MF Review: Countryman Cooper Automatic

There was a moment. A slight moment (as they say on the track) that made two things suddenly very clear. First off the Cooper Countryman I was driving had all seasons on it. Secondly (and more profound) is that no matter the spec, the Countryman is a MINI at heart. The moment? The slight rotation and four wheel drift around a corner of a country road just outside of Kansas City. That’s the moment they so many of us love driving our R50s, R53s R56s etc. And it’s moments like that that show that MINI engineered what has to be the most nimble small crossover in existence today.

First off this is a lightening review of a car that most here don’t care about. But MINI enthusiasts should take note. This is the car that is going to turn thousands of MINI owners into car and MINI enthusiasts.

The steering isn’t as immediate as the R56 and the ratio definitely feels slower but it adds up to the feel of stability that suits the car well. The suspension (non sport on this Cooper) clearly had more body roll than any MINI I’ve driven but it had more composure than any mainstream crossover I’ve ever driven. Or to put it another way there was body motion but it the R60 was always composed and predictable when pushed.

But it’s slow. If you thought a R56 Cooper auto was slow, add a three other grown men as passengers and you get an idea of what the R60 Cooper auto has to overcome. Steering paddles would be welcome because I had to work the hell out of the gears in the hills to keep up with Todd in the 2011 MCS and Matt in a 2010 JCW Convertible. But in the end I pretty much did if there were corners involved. This is a surprising car.

The transmission (as we’ve previously reported) is identical to the 2011 MINI models in that it’s been refreshed. However the auto only gets one change called neutral control. At idle (with your foot on the brake) the auto equipped Countryman (and any other revised 2011 MINI) will subtly de-couple from the previous engaged gear. Once you lift off the brake the transmission re-engages with the previous gear. The net result is a subtle gain in efficiency. In sport mode this system is off for optimized (and more immediate) acceleration.

The engine gets the same subtle makeover as the rest of the range for 2011. It’s nothing like the changes for the MCS (2011 LCI section of course has all the details) and is hardly noticeable.

Inside the cabin is very close to the 2011 LCI with a few exceptions in the HVAC control execution (I assume MINI Design had parallel work streams with the two projects). The R60 is a but more bulbous than the R56 and featuring shiny plastic on both sides of the center controls that lets down the rest of the car (which has the highest quality plastics I’ve ever seen in a MINI).

The exterior demands larger wheels. 18″s are what you want to fill-out the wheel wells and give the car better proportions. Of course there’s nothing new here, the R56 demands at least 17’s as the R53 did before it.

This will be the bread and butter of the MINI range. The car that sells so we can have our coupes, roadsters and JCW. But it’s more than that. It’s an introduction into the world for people who may not even like to drive. It’s the trojan horse that could do what the R50 and R53 did all those years ago.

Tomorrow we’ll be driving the R60 Cooper S manual and look for our 2011 Cooper S review in the next few days.

Related: MF Review: MINI Countryman S All4

  • WxSquid

    The comment about the rotation makes me feel good about the upcoming WRC car…

  • goat

    Good short and sweet “highlights” review Gabe. I like the positive predictions about how the R60 will help the brand, they do make sense. I look forward to taking one out for a drive myself when it hits the Canuck dealers…

  • Blainestang

    FWIW, one of the MINI Reps in Atlanta told me they were averaging 35mpg in this very Countryman from Miami to Atlanta.

    IMO, the Countryman is a MINI:

    Relative to other small SUV/CUV’s, it is small, efficient, agile, and full of character.

    Would I rather have a JCW Coopster or Hardtop? Absolutely… every time. That said, those cars don’t work for everyone, even people who love the MINI ‘formula’ above.

  • Jas

    Was Mission Control there with the MINI Connected system?

  • Yes but along with MINI Connected it wasn’t turned on. MINI Connected couldn’t work since the associated app isn’t in the US iTunes store yet.

  • Jas

    Well Gabe, thanks so made my night with that news.. I wanted Mission Control…yeah weird maybe haha. Hope its un-delayed soon along with 2011 pricing, so I can order my 2011 Cooper S Convertible.

  • Bill in Iowa

    Great mini review of the Countryman Gabe. You’re absolutely right about this unit being the one that will allow us to enjoy the speciality Mini’s. Ticks me a bit when many say, well it’s not a REAL Mini, it’s a SUV. Well, wake up and smell the roses, because just look at the highways in the USofA, it’s full of all sizes of SUV’s and this little guy just might be the vehicle that keeps Mini on the road. Nay sayers, think about that.

  • Jon

    Of course it’s a MINI; the tailgate gets dusty and dirty, just like it should on a MINI! Just look at the gallery…

  • Blainestang


    Interesting explanation as far as why MINI Connected didn’t work. I was trying to get it to work on the Blue one, and was obviously unsuccessful. Now I know why.

  • CraigE
    featuring shiny plastic on both sides of the center controls that lets down the rest of the car (which has the highest quality plastics I’ve ever seen in a MINI).

    Have you confirmed that these are full production spec cars? Back in 2007 the cars we drove in AZ did not all have the same plastics as the final production R56.

  • alpinamike

    I could not get my Iphone 4 to work with it. (countryman)

    The armrest has the Visteon brand snap in set up base, without the snap in.

    Look for a iphone 4 snap-in (peiker) soon as AG works on bugs in the future. Case in point my rigged Iphone 4 snap in and shares the same Visteon platform so integration with my system ( pre MINI connect) has had no issues.

    The screen , “does not work with Iphone”, popped up once ,but not the second time.

    Since MINI connect it much more integrated then (bmwulf) I see more pins finally being used in the snap in instead of only 3 wires at the bottom, all pins should be used, there is 22 of them. Plus bluetooth.

  • alpinamike

    I know about the app, but I thought I could get around it.

  • Jas

    Wonder if they moved mission control to the flash/hard drive of nav/mini connect or still on sd card in dash like the Camden?

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