Mini Countryman

There is a common perception that bigger cars are safer. But what if your car is... well, Mini?

The International Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) doesn't see much of an issue. The new Mini Countryman was just ranked one of their top safety picks for 2011.

Mini's newest model offers a little more room than the Cooper model that has made the brand so successful in recent years. Some may even go as far as calling the Countryman a crossover SUV, but don't be fooled. Mini's newest model may have optional all wheel drive, but it only seats four people and is still technically classified as a small car. Take a seat in the back and you'll see exactly what we're talking about.

Through a series of controlled crashes, the IIHS tests cars on head-on, rear and side impacts. They also determine a car's roof strength in case of a rollover. The Countryman has received top marks in all categories.

The IIHS also seemed impressed that the Mini comes standard with electronic stability control. This means that in a dangerous situation the Countryman can monitor wheel spin and, through fine computer controlled adjustments, hopefully prevent the car from sliding out of control.

Mini as a company typically does very well with the IIHS' tests. The only cars in the company's history that received less than perfect ratings haven't been for sale since 2008, and even then the results were still fairly respectable.

The IIHS isn't the only group that is impressed with the new Mini's safety, the European New Car Assessment Programme also gave the Countryman a high score. NCAP gives an extremely extensive review of a car's safety. They even test how safe a car is when running over pedestrians. Overall the Europeans awarded the Mini with five out of five possible stars.

While the Countryman represents the big boy in Mini's lineup, there are sure to be other models in the pipeline soon. Coupe and roadster variants have been recently confirmed, and a micro-sized Rocketman version is rumored to come to production soon. Will these new models hold up their size-defying safety record?

author photo

J. Mark Sternberg is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.

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