MINI advertises its Countryman model as the largest in its range making it ideal for families who live for adventure.
It's big, bold and beautiful, but another key factor is that it still delivers MINI driving fun through and through.
The latest Countryman has grown in stature too making it more viable as a practical family car with room for four - or five at a squeeze. It features all-wheel-drive capabilities and with dazzling paintwork designs, it's a car guaranteed to attract plenty of attention wherever it goes.
Our five-door model was in a striking British Racing Green colour with a red roof and plenty of red stripes and trim, including the mirror caps, brake calipers, front grill surround, side skirts and front vents.
Add in black roof rails, twin tailpipes and 19-inch John Cooper Works two-tone alloys and this is a MINI that simply cannot be ignored.
Move inside and it oozes MINI DNA throughout with the giant circular dial housing most of the infotainment systems, toggle switches to activate the ignition, drive modes and other features, a sports steering wheel, ambient lighting, circular instrumentation dials and lots of JCW badging. Most of the materials are black in colour, but there are once again lots of neat contrast red trimmings to jazz things up.
The sports seats are comfortable and supportive with ample adjustment available to help find the perfect driving position and there's a wealth of on-board technology to explore. Features include full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay, a navigation system, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, plus lots more besides.
Our Countryman JCW, priced at £36,145 (£39,525 with options), was powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine delivering 306hp and 450Nm of torque mated to a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox. It could sprint to 62mph from a standstill in just 5.1 seconds, topped out at 155mph and according to official figures it can deliver combined fuel economy of 32.1-34.9mpg with carbon emissions of 188g/km (WLTP).
So, looking at those performance stats, it would be fair to say the MINI Countryman is quite a powerhouse, delivering all the driving dynamics associated with the name. Yes, it's much bigger than the standard models to accommodate families and all their kit, but it still handles really well.
The acceleration through the automatic gearbox is very smooth and swift with paddles for extra driver engagement.
It's beautifully balanced out on the country lanes with excellent grip thanks to the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system thatcalculates the optimal torque for each wheel, helping you power your way out of tough situations.That means corners and tight bends can be attacked with confidence. The steering is well weighted with ample feedback and the suspension, although quite firm, does a good job of smoothing out the rougher road surfaces along the way.
The Countryman eats up motorway miles with ease and the excellent agility makes it an ideal city car too. But it's really out on the B roads where this MINI excels as it blasts its way along the quieter country lanes gripping the surface like glue. Bursts of acceleration to overtake slower moving vehicles are easily achievable and there is a constant stream of power on tap from this punchy engine.
There are drive modes called Green, Mid and Sport that alter the way the car reacts and, as you switch through these settings, the outer rim around the main dial changes colour from green to yellow and finally, to red.
The boot capacity ranges from 450 litres to 1,390 litres with the rear seats dropped flat and there are numerous convenient storage options scattered throughout the car, including a glovebox, cup holders, central cubby box, door bins and trays.