By on October 7, 2010

The Countryman is a game-changer for us. We are going from extra-small to small
MINI USA’s Jim McDowell turns brand defiance into “game changer” status, by defining the forthcoming Countryman “SUV” as “small” and the previous MINI models as “extra small” in Automotive News [sub]. But the $22,350 Countryman (Cooper S trim with AWD should cost “just under $30k”) is considerably less extra-small than even the next-least-small MINI, the Clubman. According to MINI’s European sites [UK comparison tool here], the Countryman Cooper S weighs about 200 lbs more than the Clubman Cooper S (loaded or “kerb” weight, before adding AWD) and 400 lbs more than the MINI Cooper S. It’s also nearly six inches longer than the Clubman, four inches wider and five inches taller. In fact, with AWD and an automatic (sure to be the most popular configuration in the US market), there’s no way the Countryman Cooper S will weigh less than 3,000 lbs. If that’s what qualifies as “small” these days, it’s a wonder the MINI brand exists at all.
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35 Comments on ““Small” MINI Countryman Starts At $22,350...”


  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    MINI has to do something. I’ve recently seen ads for $199 leases for MINI products here in the NYC metro area. Something tells me that MINI is about to go the way of the Etienne Aigner purses that my mother-in-law and her friends used to covet.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Hmmm . . . well if by “small” they mean the 16oz small drink, whereas when I was a child “small” meant an 8oz cup (with medium being 12oz and large 16oz), then I guess all’s well!

    How a “mini” can weigh as much as a full-sized van or the 1971 Ford LTD I had is just beyond me – must be all of that new-fangled safety equipment!

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I drive a 3300lb ’99 CR-V. Our friends and family thinks it’s small until they ride in it. Then it’s “big enough”. Bigger inside than it looks. Got a comment from a family member saying “someday maybe when you can afford to, you’ll be able to buy something larger…” Well firstly I can afford something larger now. I’m just being tight. It’s fine at 206K miles. They drive a 7 passenger SUV as a one or two person commuter vehicle. To us it’s a school bus… I guess what makes you happy is all relative.

  • avatar
    srogers

    I’m guessing that 4000 lbs is an exaggeration or a mistake. Even 3400 lbs would be too much for a fat B-class.

    • 0 avatar

      I think he meant 3,000 pounds.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Either a typo or Ed flunked math.  Clubman weighs about 2700+ pounds, so figure maybe 3000 for the Countryman with auto.  That means the AWD system needs to weigh 1000 pounds to get to 4000. Assuming it’s a typo, I’m not sure what Ed’s point is. Is it really surprising that adding two doors, over a foot in length, increased height and width, and AWD to a 2600 pound car bumps it up to 3000 pounds? Compared to other CUVs it is small, a Nissan Rogue AWD weighs over 3400 pounds. Color me biased, I own a Mini, but short of building the thing out of carbon fiber, I can’t see how this vehicle could weigh much less than it does.

    • 0 avatar

      Apologies all round… over 3,000 lbs is the correct number. Text amended.

      The All4 AWD system has been praised for its simplicity by European reviewers. It reportedly adds just over 150 lbs, although it is an “assist” system that engages only when front wheels slip.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      Even 3,000 lbs is not exactly “small.”  The first generation Ford Taurus weight 3,000 and change.  So did the second generation Dart/Valiant.  Those cars came with 5-6 seats, not 4-5.  Soundproofing, modern safety features (the original Volvo 240 was less than 3,000lbs by the way), excuses, yadda yadda yadda… this car is an automotive fat kid.  It just looks small because most of the other kids are really fat.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    How do we get from 2600 Lbs. for the Cooper S to 4000+? My 3 series wagon only weighs about 3300lbs

  • avatar
    Nick

    It astonished me that these cars sell at all.  They have their charms, I guess, when they are working properly.  However, I know a few people who have purchased these and they are fraught with problems.  In one case, the person went to open their door and the whole handle just snapped off in their hand.  Huh?  If MINI sales are slipping, maybe it is because they suck.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      As vehicle problems go I’d rather deal with the occasional flimsy door handle than blown transmissions or $700 a/c repairs or engines that let go at 100K like I have heard from family and friends with other brands. So want sort of problems have the Mini had? A series of little problems or a few really big problems?

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    Four thousand pounds?  I hope that’s erroneous information because, it not, BMW has jumped the shark.  Perhaps they could rename the Countryman the Pacer — the first obese minicar.
     

