2012 Mini Countryman S All4 review: Mini for the country, man

2012 Mini Countryman S All4An English countryman should have a tweed jacket, a Purdy shotgun and an English pointer…and a Mini Countryman to get him where he can use all three.

But we’re not a English countryman, and we’ll bet donuts to Cheerios that neither are you, but that doesn’t make the Mini Countryman less useful, whether it’s for plowing through snow, following a desert two-track or slogging over a muddy road to get to the cabin…or just being the biggest Mini ever, with room for six-foot-plus passengers in the back seat or more cargo than the Mini Clubman.

2012 Mini Countryman S All4 front seatsAlthough it isn’t an off-roader in the conventional sense—off-pavement would perhaps be the better term—the 2012 Mini Countryman is the first Mini to be equipped with optional all-wheel drive, making it capable of taking the gentleman to where the grouse are.

The Mini Countryman also gains ground clearance. At 5.9 inches, it’s 0.7 inches more than the Mini hardtop. It’s not a lot but enough for, if not off the beaten path at least for the path itself.

And the Countryman is the biggest Mini yet. The previous maximum mini, the Mini Clubman, has three doors (not counting the rear double barn doors), and the right rear door rear-hinged and opens only when the front door is opened. The Countryman, however, is a true four-slammer. Each occupant has a door of his or her own, even if the doors to the rear seats don’t leave a lot of room between the B-pillar and the seat cushion.

But once one gets the size fives—or even size elevens—through the gap, the rear seat is remarkable comfortable, even for a six-foot-plusser inside. Rear leg room is increased over the Clubman. Officially its 33.8 inches versus 32.3 inches, however in real life it seems much greater. According to Mini rep Nathelie Bauters, “Rear legroom is measured the same way within SAE J1100 standards between the MINI Clubman and the MINI Countryman. The Countryman’s seat is measured in the rearmost position. It is one inch greater in the Countryman using this measurement process but in the real world, there is a lot more space because of the footwell and seat designs. The seats (front and rear) sit higher to offer more room for your knees to be less bent and the bulkhead that the rear seat cushion sits on is a different shape, giving you more room to slide your feet backward and side-to-side when seated.”

2012 Mini Countryman S All4 back seatSo there.

The Mini Countryman also gains about an inch of rear headroom over the Clubman, not that rear headroom had been that critical in the Clubman, but room is room. And then there are those taller seats.

The Mini Countryman, however, has a lot more room behind the back seats. Behind the rear seats, the Countryman holds 16.5 cubic feet, but while the rear seats tip forward 40/20/40, they don’t fold completely flat, making it more difficult to slide large objects in. With the seats down, the Countryman has 41.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity. The Clubman, the biggest Mini until the Countryman came along, has a 9.2 cubic foot cargo capacity, expanding to 32.8 with the seatbacks folded. The standard Mini hardtop maxes out at 24.0 cubic feet. Not bad, but the hounds will be happier in the back of the Countryman.