The hardest car buying decision has always been ‘what should I drive every day?” Answering this question forces everyone into deep introspection and ultimately acceptance of themselves. Too many people buy a car that is either too rational or too emotional. They buy a car who reflects who they are (or who they want to be) but places a limit on what they can do, or one that fulfills their practical needs but leaves them feeling empty.
The original 2005 Mini Cooper was a hoot to drive and energized a category that had all but disappeared. But it was small and the gas mileage didn’t match its promise. Mini, BMW actually, improved the car with a new chassis and motor for its second generation. They also, much to the purists’ agony, expanded the model line beyond the original Cooper and Clubman by introducing the Countryman SUV, of all things. The company’s surrender to the market and customer needs became something great.
The Countryman is based on the quite excellent BMW X1 platform (I’m sure to highlight an X1 soon too). The result is a small-ish vehicle with a slightly higher stance, more than enough utility, and all the fun of the original. Choosing the John Cooper Works (JCW) version. Powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 208 hp and 192 pounds-feet of torque, more than enough to move its 2833 lbs around with haste.
As a daily drive an AWD Mini Clubman JCW like this one in Portland, Oregon listed for just under $14,000 strikes an ideal balance between passion and practicality.
This example’s all black interior is a bit staid, and an automatic isn’t as engaging as the manual. But it’s a fine combination for a car that you’re mostly going to drive in traffic to and from work. The utility of the extra doors and hatchback makes it useful for tasks like grocery shopping, trips to the hardware store and shuttling kids to practices.