving the full performance treatment from in-house tuner John Cooper Works. Although so far only spy photos of the automobile have been released, company spokespeople have confirmed that the MINI Countryman JCW will feature a more aggressive turbocharger setup that could pump close to 210 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque out of the vehicle's 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. The Countryman John Cooper Works edition will also benefit from bigger brakes and a revised suspension system that will be lowered, stiffened and given thicker stabilizer bars in order to improve the crossover's handling.
6. The 2012 MINI Countryman Can Be Had In Two Trim Levels
The entry-level 2012 MINI Countryman comes with a long list of standard features, including air conditioning, imitation leather upholstery, a real leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, a trip computer and a CD player that is matched with an HD / satellite radio system. Upgrading to the Countryman S brings with it fog lights, more aggressive exterior trim, a traction control system that can be adjusted by the driver (as opposed to the basic system found on the standard model) and sport seats with bolsters that do a better job of gripping the body of both forward occupants.
7. The 2012 MINI Countryman Features A Number of Options and Accessories
MINI prides itself on providing its customers with the ability to customize their vehicles almost as though they were blank slates, and the 2012 MINI Countryman is no exception. The MINI Countryman is available with an almost bewildering number of personal touches that can be added to the crossover in the form of optional equipment, with different suspension setups, larger 18-inch wheels, a navigation system and the MINI Connected multimedia and communications interface representing some of the highlights. Also available with the MINI Countryman are a surround sound system, a parking assistance system, a sunroof, HID headlights, Bluetooth integration and full leather seating.
8. The 2012 MINI Countryman Is Fun To Drive
Much has been made about the increased size and girth of the 2012 MINI Countryman, but the automaker has done its best to ensure that the vehicle still embraces the same sporting values that have drawn thousands of fans to the brand since it first returned to the automotive scene in North America just over a decade ago. Although the base Countryman takes a tick under 10 seconds to hit 60-mph, the Countryman S is capable of making the same spring in a more impressive 7.6 seconds, as the available all-wheel drive helps to plant the vehicle's torque with that much more authority. Throw in the available sport suspension options and the general precision engineered into each and every MINI chassis, and the vehicle is still capable of generating smiles despite its weight and size penalty.
9. The 2012 MINI Countryman Is A Safe Small Car
Small vehicles in particular are sensitive to the question of safety, especially given the fleets of larger trucks and SUVs that ply American highways. In order to help protect occupants from harm during a serious accident the 2012 MINI Countryman is loaded up with front airbags, front seat-mounted airbags and side curtain airbags that run the entire length of the passenger compartment. Traction control is available with the MINI Countryman, and stability control and anti-lock brakes are also present and accounted for. The Countryman S' available all-wheel drive system adds an extra layer of grip during inclement weather conditions, which is a bonus for drivers who have to deal with northern winter climates.
10. The 2012 MINI Countryman Is Affordably Priced
The 2012 MINI Countryman starts out with an MSRP of $21,750, which makes it just a bit more expensive than competing crossovers like the Nissan Rogue and the Kia Sportage. Neither of these cute-utes have the same kind of premium appeal as the MINI Countryman, however, which makes the price gap that much more understandable. Jumping up to the Countryman S trim inflates the MSRP to a still-reasonable $25,350, while the ALL4 trim's all-wheel drive system requires buyers to hand over $27,050 for the privilege of driving the only non-front-wheel drive MINI available.
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