Mini has aimed for a more materially sophisticated, practical and refined feel here than you’ll find in its smaller models, the effect of which may be best described as ‘bubbling under’ in the busy, chromey, idiosyncratic but not quite uniformly well-finished cabin you find in the car.
The grey cloth trim of our test car was sombre for a Mini (as was the piano black trim over much of the fascia), but it’s wrapped around front seats that offer more adjustment than those of the firm’s lesser models, as well as a little bit more cushioning than Mini’s habitual standard.
You don’t have to sit quite so low in this car as you do in other Minis, with your legs and arms outstretched, if it doesn’t suit you. There’s plenty of head room, too, and for a Mini, this is certainly progress towards the comfort and versatility of a ‘normal’ five-seat hatch – more of it, anyway, than the Mini Clubman offered.
The back seats afford less opportunity for adjustment, and yet there are three child-sized seats here or plenty of room for two adults if you prefer, thanks to a bench that splits and slides fore and aft by up to 130mm (as an option, unfortunately).
Even by the standards of practical and considerably more prosaic family five-doors, such as the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra, the Countryman’s interior space isn’t likely to disappoint.
Its hand remains strong in the boot, with 450 litres of space on a level with the load lip, a roomy bit of storage underneath the false floor and back seats that at once recline at various angles and also fold 40/20/40.
The optional ‘picnic bench’ leather cushion (£150) that attaches to the underside of the false floor, meanwhile, can be flopped out to make a mucky, hard rear bumper a bit more pleasant to sit on. It sounds neat, but it’s gimmicky. Since it lives under the boot floor, it is only accessible when the cargo bay is near enough empty – and on family trips and days out, we imagine that wouldn’t be very often.
The Countryman Cooper D comes with a colour navigation system and DAB radio as standard, so, unlike some of the brand’s other models, it’s not in need of further expenditure. The Media Pack should still be a popular upgrade for the car, however, combining enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, Mini Navigation XL and Mini Connected XL, all for £950.
Spending the extra enlarges your infotainment screen from 6.5in to 8.8in and, for the first time in a Mini, gets you touchscreen input as an alternative to the rotary ‘touch controller’ that any Mini or BMW driver would be used to.
The touchscreen options are displayed at a useful scale and are easy to navigate, and you often end up switching menus and radio stations that way because it’s easier than reaching for the iDrive-style rotor. That is the way things should be.
The audio system sounds strong and clear, Bluetooth phone pairing is easily done, call quality is good and the satellite navigation system is excellent. In other words, this is £950 well spent.
As for standard equipment, the Mini Cooper models come with 16in alloy wheels, front foglights, automatic wipers, heated wing mirrors on the outside as standard. Inside there is air conditioning, a leather-clad steering wheel and Mini's Visual Boost infotainment system complete with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB tuner and sat nav.
Choosing a Cooper S variant adds a twin chrome exhaust system, manually adjustable sports seats and 17in alloy wheels. The Cooper S E hybrid model includes charging cables and unique software for its infotainment system.
Topping the range is the Countryman John Cooper Works model whihc comes with a beefy bodykit, sports suspension, 18in lighttweight alloy wheels, LED headlights and half leather upholstery.
As with all Minis, the easiest way to spec up the Countryman is with predefined packs - Chili and JCW Chili. The former adds a part leather upholstery, added storage areas, front heated sports seats, climate control, LED head and fog lights and larger alloys.
The JCW version adds 18in alloys, performance control, a rear spoiler, a sporty bodykit and JCW badging inside.