MF Review: The 2016 MINI Countryman

The Countryman is on its way out. Introduced in 2011 the R60 (internal MINI speak) was based on the R56 platform yet modified to the point of being almost entirely unique. The main selling points from the start were four rear doors and optional all wheel drive (questionable known as ALL4 in the MINI lexicon). Those key points remained unique in the MINI world until the F55 four door MINI debuted in late 2014. And in our eyes it was at that point that the Countryman lost most of its reason to be.

Is that true? Can the Countryman (which still has another 18 months on the market) still make a case for itself? Coming off of a week with the F55 four door MINI, it seems like a good time to find out.

Our week in our well specced ($38,000) 2016 MINI Countryman Cooper S wasn’t anything special. Or to put it another way we simply lived in it. That included commuting, a couple airport trips and hauling kids and gear. But then again that likely sums up the most typical use cases for the four door Countryman.

Lets get right to what makes a MINI. The R60 is one of the most lively and engaging small crossovers on the market. That fact is just as true now as it was in 2011. Turn-in is quick and body control excellent compared to competitors in the segment. Crucially our Cooper S wasn’t equipped with ALL4 which kept weight down and ultimately helped its performance.

While the chassis has aged well there are two areas that haven’t. The interior of the Countryman, always an area of controversy, has not gotten better with age. The new generation of MINIs (the F56, F55 and now F54 Clubman) are not only better designed but finished in materials miles above what the Countryman employs. But it’s the interfaces that the new generation of MINIs have introduced us to that make the Countryman’s interior feel so dated and at times peculiar.


Say what you will about MINI moving window controls and the like. But what these changes have brought about is less time needed for drivers to get up to speed on the controls of new MINIs. It allows you to feel immediately and home and focus on the things that matter about a car. I owned a Countryman for a year and it took me awhile to feel totally comfortable in the cabin again.

Interior room is roughly on par with the F55 four door MINI released last year with the exception of the trunk space (which is larger). But the big area the smaller F55 trounces the Countryman in is comfort. The seats both front and rear have a longer bottom cushion which not only works better for taller drivers but makes it a better long haul choice.


The other area that hasn’t aged gracefully is the drivetrain. The 1.6L Prince engine can deliver plenty of character. But when mated with the old version of the 6 speed Aisin automatic and the extra weight of the Countryman it feels like its simply outmatched. From the jerkiness of the transmission to the very busy sounds coming from under the hood, the Countryman doesn’t feel like the premium products that today’s MINI do. Speccing the FWD Countryman with a manual or (better yet ) checking the JCW box would have helped tremendously.

The saving grace of the Countryman is how it drives. While the steering is more vague than the new generation of MINIs, its agility is excellent for a small four door crossover. In many ways it defies the segment as something that isn’t user friendly (when everything else strives to be) and delivers a legitimately engaging driving experience (when nothing else outside of MINI does). If you can look past its interior and aging drivetrain (or stay away from the auto) the Countryman still offers something relevant to the driver looking for all weather traction and four doors in an efficient package.

The R60 Countryman will remain on sale through the 2016 model year. For 2017 MINI will replace it with a ground up redesign based on the UKL2 platform that the Clubman rides on.

  • Mark @ MINI of the Main Line

    Ouch. Let’s try to evaluate the car for what it is. I understand the f55 has newer materials, and tech, but the Countryman delivers a completely different experience. You sit up higher, rear passenger room is greater (sit behind somebody over 6 feet tall in the f55) and you have the option of ALL4. I think it’s a great small family car – it’s what my 2 kids ride in. The Countryman might be the most versatile MINI ever.

    • The problem isn’t that the Countryman is a poor choice. It’s a great choice. The problem is that the F55 is such a great at. And the F54 Clubman is going to even better. In this case time has marched on a little faster than normal thanks to the leaps MINI has made with their new products. Which of course makes us pretty excited for the new Countryman.

