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Mini goes big with the new Countryman

April 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Mini Cooper has been a big hit since it debuted almost nine years ago, with lots of them on the road and an almost cult-like following.

But what if you think the Mini is a bit too small? Perhaps something larger would be in order, like the new Mini Countryman, which is just like a Mini, but bigger.

"It just means we're trying to attract a broader audience," said Mini spokesman Jim McDowell. "People that loved to test drive the Mini (Cooper), but couldn't quite get their mind around a car that small."

Like other Mini models, it's fuel efficient and sporty. You can opt for all-wheel drive, just like on a small Sport Utility Vehicle, though the system does steal some luggage space.

The Countryman offers something for people who would like some SUV features in a tidier package and with the distinctive Mini look.

"We think that about four times as many people will consider a car this size with four doors and all-wheel drive," McDowell said.

Beyond just the increased size, the Countryman has some nifty new features, like a rail that runs down the middle of the interior that can have various accessories added.

The standard Mini Cooper always had plenty of front seat room, but two doors and a small back seat limited passenger space. The Countryman provides two more doors and can fit two adults in the rear seats. They can also be folded down to carry cargo.

The Mini brand is expected to expand further. They've unveiled a rakish coupe concept car called the Rocketman.

Minis will eventually come in lots of different sizes, but they'll still have the distinctive Mini look overall.

The Countryman is big for a Mini, but still small compared to most cars. And that's just the way the folks at Mini intended it.