The Countryman’s big-volume diesel is fairly strong for its type.

It whipped the car up to speed pretty smartly and recorded some competitive numbers despite having to contend with low temperatures, what’s probably an above-average kerb weight and a not especially aerodynamic body.

The Countryman turns in hard to tighter bends retaining good steering authority even under high lateral loads and resists understeer pretty well even under power

Given the tricky conditions, it’s better to use 30-70mph through-the-gears acceleration as a benchmark of the car’s pace, rather than standing-start sprinting, and on that marker the Mini was seven-tenths of a second quicker than the torquier (and 100kg lighter) 2.2-litre diesel Mazda 3 we tested.

The Audi A3 2.0 TDI 150 we figured most recently was just a tenth of a second ahead on the same measure.

The Countryman’s engine isn’t quite as flexible as that of the Mazda, needing almost two and a half seconds more to cover the same acceleration increments in fourth gear.

On the road, the diesel’s response is a little bit lazy and non-linear at lower revs but seldom feels weak or unwilling. It does both sound and feel a little gruff and noisy, though.

While we’d just about agree that the Countryman is probably a touch more refined than an equivalent Clubman or even a regular five-door Mini hatch, it’s not a refined car compared with other mainstream hatchbacks.

The car’s idle isn’t too bad, but it allows three decibels more noise into the cabin than the Mazda at 30mph and two decibels more at 50mph, and that’s enough to notice. Plenty of wind and road noise is evident at higher cruising speeds, as well as the engine noise.

On cabin isolation, Mini could plainly have done a bit more to ensure the Countryman felt more grown-up than its rangemates.

The car’s controls are consistently weighted and pleasant to use in the main, while its brakes are strong and deliver decent pedal feel.

The notable exception, however, is the notchy, fussy action of the six-speed manual ’box’s gearlever, which baulks too often on the trip between ratios and generally requires too much of your attention – and a bit too much in the way of elbow grease – to make for a relaxing town drive.


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