Not as enjoyable as a three-mini Mini or a VW Golf, but it's still pretty agile and there's a wide engine range
You sit higher than in a normal Mini; dash remains a triumph of retro style over functionality
Stability control and optional four-wheel-drive to keep you on the road; airbags and a good crash-test record if you come off it
Could do better
Rear seats slides so you can adjust bias towards boot or legroom, but even five-seaters are only really good for four
Plenty as standard and lots of options to personalise the car to your taste
The Countryman is much bigger than a Mini hatchback, and not as much fun to drive as a result. Those extra kilos mean it doesn't feel quite as nimble on its feet, and there's more road and wind noise to disturb the peace, too. The Countryman also suffers from a decidedly jittery ride, whatever your speed, with too much shimmy over bumps. Cooper S models are particularly firm, and have been known to wake sleeping babes as they thump over ruts in the roads.
Engine choices range from the 98bhp One, which averages 64mpg, to the 215bhp JCW, which does 38mpg. We'd go for the Cooper D version, which uses a 110bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine to give reasonable performance and a claimed average of 64mpg.
There's nothing mini about the space inside the Countryman. The sliding rear seats means you can adapt the rear space to give leggy teenagers room to stretch their pins with a slight compromise on luggage space; or, with smaller kids on board, slide the seats forward to make extra room for luggage or a three-wheel pushchair (although a Phil and Teds Sport fits easily with the seats still in their rearmost position). The mid-way position gives a good compromise between the two. The Countryman can be specified with three rear seats, but the middle one doesn't get much shoulder space.
The retro dash looks fabulous, but the contrived design means it isn't that intuitive. The Countryman's lofty driving position is useful, though, because it gives a good view of the road ahead.
Mini is usually a bit stingy on equipment, but the Countryman gets a good amount of kit as standard. Whichever version you choose, you'll get air-conditioning, four electric windows, rear parking sensors, roof rails, Bluetooth and a DAB radio with a USB socket for your phone or MP3 player. All models come with Isofix fittings on the two window seats.
Mini's reliability record isn't brilliant, with owners of the three-door and Clubman versions rating mechanical reliability as only 'average' in the latest JD Power ownership satisfaction survey.
All versions of come with lots of safety kit, though, including stability control and six airbags. The Countryman has been tested under the most recent Euro NCAP crash-testing programme, and received 84% for adult safety and 83% for child safety. That's pretty good, but not as safe as a Volkswagen Golf.
The Countryman isn't a great car, but it makes sound financial investment. Minis are renowned for holding their value, and the strong desirability of this crossover model means you'll recoup around half of your cash if you sell after three years. Prices are competitive against the VW Golf and running costs are impressively low, too.