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Following its introduction in 2011, the 2012 Countryman sees only minor changes, and they are aimed at making the car more user-friendly. Chief among them is a rear bench seat option, which expands occupancy to five passengers. A new Technology package includes a center armrest, Park Distance Control, a harman/kardon sound system and either MINI Connected or MINI Connected with Navigation. Other packages have been reshuffled as well.
The 2012 MINI Countryman includes three models: MINI Cooper Countryman, Cooper S Countryman and Cooper S Countryman with "ALL4" all-wheel drive. The Countryman includes a 121-horsepower, 1.6L 4-cylinder engine that can help the MINI reach 60 mph in 9.8 seconds; the Countryman S gets a 181-hp turbocharged version of the 1.6L that's capable of getting to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. Yet both engines are very fuel efficient: EPA ratings for the base Countryman are 27 mpg city, 35 highway.
With either engine, a 6-speed manual gearbox is standard while a 6-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel paddle-shifters is available. The new ALL4 all-wheel drive system sends up to 100 percent of engine power to the front wheels during normal driving but can send up to 50 percent to the rear wheels whenever needed. While the Countryman isn't meant for off-roading, an infinitely variable electro-mechanical clutch has the finesse and toughness to handle conditions varying from a steep, snowy driveway to a muddy field.
Inside, the Countryman is different from other MINI models, offering up a bit more comfort. The seating position is about three inches higher than other MINI models. Distinctive available Lounge Leather piped leather upholstery is available. The optional Center Rail system replaces the center console with a range of potential storage options--from cupholders to storage bins or specialized cubbies for electronics.
Along with two normal-sized back doors, the Countryman has respectable backseat space in two individual seats capable of sliding 5.1 inches fore and aft as well as tilting or folding at an angle to obtain up to 41.3 cubic feet of cargo space. An optional rear bench adds room for a third passenger, upping the Countryman's human capacity to five. Up top, there's also a roof-rail system.
In what is a hallmark of the MINI brand, the Countryman promises a very nimble driving feel and plenty of agility, making it more fun to drive on a curvy road compared to other small crossovers. With MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup in back, the Countryman hugs the road and stays controlled while also having a reasonably settled ride. The electric-assisted power steering system varies effort based on speed, allowing a light feel while parking or a more secure feel at high speed. A Sport Mode provides an even firmer steering feel.
The Countryman has the safety-feature set of a larger, more expensive vehicle. Electronic stability control is standard, as is an electronic differential lock that helps manage traction between the front wheels. Anti-lock brakes and cornering brake control further help with driving confidence and safety. In all Countryman models, 205/50R17 run-flat tires are standard-equipment, while 18- or 19-inch wheels with run-flats are available.
With the optional Xenon headlamps, Adaptive Headlights automatically angle the beams into an oncoming corner, accounting for steering angle and vehicle speed.
The MINI offers a long list of personalization and accessory possibilities, which includes an upgraded MINI Connected system with a 6.5-inch navigation screen, Bluetooth interface, and USB audio input. The navigation screen is built right into the central speedometer, and map updates for the navigation system can be performed easily through the USB input.