The Mini Countryman is easily the most controversial model in the BMW-era line-up. I know that the BMW board thought long and hard about the proposal, because it broke away from the original Mini formula in two significant ways.

First, it was quite big. At a touch over 4-metres long, as well as being quite tall, it could never live up to the 'Mini' name. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the driving position would no longer place the driver's backside close to the road.

The Mini hatch might not be a paragon of interior packaging like the original, but at least it retains the darty handling and low-rider cockpit position that adds so much to the driver's experience. Mind you, Gert Hildebrand, the Mini design boss between 2001 and 2010, always insisted that the Austin 1100/1300 was part of the Mini family and so provided the intellectual back-up for the Countryman concept.

The Countryman, however, does not really have the quick-witted feel of the Mini hatch, despite BMW's attempts to create it by giving the car over-enthusiastic steering that leaves the rest of the chassis trying to keep up.What it does, have, though is space. Despite being noticeably shorter than a Golf, the Countryman offers proper space for four six-footers and easily enough cabin room for a young family.