The Countryman is offered in various four-wheel-drive versions, comes with a bit more ground clearance than the average five-door and can be optioned with a roughty-toughty, SUV-apeing bodykit. Does that make it a crossover hatchback?

It’s easy to concede that it does, judging by the square-cornered, faintly macho styling. And yet stand next to it and see what Mini’s decision to split the difference between a five-door supermini and a Nissan Qashqai-sized soft-roader actually amounts to, and we’d defy you to conclude that this is anything other than a typical family hatchback.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
All4 versions advance the Countryman’s small SUV aspirations, even if efficiency is penalised

Being 200mm longer than the car it replaces, at almost exactly 4.3m long, and less than 1.6m tall, the Countryman has the dimensions to fit that description. It has a little more head room than the average Golf-sized five-door, though, as well as a quite generous 450-litre boot.

Engines range from a 1.5-litre three-cylinder in the entry-level petrol Cooper and hybrid Cooper S E derivatives to 2.0 litres and four cylinders in the more powerful Cooper S, Cooper D diesel and Cooper SD diesel.

So, in what is becoming well-established Mini convention, there isn’t a remotely weedy powerplant in the range.

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You can have anything from 134bhp to 189bhp under the bonnet. A 228bhp John Cooper Works spin-off tops the range while a four-wheel-drive Cooper S E with a combined output of 218bhp and rated for sub-50g/km CO2 emissions provides a hybrid alternative.

Right now, it’s the volume-selling, 148bhp Cooper D we’re testing, in front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual form.

It’s available with four-wheel drive if you prefer, or with an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, or with both – as is any other Countryman in the current range except for the Cooper SD (which comes with the eight-speed automatic only) and the front-drive petrol Cooper (which is offered with an optional six-speed automatic).

The Countryman, like all modern Minis, is suspended independently at both axles; unlike most of them, it’s available with adaptive dampers (dubbed Electronic Damper Control, or EDC) to broaden Mini’s usual highly strung dynamic character for a more mature clientele.

Our test car didn’t have EDC, or the passive sport suspension you can option should you want to, but it did have the Chili Pack, which upgrades the car’s standard 16in alloys to 17s, in this instance shod with run-flat tyres.

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