  • avatar

    The buzz I’ve been receiving from people who’ve driven one is that the Countryman is a major disappointment.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    To those who are bashing MINI…
     
    Guys, give credit where credit is due. In the US, where the perception is that small cars are by default cheap little econoboxes (it was even worse 7 years ago when the MINI was launched in the US), BMW was able to successfully build, market, and sell a small premium hatch all from the ground up. Does that not count for anything?
     
    Say what you want about the MINI’s practicality or styling, but there is no doubt it has been a success. Find me another successful premium small car in the market (smaller than the GTI, which most of you would probably mention).
     
    BMW created a brand that has considerable equity today all in 7 years’ time. Meanwhile, Toyota is sitting on the colossal failure that is Scion…

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      My point is that the fad may be over. Initial demand appears to be sated. Most of those who were likely to buy a MINI have bought a MINI. And those who were old enough to only have a license to put a poster of a MINI on their bedroom wall (like Lambos in the ’80s) have probably bought one by now.
      I’m not saying it’s a failure. I’m just saying like all fads, it’s run it’s course. Without new versions of the product, there’s nothing to bring people into the stores. The only problem is that these products suddenly become less MINI, and therefore, lose much of the essence.
      But hey, we’ve seen autos follow brick & mortar retail trends for a long time. MINI might not be the first “POP UP” auto brand, but it sure blazes the trail for one.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      “Building a brand” is a marketing exercise – not an engineering achievement.  You are perfectly correct, of course, that the marketing department at BMW did a great job of this.
       
      But as an automotive enthusiast, I am more interested in companies that “build a car” well, not those that “build a brand”.

  • avatar
    mrhappypants

    Suddenly the Juke is looking a lot less ugly.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    What is this? Did they put the FJ Cruiser in the clothes dryer and shrink it? Maybe it’ll have a chance.

    I believe it’s time for TTAC to detail exactly what goes into a car that qualifies as “safety equipment” and document its weight. The more efficient auto become, the weight cancels it out. What’s up with that?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Is anyone else reminded of the Mini Cooper ad campaign where they told people to beware of cheap imitations? They used random old cars with white painted roofs and bonnet stripes. This Countryman strikes the same chord.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I kinda like it.  It has the charm of the MINI, but is sized for people who need 4 doors.  When does TTAC get a shot at a review?
     
    I’ve heard that MINI’s in general have had a lot of reliability problems… funny, I used to hear the same about the GTI, but recently had heard that VW’s cleaned up its act.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Once upon a time my wife and I had an 07 VW GTI and an 05 MINI Cooper S.  One of these cars gave us enough problems that I was unwilling to own it outside of warranty.  One of these cars has been in the shop for a defect once*.  A 4Runner is happily living in the garage where the GTI used to sit. 

      MINIs definitely have their problems, as you can see by searching forums… but they don’t have VW problems.
      *A stuck recline lever on the passenger seat.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Don’t care much for the countryman but I’m diggin those BBS CHs on the clubman.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Do I detect a voi8ce in the wilderness crying out for a ratio?
    Some sort of not-too-subjective cost/value ratio that can be applied across the board to various makes/models of conveyances.
    Of course, trimming away subjectivity from cost and value is assuredly a difficult task, perhaps an impossible one since there are so many ways to approach the task.
    Hereabouts my impression is that some sort of “zoooom factor” is of great importance along with outer sheet metal that inspires awe and envy within others observing the auto’s occupants as they look so cool upon their stool, so gosh dern’ neat upon their seat as they drive down the streets of their ‘hood.
    Then there is the rabble, the shanty-swelling underclass who view a conveyance as a possible dwelling place during periods of economic disaster, who would conceive a cost/benefit factor far different from the resident of a highfalutin’ gated community with shanties having concrete ponds in the yard and a dire lack of cars-upon-concrete-block yard ornamentation.
    And many other viewpoints such as those with multiple vile spawn that require toting around or have a firm requiring a vehicle to ensure the income continues flowing.
    Perhaps a viable ratio is unobtainable but the resulting ratios and the explanations for how they were obtained/attained would likely make for some interesting reading.
    You betcha’, Bubba.
     

  • avatar
    JMII

    I called this awhile back, Mini is currently the best brand to put on a death-watch. They have only one direction to go – bigger, which is the extra opposite of what their brand stands for. In a few years we will all look back at the Mini craze and just laugh. Its impossible to have entire brand built around ONE car. Mini should have been the BWM Zero series.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Kind of what happened to the “mini” in a minivan, huh? Soon, all personal conveyances (sounds like obbop) will weigh at least 4,000 lbs. and get only 18 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      JMII – The MINI and Smart could be the Hummer brands of the small end of the US market for sure.  I hope that the salesman at the MINI dealer has more than one franchise on the lot.
       
