The first thing Mini Cooper enthusiasts will tell you is that the car is meant to be a bit left of center, somewhat eccentric – making it appealing to those who endeavor to stand out in a crowd. I get that point – my recent week-long test of the 2023 Mini Cooper S Countryman had real moments of fun and frolic, but from a practical standpoint I struggle with it.
The largest vehicle of the Mini Cooper stable, the Countryman is a subcompact SUV that neither looks nor feels like an SUV, which I feel is its biggest selling point. We certainly have enough SUVs to choose from and beginning on the outside style it is a real breath of fresh air.
There is no doubt in my mind that the selling point of every Mini Cooper is the distinct exterior styling. From the two-tone paint treatment and squat stance to the wide front grille and signature eyeball headlights, the Cooper gets a lot of attention. Add in the always-cool-looking racing stripes and graphics and you have a rock-solid head-turner.
The special Untamed Edition ($1,500) adds 18-inch two-tone spoked rims, the black roof, mirror caps and roof rails, which looked great offset against the Momentum Grey body hue. My tester also featured Privacy Glass ($500) which is well worth the price of admission.
When it comes to the quickest Countryman, the obvious choice is the plug-in-hybrid model, though it’s also the most expensive. This SUV weighs in at more than 3,300 pounds, so it can be a bit of a strain at times to get up and go on demand.
My tester was the Cooper S, featuring a turbocharged four-cylinder engine pushing out 189 horsepower and paired with an 8-speed automatic for the all-wheel drive. There also is a 134-hp turbocharged three-cylinder base engine paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic that will struggle more with the curb weight.
Overall, I thought my tester was fun to drive around town. The relatively smaller size and low profile make it easy to maneuver and even easier wherever you see a sliver to park. Fuel efficiency is notable at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
On the inside of the Countryman’s cabin, there’s plenty to like, starting with the ample passenger space and expected high-quality materials, fit and finish. Front-row passengers enjoy plenty of head and leg room, while back-row passengers get the same extra space for comfort on longer trips.
The interior of my Countryman had the Iconic Trim ($4,900), which showcased an amazing Harmon Kardon premium audio system, a parking assist system, power-folding side mirrors, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
There are all the expected storage spaces and nooks for cups and wireless charging of devices. While the Countryman offers less cargo room than competitors, it makes up for any inconvenience with some underfloor storage space. My tester featured a heated steering wheel and front seats, as well as a very convenient slide-and-recline rear seat.
The Countryman comes standard with a 6.5-inch screen for its infotainment system, and an 8.8-inch display with navigation and Apple CarPlay capability is available. You can control the larger screen with a console-mounted dial and voice commands.
The Countryman features standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and self-parking assist. While it comes standard with automated emergency braking, the Countryman lacks blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist.
While it doesn’t look like any other subcompact SUV, the Countryman is priced like all of them. There are five variants for the Countryman: Base ($29,600); Cooper ALL4 ($31,600); Cooper S ($31,900); and Cooper S ALL4 ($37,500); and a hybrid plug-in ($41,500).
The 2023 Mini Cooper Countryman is not practical, it cannot ramble off-road or tow anything, but the distinct styling gets you noticed in a crowded field of SUVs. My tester finished at a robust $45,250, which puts it at the high end of this segment. If you want something that gets you noticed and can be a lot of fun to shoot around town, the Mini Cooper S Countryman checks a lot of boxes.
John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.