By Peter Perrotta
Several years ago, when I was doing some research for helping my wife select a car to buy, I stopped into a Mini Cooper dealership and kicked some tires.
I was always fascinated by the original “look” of these very European-flavored cars. I test drove a couple of the models and was fairly convinced my wife would find these cars “cute” and fun to drive.
Boy, was I wrong.
My wife shot down the proposal to put her in a Mini Cooper faster than I could get the words out of my mouth. “I hate the way those cars look. No way,” she said emphatically.
Truth be told, I was obviously more attracted to the Mini Cooper and its unique style influenced by its British roots and racing heritage, than she was.
Now, years later, nothing much has changed.
I recently road tested the 2020 Mini “John Cooper Works” Countryman ALL4 (AWD) for one week and never enjoyed my behind-the-wheel time as much.
My wife still isn’t thrilled with the look of this car. But, if you add what my 21-year-old son thinks into the equation, then it starts to tilt in my direction.
“I think it looks kinda cool,” he says.
Let’s face it, this car is still a bit odd looking – it’s obviously not for everybody – and it’s not without its flaws – it’s a bit snug and has a rigid and noisy ride – but, who cares?
I used to have an editor that called everything she liked a “hoot”. Well folks, this car is a hoot to drive.
And, all new for 2020 is the edition of a pulsating 2.0 liter Mini twin-power turbo, four cylinder engine that puts out an impressive 301 horsepower and 331 pound feet of torque for the John Cooper Works edition.
This engine is the most powerful ever offered in the Mini Cooper Countryman and when you combine it with the new 8-speed automatic transmission and the three Mini driving modes – sport, mid and green – it makes for quite an impressive sports package.
For most of the week I drove this Mini Cooper Countryman, I selected the sport mode as soon as I flipped the switch to start it.
It lets you configure the chassis style – more rigid and less forgiving for the sport mode – and shifting pattern – more aggressive and featuring a sports car like growl with every shift – up or down.
The John Cooper Works sport suspension features MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear struts. When you combine that with the 19-inch wheels and its Pirelli performance summer tires, it lends a quite impressive and exciting sports car feel to this car.
Not only is this car fast, but its handling is spot on, too.
Once you settle behind the wheel of this car and feel the snugness of the performance seats, you just take off and go. You can drive this car very aggressively without ever feeling compromised that it’s not safe. It literally sticks to the road like glue.
Obviously, the Mini Cooper didn’t get that way by accident. It harkens back to its British racing roots. John Cooper originally designed the first Mini Cooper in the U.K. in 1961 as a racing tuner car.
In 2002, Cooper’s son, Michael, created the car marque model John Cooper Works for the Mini. And, in 2007 German automaker BMW acquired the rights to the name and bought out the company in 2008.
BMW, long noted for producing performance-oriented models, lent its expertise into the mix to get the Mini Cooper to where it is today.
The 2020 Mini Cooper Countryman comes in four models: base, John Cooper Works, S and a plug-in hybrid.
The base model starts at $28,400. My tester John Cooper Works all wheel drive model has a base price of $41,400.
The tester I drove was equipped with an $850 driver assistance package and a $7,000 iconic trim package and touchscreen navigation package. When you add in the $850 destination charge, the MSRP sticker price clocked in at a pricey $50,100.
The Iconic Trim package includes dynamic damper control, power tailgate, panoramic moonroof, auto dimming mirrors, Sirius Satellite radio, Harman Kardon premium sound system and the Mini heads up display.
The touchscreen Navigation package includes Mini navigation, wireless charging, Apple Carplay and more.
I found the interior room in the Mini Countryman to be adequate. It’s not overwhelmingly roomy, but at the same time you don’t feel cramped inside.
Moreover, the back seat is fairly roomy as well, considering this is a sub-compact crossover.
But more impressively, with the second row of seats folded, I was able to fit my road bike easily into the back cargo area, without having to take the front wheel off, and take off for the bike trials in Philadelphia.
The upfront switches and controls from the cockpit and the center console are quite a bit different than most American cars. However, it really didn’t take me long to get used to syncing my phone, my music and working the touchscreen navigation.
The 2.0 liter, four cylinder turbo engine with the 301 horsepower gets an EPA estimated 26 miles to the gallon of gas on average – 30 mpg on the highway and 23 in city driving.
The EPA estimates that the average annual fuel cost is about $1,900, as it uses about 3.8 gallons of gas per 100 miles of driving.
This model has not been rated by the government’s five star crash test yet.
Similar to what BMW offers, the Mini Countryman comes with a four-year, 50,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty; four year unlimited mileage roadside assistance and a 12-year, unlimited mileage rust perforation limited warranty.
It also comes with complimentary Mini maintenance for three years of 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. This includes all scheduled maintenance work like oil changes, air filters, brake fluid, spark plugs and vehicle checks.
I would definitely recommend this sub-compact crossover for anyone who is a true driving enthusiast and doesn’t mind spending a few extra bucks for the experience.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Comments and suggestions are welcome. You can contact him via email at email@example.com.