Oddly, it is the current Mini Clubman that should be named Mini Countryman, given that the original 1961 Austin Mini Countryman was a two-door estate. 
The Countryman was notable particularly for the wooden inserts fitted to top-spec models to give it a visual link to the Morris Minor estate. But instead of a Mini estate, the Countryman name now represents a model that is not only the brand’s first-ever SUV but also its first four-wheel-drive vehicle.

The last time a Mini gained a four-metre-long, four-door sister model in its manufacturer’s range, it was 1969, a decade after the original model’s inception. Back then, the four-door in question was Alex Issigonis’s last design and the car was called (partly in homage to its smaller forebear) not Mini, but Maxi. This time around the sister model is still being called a Mini, with Countryman attached as a passing suffix. However, this modern-day ‘Maxi’ is built more than a thousand miles away from its UK-built Mini brethren at Magna Steyr’s plant in Graz, Austria.

What the Countryman does represent, however, is the biggest stretch yet for Mini – for the car and the brand. Never before has a Mini ventured to this size or level of practicality, in an effort to catch a new audience – or, perhaps, to retain a customer base that might otherwise grow out of its cars.

What has also increased is the price, though that doesn’t necessarily reflect a change of attitude; the modern Mini has long demanded a price beyond its size. It’s not at all hard to get a Countryman out of the showroom doors at a price of around £30,000 if you plunder the lengthy options list. However, it’s also possible to get a reasonably-equipped model for far less.

The range is vast, though, with two- and four-wheel drive versions, three petrol and two diesel engines, but a huge selection of trim and option pack varieties.

Top 5 Premium hatches

  • BMW i3
    Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

    BMW i3

  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

  • Volvo V40
    The new Volvo V40 is the Swedish firm's sleek and sporty-looking answer to the VW Golf, A3 Sportback and BMW 1-series

    Volvo V40

  • The second generation 'more grown-up' Mini Clubman

    Mini Clubman

  • BMW 1 Series
    BMW 1 Series gets nip-and-tuck treatment for 2015

    BMW 1 Series


First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Mini range

Driven this week

  • Car review
    21 October 2016
    Can Seat’s first SUV impress, even with the heavy burden of expectation?
  • Car review
    21 October 2016
    The last hurrah for the current Aston Martin Vantage adds the track-ready GT8 to the range
  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    20 October 2016
    New S5 Sportback is more spacious, better to drive and offers a calmer ride than before, but rivals offer greater involvement
  • Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy
    First Drive
    19 October 2016
    Mildly revised hot hatch is enjoyable on UK roads but continues to play second fiddle to the Ford Fiesta ST
  • 2016 Smart fortwo Brabus cabrio xclusive
    First Drive
    18 October 2016
    Mechanical upgrades make the Smart Fortwo Brabus cabrio better to drive, but it’s too pricey to recommend