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The Countryman’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the Countryman and the Golf SportWagen have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, post-collision automatic braking systems, daytime running lights, rearview cameras and available all wheel drive.
The Countryman’s corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the Golf SportWagen’s (12 vs. 10 years).
MINI pays for scheduled maintenance on the Countryman for 3 years and 36,000 miles. MINI will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Volkswagen doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Golf SportWagen.
A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Countryman’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the Golf SportWagen’s camshafts. If the Golf SportWagen’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.
A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Countryman’s reliability 14 points higher than the Golf SportWagen.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that MINI vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks MINI 23rd in initial quality. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that MINI vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks MINI 6th in reliability, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 12th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that MINI vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks MINI 7 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.
The Countryman has more powerful engines than the Golf SportWagen:
Countryman S 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.
JCW Countryman 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.
Golf SportWagen 1.4 turbo 4 cyl.
Golf SportWagen S 4MOTION 1.8 turbo 4 cyl.
On the EPA test cycle the Countryman S ALL4 8-speed Auto 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. (189 HP) gets better fuel mileage than the Golf SportWagen S 4MOTION Auto 1.8 turbo 4 cyl. (23 city/31 hwy vs. 22 city/29 hwy).
Regenerative brakes improve the Countryman’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.
In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Countryman’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.
The Countryman has 2.9 gallons more fuel capacity than the Golf SportWagen FWD’s standard fuel tank (16.1 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Countryman has 1.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Golf SportWagen 4Motion’s standard fuel tank (16.1 vs. 14.5 gallons).
The MINI Countryman comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Golf SportWagen.
The Countryman offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer an SMG.
To facilitate fast shifting and allow the driver to focus on the road, the Countryman JCW offers an optional up-shift light to indicate when the engine is approaching redline. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer an up-shift light.
The Countryman Auto’s optional launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer launch control.
For better traction, the Countryman has larger tires than the Golf SportWagen (225/55R17 vs. 195/65R15).
The Countryman’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Golf SportWagen S’ standard 65 series tires.
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Countryman has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 15-inch wheels are standard on the Golf SportWagen S. The Countryman’s optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the Golf SportWagen SE.
Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires standard on the Countryman can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer run-flat tires.
The Countryman has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Golf SportWagen’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.
The Countryman offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Golf SportWagen’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Countryman’s wheelbase is 1.6 inches longer than on the Golf SportWagen (105.1 inches vs. 103.5 inches).
For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Countryman is 1 inch wider in the front and 2.3 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Golf SportWagen.
The Countryman S ALL4 handles at .83 G’s, while the Golf SportWagen S pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.
The Countryman is 9.8 inches shorter than the Golf SportWagen, making the Countryman easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.
Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Countryman a Mid-size car, while the Golf SportWagen is rated a Small Station Wagon.
The Countryman has 2.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Golf SportWagen (96.9 vs. 94.3).
The Countryman has 1.9 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more rear legroom and .1 inches more rear shoulder room than the Golf SportWagen.
For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the Countryman’s rear seats recline. The Golf SportWagen’s rear seats don’t recline.
To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Countryman’s power liftgate can be opened or closed just by waving your foot, leaving your hands completely free. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening liftgate.
When two different drivers share the Countryman, the optional memory system makes it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, power steering assist, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a memory system.
The Countryman offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a heads-up display.
The Countryman’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Golf SportWagen has a lever-type parking brake that has to be strenuously raised to engage properly. It has to be lifted up more and a button depressed to release it.
If the windows are left open on the Countryman the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Golf SportWagen can’t use the remote to operate the windows.
When the Countryman with available tilt-down mirrors is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The Golf SportWagen’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.
The Countryman offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Golf SportWagen offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
The Countryman’s optional dual zone air-conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer dual zone air-conditioning.
The Countryman’s optional automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer automatic air-conditioning.
The Countryman’s available GPS navigation system has a real-time traffic update feature that plots alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The Golf SportWagen’s available navigation system doesn’t offer real-time traffic updates.
To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the MINI Countryman offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.
The Countryman’s optional Parking Assistant can parallel park by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer an automated parking system.
The Countryman will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Countryman will retain 45.61% to 52.4% of its original price after five years, while the Golf SportWagen only retains 38.88% to 42.79%.
Consumer Reports® recommends the MINI Countryman, based on reliability, safety and performance.
J.D. Power and Associates rated the Countryman first among small suvs in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Golf SportWagen isn’t in the top three in its category.
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