Known for fuel economy and affordability, compact cars do have one disadvantage, versatility. Their size can limit cargo room and comfortable seating for passengers. Fiat and MINI took this into consideration and decided to stretch their subcompacts, the 500 and Cooper, creating the MINI Cooper Countryman and Fiat 500L. Latino Traffic Report recently test drove both of these competitors, specifically the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 (plug-in hybrid) and the Fiat 500L Trekking. Here’s how they compared.
For starters, they may not seem to be competitors, one is a hybrid, the other is not, but they certainly appear to be and both were created to navigate an urban setting with ease. On these models, designers took the cartoonish looks of their smaller siblings, i.e. rounded headlamps, squat stances, and smiling grilles, and elongated them, stretching the headlamps to an elliptical shape and rooflines to wagon-like silhouettes.
The extra room from their extended designs naturally converted into more cargo space, specifically 47.9 cu.ft. with the rear seats folded flat, and seating for five on the Countryman. A split rear door added convenience for loading and unloading cargo, i.e. groceries.
Introduced in 2015 for the 2016 model year, the 500L offered 42 percent more interior space than the 500 and 68 cu.ft. of cargo room with the rear seat folded flat (it did slam down so watch those fingernails) as well as seating for five.
First introduced in 2010, the 2011 Countryman (left) was considered an upscale model. For 2019, MINI added a panoramic sunroof, leatherette upholstery, keyless entry, and a rearview camera with rear parking sensors as standard features.
Similarly, the 500L included a rear backup camera and parking sensor, available ambient lighting as well as a leather steering wheel. For 2019, a universal garage door opener is now standard on Fiat 500L Trekking (left) and Lounge models. What set it apart, however, was the available Beats premium audio system that was included on the test model.
Both came with AppleCar Play (the 500L also had Android Auto compatibility) to enable use of features like Google Maps via the seven-inch touchscreen on the 500L and 6.5-inch touchscreen on the Countryman. The test model Countryman also included heated front seats.
All 500Ls are powered by a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine a 160-horsepower with 184 ft.–lb. of torque matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.
As a hybrid, the test model Countryman was powered by a three-cylinder twin turbo engine with 134 horsepower and an electric motor that added 87 more horses, a hybrid all-wheel-drive system with 221 horsepower and a lithium ion battery pack. These were matched to a six speed automatic transmission.
One would expect the 500L to be outmatched by the hybrid Countryman on fuel economy but not so. While the Countryman offered an electric range of twelve miles and an estimated electric miles per gallon (mpg) of 65, the estimated combined fuel economy using gasoline was 27 mpg. For the 500L, the estimated average fuel economy was 25 mpg. On the test drive, however, the Countryman did excel, averaging 30 mpg to the 500L’s average of 24 mpg. It was difficult, however, to track the electric range on the display (below).
Regarding safety features, neither included a blind spot monitor but the 500L did have a blind spot side view mirror on the driver’s side.
Pricing for the 2019 MINI Countryman and Fiat 500L starts at $26,900 and $21,064 respectively. The as-tested prices were $40,000 and $25,460, respectively.
Sí: The added cargo room and seating capacity on these models is a definite plus, though the 500L has the advantage, not just in cargo room but value.
No: It’s always a pleasure to drive without using gas but the Countryman’s electric range is fairly limited and at its price point, a blind spot monitor should be included. The 500L has a limited fuel economy despite its size.