What is it?
What's all this about, Mini? The Countryman was a step too far for many, but we could understand why you did it. Building a three door 'coupe' version of that ungainly maxi-Mini really IS a leap too far, though. What's wrong with the regular Mini hatch for those that want three-door good looks?
Being as it's a Mini, the engineers wanted to make it feel agile and sharp and (their stuck-in-the-groove phrase) kart-like. Sure enough, it dives into a corner with the first sniff of the steering wheel. But at that point its height catches up with it, and a short interruption occurs as it takes on a roll angle and the back wheels get themselves in sync with the front. Wait for all that to stabilise, or build up some more lock, and it actually corners quite doggedly, if with inevitable sogginess because of all the roll.
Anyway, the upside of the comparatively soft chassis is a decent ride over big disturbances. Small high-pitched corrugations cause things to shudder a bit, which is why I'd be cautious of the stiffer chassis option or bigger wheels. This is a crossover, remember, and it'd be good to keep up your sleeve the option of fitting winter tyres and feeling smug when it snows.
On the inside
They'll hate us for saying this, but it's ideal for grandparents. The high seats make it easy to get in and out when you're feeling the stiffness of age, and a pair of grandchildren will be agile enough to wriggle into the back, and will be delighted by the separate seats when they get there. It's the same from the front seats forward, but the front doors are longer, and they lead back into an upper body that wanes narrow and shallow. It's neatly done.
A pair of separated chairs accommodate the two back-seat passengers. There's no five-seat option because there isn't enough width. It's the usual cheery Mini cabin and dash design, but like all Minis the plastics could use an upgrade. They're at Ford levels, but at £22,355 you're paying Audi prices.
Prices start from £18,975 but rise to a whopping £30k for the JCW. Saying that, the lovely SD engine returns some 61mpg and emits just 122g/km of CO2. But still.