  • Jay

    Thats the problem with having such a long lifecycle. Despite being “refreshed” a few times from 2011-2016, it’s pretty much the same car and it lags behind the new stuff. The jump from 2016 to 2017 will be huge I’m sure.

  • Nick

    The exterior of the Countryman is a lot better looking vehicle than the new 5 door. The interior is a different story.

    • Scott Eaves

      I also find the R60 easier to get into than the F55. The F55 has, to me, a very small opening to get into the car. I had difficulty fitting in a F55 between the B pillar and the steering wheel – I kept bouncing off of one or the other.

    • GoRixter

      Much better looking and as @scott_eaves:disqus mentions, getting in/out of the R60 is a piece of cake

  • Nick Dawson

    Production of R60 Countryman in Graz, Austria, will cease in mid 2016, along with its sister R61 Paceman. Which is just as well. MINI USA sales of R60 in September were down 38.2% and R61 sales were down 47.7%. The problem is not that R60 is a bad car, it’s simply that it is now technologically obsolete in the presence of the new kids on the block.

    I’m a long term Countryman owner, and mine has proved to be a surprising capable and reliable little car. Since R60 went on sale in October 2010, however, a raft of new and very capable small/medium SUVs have come on to the market. Small/medium SUVs are the fastest growing sector in the global automotive industry, and F60 cannot come soon enough for MINI.

  • Brad Kappel

    Okay so lets address the fact that even owning a JCW with a M/T has been an eye opening experience. I have three points to add to the article. One being that even if you spec the JCW exactly how we were all told we should (loaded and with a manual, like I did) the biggest hangup for me was the fact that the turbo lag on these motors is incredibly annoying. I can’t help but be frustrated with initial bite off the line half the time when I’m just commuting regularly. Two is that I can’t help but notice how poorly the M/T was tuned for the ALL4 system. I truly seek a day when the car isn’t making me feel like its my first year driving overall. Lastly, this being my third MINI product, I agree completely that the refinement on certain points should have been higher. The Clubman will surely blow mine and all the MINI products out of the water before it, but thats also frustrating. Adding LED foglights, smoked speedometer background, and some air vent chrome was not enough for a mid-cycle refresh.

    • _jbay

      Brad – completely agree with your comments in regards to the M/T and the ALL4 system. I hate this phrase coming out of my mouth – but I’d choose the auto box in an ALL4 just because of the smoother pairing.

  • KO

    The generational differences are painfully clear in every way. There was really no point comparing my F55 Justa to a ’15 R60S loaner I had. I was really surprised the LCI didn’t do more to even just improve materials and NVH. The monthly sales # ’15 vs ’14 for the R60 bear this out. No doubt the taller form factor has a huge market, so F54/55 are not substitutes for many, so the F60(?) can’t come soon enough for the brand.

  • disqus_uYLycECgV7

    Let’s also not forget that the R60 is surprisingly capable off-road (with ALL4) despite what the specs (ie- ground clearance) would seem to indicate. This is probably due to a combination of the very short front and rear overhangs, long suspension travel, and low weight (for an SUV). I love taking ours on road trips. A few months back we went on a road trip with two other families that involved driving on dirt roads part of the way. That was a lot of fun! Well, maybe not for our friends in their A4 – they had to drive very, very slowly in order not to bottom-out. Our other friends in their Q5 fared much better though when I rode with them I was surprised by how much it was getting tossed around (too tall/heavy).

    There was a mountain beside the ranch we were staying at – we rented ATVs the first day and rode up in those. I suggested that we drive up the next morning, so we did. Well, at least the R60 and Q5 did – the A4 stayed behind at the ranch hehe.

    While I do admit that better seat cushions would be a welcome change, what I would not change is the spacious and airy cabin (at least with the dual sunroofs). While I’m usually the one behind the wheel, the times when I’ve had to sit in the back I’ve felt very comfortable there (I’m over 6′).

    Anyways, got a bit off-topic there but bottom line is that while I really like the new Clubman, what I’m really waiting for is the new Countryman.