Note: While this article is specifically about the new US version of the U25 MINI Countryman, much of this critique could be levels against the F66 MINI Cooper.

Since its rebirth, the MINI brand has stood for individuality. With countless ways to design and order a car to a buyer’s tastes, MINI has been built on appealing to the creative class or just people who want something a bit different. Unfortunately, with the rollout of the new MINI Countryman in the US, that’s gotten a lot harder.

MotoringFile’s clearly been impressed with the all-new MINI Countryman thus far. It’s more refined, faster, and packs way more tech. However, if you’re in there’s a problem – especially if you’re in the US where I sell MINIs for a living. If you don’t option it correctly you stand the chance of ending up a very basic-looking MINI. But even worse, some buyers might find it simply impossible to get what they want.

What this doesn’t say: You can only get optionally larger wheels with the Favored Style + Iconic Package.

With the new generation of models, MINI is introducing “Styles” that package various styling elements together to create a unique look. Because of this, MINI asks that you first choose a Style when ordering a car: Classic with black trim or Favoured with gold-like Vibrant Silver. They are both no-cost options, but you have to choose one. And this is where things go wrong. In many ways, I actually prefer the black exterior trim of the Classic Style over the gold-like trim of the Favoured Style. But the second you choose Classic, it limits you from getting some key options that are otherwise free on the Favoured Style

Those red icons are telling you that you chose poorly when picking the Classic Style.

For one you are unable to get the JCW Sport seats (free on the Favoured Style) which offer the type of bolstering and support most MINI enthusiasts are looking for. Second, you have only one choice of wheels – the 18″ Asteroid w/All-season Tires. Given the high beltline of the new Countryman and the overall design, the 18″ Asteroid wheels end up looking like a very basic spec option that screams “I was trying to save money”. On Favoured you have the free option of the gorgeous 19″ Kaleido Spoke or you can pay (only) $600 for the dramatic 20″ Windmill Spoke (with either all-season or performance tires).

But if you want black exterior trim (which seems like the more sporty of the two in my opinion), there’s no way to upgrade the seats or the wheels on the Countryman. It’s all very unfortunate because we’d bet the majority will look at the two styles and opt for the darker, sportier piano black trim versus the light gold (MINI calls this Vibrant Silver). They might then choose the Iconic package and even the Max Comfort package because they want all the options. But what they’ve unknowingly done by choosing the black exterior trim is limit themselves to what will look and feel like a rather basic MINI.

Let’s be honest, those 18″ Asteroid Wheels finished in silver look at best inconsequential on the new Countryman. At worst, they look embarrassing. That’s exactly how our recent Countryman S test car looked and yet it still retailed for $43,695.

But this isn’t just about wheels or seats (as much as they are important). It’s about the ability to option the MINI you want to buy. Putting together the options that suit your needs and reflect your style has been a MINI hallmark for decades now.

Why This is a Big Change (and a Big Deal)

This all comes down to MINI limiting the ability to add options as the brand has traditionally. Because almost everything is not only being funneled through two packages but also now Styles, creating a unique MINI has become much more difficult. But far worse, ordering a MINI that you want has also become harder.

Surely this was done eye an eye towards simplifying production and ordering processes. But we think MINI has made a mistake in packaging options and trim in such a confusing and limiting manner. The reality is that it’s not MINI USA that’s at fault but the way that MINI Global has rolled out its Styles program.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the overall concept of MINI Styles. The ability to noticeably change the character of a car with a single package is cool. But clearly, something is lost in execution if potential buyers cannot get the options they want despite being willing to pay for them.