Driving Impressions and Safety
For those of you worried about size mattering when it comes to safety, take heart knowing that the 2012 Mini Countryman is an IIHS “Top Safety Pick” meaning it got the highest rankings in all crash tests done by that esteemed safety organization. So, again, the 2012 Mini Countryman is not only fun to look at but is also a very wise and safe family vehicle choice.
For those who live in snowier climates than those we experience here in Southern California near Autobytel headquarters, our Countryman also came equipped with All-4 Drive which can apportion 50% of power to the rear wheels in normal conditions or up to 100% in extreme conditions. We, however, did not ever need to put the system to the test during our 80 degree and sunny week with the Countryman. We, however, were far more enamored with the spunky 1.6 liter 181 horsepower/171 lb. feet of torque turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with its seemingly endless amounts of forward thrust endowed upon us by a silky smooth 6-speed automatic.
Now, from behind the wheel of the 2012 Mini Countryman, there is little doubt that this is the most fun to drive, best handling and grin inducing compact SUV on the market today. Actually, we have no doubt. But is it as fun to drive as the rest of the Mini lineup? Well, it depends on what you are looking for. The Countryman may lack a bit of the go-kart immediacy you find in a regular Cooper S across the rest of the range but then this model also has a much more forgiving ride and suffers from none of the tugging at the steering wheel that afflicts others models under full throttle acceleration. In real world, day to day driving conditions this makes the 2012 Mini Countryman a much easier to live with proposition.
Now, this may mean that the Countryman may lack the 10/10th’s immediacy of other Mini models on track day but really this model isn’t intended for that kind of use. We didn’t track test the Countryman, however, so we can’t fully comment on how well it would do there. Quite frankly, it would probably kick a lot of other “sporty cars” in the tail end with or without its more comfort tailored and practical tendencies. Really, the 2012 Countryman is a tenacious handler with razor sharp steering that is a delight on winding back roads and that is something we definitely proved during our time in this baby SUV. Apologies to Mini if the tires came back to you a little worse for wear but a Countryman calls out for drives on the most challenging roads you know.
But beyond all of that, we want to reiterate what a refined and comfortable cruiser the Countryman proved to be on long freeway slogs thanks to its absorbent chassis and refined interior. Even with quite a few miles on the odometer, our test unit was rattle free and had impressively low wind and road noise levels. As we said, the Countryman makes a fine compromise of razor-sharp, hyper-caffeinated “Mini-ness” mixed with more adult oriented comforts.