MINI is not typically synonymous with SUVs. Sporty and eye-catching little cars, sure — but SUVs? The name alone is suggestive of a compact car. Yet, there’s the Mini Cooper Countryman, a crossover that’s pleasantly surprising in just about every way. Technically the Countryman is actually an SAV, a Sports Activity Vehicle, but that seems to be a term parent company BMW coined to highlight a vehicle’s versatility.
We digress. For all intents and purposes (and even by definition), the 2020 Mini Cooper Countryman is a crossover — and a highly capable one at that. It offers responsive, sporty handling, a variety of engine options, and available all-wheel drive to tackle just about any adventure you want to take on.
MINI but mighty
The Mini Cooper Countryman comes in four models, each with a different engine. Even the base model is turbocharged, so it’s no wonder U.S. News ranked it No. 4 on its list of Best Subcompact SUVs for 2020.
In addition to the entry-level Countryman, there’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged S model, a plug-in hybrid, and a performance-model John Cooper Works Countryman with a whopping 301 hp and 331 lb-feet of torque. Notably, a six-speed manual transmission was previously available in the Countryman but was discontinued across all models for 2020.
Responsive steering and minimal body lean during turns make the Mini Cooper Countryman especially agile, and the cabin absorbs road imperfections and noise incredibly well. As U.S. News, it’s “one of the most athletic crossovers in its class.” Front-wheel drive comes standard and All4 all-wheel drive is available on all models except the JCW, which comes configured with All4.
The Countryman packs a surprisingly big punch
Across the lineup, the Mini Cooper Countryman is available in three trim levels: Classic, Signature, and Iconic. The base model Classic comes standard with excellent-quality synthetic leather, a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera, and a media system that has a 6.5-inch screen, though it isn’t a touchscreen. Opt for the Signature trim to get one, or upgrade to a larger 8.8-inch screen. While you can upgrade to get Apple CarPlay, the Countryman, unfortunately, doesn’t offer Android Auto integration.
For a vehicle in which tight quarters are literally implied in the name, the Countryman’s interior is surprisingly roomy. There’s ample head- and legroom in both the front and rear seats for even taller adults, and the seats have enough adjustability to make long trips comfortable. While its cargo capacity is below-average, the Mini Cooper Countryman has several cleverly-designed storage nooks and an underfloor rear cargo hold that slightly make up for it.
As far as safety and driver-assist features, the Countryman comes standard with automatic emergency braking and pre-collision warning as of 2020. Rear parking sensors are also standard, and drivers can add options including adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors, and a head-up display. The Countryman hasn’t been crash-tested by the NHTSA, but it does have an excellent predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power.
The verdict: Mini Cooper Countryman is quite competitive
Overall, the 2020 Mini Cooper Countryman is an excellent buy for just about everyone. Whether you have a family, you’re a weekend warrior who loves to explore, or you just love Mini’s iconic quirkiness and like the versatility of a crossover, the Countryman checks the most important boxes.
It’s true that the cargo capacity is a bit below-average for the class, but you can always outfit your Countryman with a roof storage system. The Mini SUV — err, SAV — is often compared to the BMW X1, but quite frankly, we’d rather have a Countryman. It offers a number of engine choices while the X1 comes with just one, plus even a fully loaded Countryman costs thousands less than a comparable Bimmer.