The Mini Countryman hasn’t met with universal approval in the Autocar office, but an unexpected party has just given it their blessing.

Photographer Stuart Price and I headed down Teddington High Street in a Cooper D version for the lunchtime sandwich run, but soon found ourselves right in the middle of the Pope’s convoy heading back to Wimbledon, after a morning spent at St Mary’s University in Twickenham.

Driving through a mix of school children and protesters on either side of the police cordon, it was almost as if the crowds had gathered to witness the Countryman itself, such was the interest – both good and bad. There were cheers and gasps (mainly from the children: “Wow, it’s a big Mini,” was one cry), but equally some of the more critical banners could have had a few words changed around and be just as apt to describe the look of the Countryman...

We were waved at, too; whether that’s because people thought we were part of the convoy stuck behind the two lead police motorcycles or because people were genuinely excited to see the new Mini I’m not sure, but we waved back anyway and no-one seemed to mind, as we acted as a warm up act for the imminent drive-by.

We eventually had to pull over, where we were passed by the Pope’s 08-plate BMW 7-series. And that’s when he waved at the Mini.

As a Bavarian, he could have been showing his support for the Countryman built down the road in Austria, or he could have just been waving back at an excited Stuart. I like to think he’d noticed the Countryman’s raised ride height and airy cabin were the perfect attributes he needs when he looks to replace his ageing Mercedes ML popemobile.

So the Mini Countryman has been blessed. If it turns out to be as successful as it probably should, you'll know why. And remember: you heard it here first.