The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.9

The MINI Countryman is the first premium crossover, with a fine interior and drive. But, it isn't as good value or as practical as the Skoda Yeti or Nissan Qashqai.

Reasons to buy

  • Good to drive
  • High-quality interior
  • Most practical MINI ever

How good does it look? 3/5

The MINI Countryman is controversial. Not only is it the first ever MINI with five doors, it’s the first with four-wheel drive and to top it all – the first ever MINI 4×4. So, many big changes in a range which dates its evolution to the early 1960s are sure to cause a stir. And so it proved during our week with the Countryman, as it proved to be a real head turner. Some loved it, others described it as a MINI XXL.

What's the interior like? 5/5

MINI Hatch and Clubman drivers sitting in the Countryman will need a second to adjust. Everything is familiar, from the steering wheel to the toggle-switch controls, and yet the view out gives away its extra size and height. It’s a good place to be, with high-quality finishes which shame some luxury saloons. The huge central speedometer isn’t really for telling speed – it’s more a design feature – which might irritate some. The screen inside it is far less likely to polarise opinion, thanks to its clear and attractive graphics.

How practical is it? 4/5

This car is the answer for MINI owners who had to look elsewhere for a more practical car. Now the same brand can provide a car with spacious rear seats – which slide forwards and backwards to increase boot space or leg room – a 350-litre boot and plentiful headroom. Fold the rear seats down and there’s 1,170 litres of space – almost as much as in a Volkswagen Golf. There are plenty of MINI accessories too, from tailor-made bike racks to luggage nets. The Countryman is available with two separate rear seats or a three-seat rear bench for the same price. Models with two rear seats feature a metal rail running through the centre of the car, to which various MINI accessories can be fitted.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

Despite its size, the Countryman feels like a MINI to drive. Its snappy gear change and responsive steering feel familiar, and there’s little slack in the firm suspension. Handling is class-leading, with little body roll and lots of poise. The trade-off is a hard ride which jolts over speed bumps and some pronounced road noise on poor surfaces. Choose ALL4 four-wheel drive and the Countryman will traverse all the muddy fields and tracks most drivers will encounter.

How powerful is it? 3/5

The Countryman Cooper is available with a 1.6-litre petrol or diesel engine, producing 122 and 112bhp respectively. The petrol is peppy, pulling off the neat trick of being sporty when being worked hard, but settling down to a quiet and economical hum at cruising speeds. It takes 10.5 seconds to reach 62mph. We tested the Cooper D, which takes 10.9 seconds and has a top speed of 115mph. Its performance is adequate, if not sparkling, and we were surprised at its gruff engine note, particularly when quiet. The Skoda Yeti has a smoother and more powerful diesel. An automatic gearbox will be available in March 2011.

How much will it cost me? 5/5

While it might be reasonably expensive to buy, the Countryman has low running costs. The petrol Cooper averages 39.2mpg and emits 140g/km of CO2, while MINI claims the diesel averages 64.2mpg and emits 115g/km of CO2. Start and stop technology is standard. We drove a model with ALL4 four-wheel drive, which has an impact on these figures, and averaged 40-45mpg during our week with the car. MINI’s excellent TLC servicing package should make maintaining the Countryman very cost-effective, and it’s expected to command high resale values on the used car market.

How reliable is it? 3/5

MINI is middle of the pack for reliability according to the Reliability Index of manufacturers. We found the Countryman well-engineered and trouble-free, with components which felt built to last.

How safe is it? 3/5

The Countryman was awarded a five-star rating when crash tested by EuroNCAP. It’s fitted with six airbags as standard, as well as a host of electronic safety devices to help prevent skids. There are also Isofix mounting points for child seats.

How much equipment do I get? 5/5

The standard equipment list is impressive, with roof rails, air-con, heated door mirrors and washer jets, rear parking sensors, puncture warning, six-speaker stereo, DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB connection and preparation for a bicycle rack. Apple iPhone users can also use the optional MINI Connected system, which gives access to online radio stations and functions from Google, Facebook and Twitter to name but a few.

Why buy? 4/5

Love MINIs but can’t find room enough room for passengers and gear? Now it’s possible to stick with the MINI way of life with an added dose of practicality.