      Ed – My Mazda Tribute weighs in at 3100 lbs empty and it is way roomier inside.

    • 0 avatar
      akitadog

      JMII,
      MINI could technically go smaller for a 2-seater, though they’ve chosen to go with the upcoming Coupe and Roadster by pulling out the back seat and lowering the roof on the standard Cooper wheelbase. They should’ve chopped out 6-12 more inches of wheelbase for a true mini-mobile.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      If BMW had any interest in preserving the spirit of Alec Issigonis, they would have turned MINI into a showcase of innovative, small, city cars that were supremely competent in their function and were an unbeatable value.  This would include cars that did not have to LOOK like the old Mini – after all, the original Mini that Issigonis designed didn’t try to look like anything – it just honestly ended up looking that way.
       
      Of course, that wasn’t their plan – they wanted to sell over-priced fashion accessories for as long as they could get away with it, and needed a silhouette, a name and a logo with which to carry out this cynical scheme.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    I think it’s OK. It’s too high on its haunches, too tall, and the wheel wells have too much space but it’s fine – a useful 4-door.
     
    I don’t get all the Mini hate. The brand is no fad, just as it hasn’t been for the last 52 years. While the quality does need an upgrade, it’s still a premium car. The handling’s fantastic. And when people get a load of the Fiat 500 at their Dodge/Jeep dealer, sales of the full-line of Minis will go right back up.
     
    What does bother me is BMW’s plan to make FWD cars that are smaller than the 1-series and bigger than the Mini lineup. That’s just dumb. Take away the “B,” replace it with a “G,” then remove the “W,” and you’ve got the kind of branding strategy that destroys car companies. In fact, that misanthrope DeLorenzo the Autoextremist is frothing at the mouth about it. I won’t put in the link, as most of you know where to find that nutjob.
     

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    That is the way the market views it though. The Mazda3 hatch is pretty large for an economy car(almost mid-size class) and weighs right around 3000lbs, but the average person you ask would still consider it a “small” car. It will only continue to get worse as we insist on ever more ridiculous safety measures for our small cars to ensure everyone walks away from a head-on collision with an Excursion.

  • avatar
    akitadog

    I actually sat in a Countryman at a MINI-sponsored autocross not too long ago. It didn’t look too bad in person, though it certainly is no longer mini at all. In terms of passenger space, I think it rivals vehicles such as the Jetta Sportwagen or maybe 9-3 Sportcombi, except for the higher roof. The 2nd rows of all 3, though somewhat tight, are MUCH bigger than the Cooper’s or even Clubman’s 2nd rows. Trunk space at the hatch didn’t seem to be too much bigger than in my MkV GTI, however. Overall, it seems to fall somewhere between smaller wagons/hatches and most cute-utes in terms of utility/space.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Building a whole separate distribution network for the Mini was a mistake from the get go. The very name catches the brand in a trap. How can you have a Big Mini? That makes no sense.
    The Mini should have been a model offered alongside a broader lineup. Back when BMW controlled the whole Rover group that would have worked, but BMW made a decision to ditch the rest of Rover whilst holding on to the Mini Redux. Now they have a nearly unsolvable branding problem. Maybe they could reskin it in a retro BMW 2002 look and sell the result at BMW dealerships ???? Or, go all the way back to the BMW/Isetta ??
     

  • avatar
    daga

    Fiat should launch the 500 with a city display of a 500 on the roof of a countryman like Mini did with the Excursion.

  • avatar
    niky

    3000 pounds is not catastrophic… that’s 300-400 pounds less than most crossovers. Then consider that BMW usually quotes curb weight as including driver and fluids…

    The CX7? 3100 pounds? You’re kidding, right? That car’s curb weight is 3,500 pounds… minimum. WITHOUT all-wheel drive. All wheel drive models are 4,000 pounds… and the rear seat sucks compared to the competition.

    Granted, BMW MINIs have always been heavy for their size (usually about 100-200 lbs heavier than competitors), but they’re not incredibly so compared to many modern cars. Gone are the days when you could actually get a midsized vehicle under 3000 lbs… heck… many “compact” sedans now weigh that much, at least (cough… Cruze… cough)… my Focus weighs well over 3,000 lbs). For a four door vehicle with AWD, 3000 lbs isn’t that bad… especially if that figure includes a 150 lb driver and fluids.

    Don’t expect it to have a back seat worth squat, though.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    I’m interested. I like the basic package. Want to see one in person. Still like the Mini car.


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