(Updated – MINI USA isn’t entirely killing the buckets but is making them an option rather than standard).
If there was one universal complaint on the Countryman when it first hit US dealers it had to be the inability to order a rear bench seat. The reason for the delay was due to a NHTSA having a minimum width requirement for an automaker to offer three seats across. Thankfully for MINI that minimum was changed and the five-seat Countryman (in the US) was born. And as expected it went on to be so successful that rear buckets all but disappear from dealer lots. And starting with 2013 production, they will officially disappear as the standard configuration.
For 2013 MINI USA is making the rear buckets an optional extra on the Countryman. This change along with the elimination of the flat load floor requirement for the bench will give lower the price of the five seat Countryman by a $250 dollars.
From the beginning we were staunch supporters of the rear buckets even ordering our long-term R60 with them. But after 12 months and 12,000 miles they simply didn’t make as much sense as the much more versatile bench. Would we have ordered differently? Strangely no. And perhaps that’s a testament to how cool and surprisingly usable the buckets were.