Utility vehicles with seating for four don’t do much to endear themselves with buyers who may actually carry people as well as cargo.
As useful as the Honda Element was, anecdotal evidence suggests that families were put off by the lack of a middle seat. MINI was smart enough to offer the option of either a bench seat or two individual bucket seats for the Countryman, with the 2+2 configuration offered as standard.
For 2013, the bench will now be the default configuration, with the buckets offered as an option. Apparently, NHTSA mandated a minimum width for vehicles to offer three-across seating in the rear, and until the requirements were altered, MINI was forced to offer the car as a 2+2 only. Once the bench seat became available, hardly anyone opted for the buckets.