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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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2014 Countryman: the not so mini Mini

Rumor has it that for 2014, USF is considering offering a course called “Deciphering the Mini lineup.”

It’s for all those poor souls who, after deciding on a new Mini, got so befuddled and bewildered by the multitude of models and orgy of options, they simply gave up and bought a Kia.

The course curriculum hopefully will help buyers distinguish between a convertible and a roadster, a Paceman and a coupe, a Clubman and a Countryman.

It also will take you through the 497,236 individual and enticing options available for each model.

And if there’s time, it might even explain who the heck John Cooper was and why you’ll pay a bundle to have his name on your Mini.

I must admit that I didn’t quite know what to expect when the latest 2013 Mini Countryman turned up in my driveway. And even when it did, I couldn’t quite work out what it was.

On the one hand, it could be a mini SUV — as opposed to a Mini SUV. It certainly sits up higher than a regular Mini, has a taller roof, a high-lifting tailgate and is available with all-wheel drive.

But it’s not an SUV in that it won’t tow your Bayliner to the beach, or mud-plug through the Everglades. The only mountain it’s going to climb is the one in Mount Dora.

Just think of it as a more versatile, more practical Mini — perhaps a crossover Mini — with more space in the back for a run to IKEA, a higher stance to make it easier to slide into.

You get to chose from a trio of engine options. There’s the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder rated at 121 horsepower, which verges on being gutless. At the top end is the zippy John Cooper Works version with its 208 hp turbo version. That’s a whole bunch fun, but with its $34,950 sticker, it’s too pricey.

No, my favorite is the Countryman Cooper S I’ve been driving. Its turbo-4 cranks out an enthusiastic 181 hp which, when coupled with the standard six-speed stick, is a nimble, zippy, bundle of fun on wheels. And it can be yours for under $26,000.

On second thought, skip the USF course and let the “professors” at your Tampa Bay area Mini dealer be your tour guides. They might even offer donuts.

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