OUR FLEET TEST DRIVE: Mini Countryman - 1st Report
15 July 2011
Author: Guy Bird
 Luggage space is tall, extending well below the lip of the car's rear, if not exactly deep
Let's discuss the elephant in the room first: pure and simple, this is the most controversial - yet practical - Mini ever.
You feel it when you drive it. As my other half sagely pointed out on our first outing in the Countryman, people look at you in it like they stare at women who they suspect of being pregnant. They scrutinise with the intensity of noticing something familiar but bigger than they remember. Is she fat or just in the family way? "That's the big Mini" you see them whisper as they stare - especially when the car is bright blue - before turning around and staring again. It is big too. Parked next to a Ford Transit Connect van it's far from dwarfed .
And while there's no getting around the Countryman's bold presence, it's a driving experience I'm up for and fine with. The blue suits it, and with a family of four to sling around at the weekends the second thing you notice is the (formerly un-Mini-like) easy access from five big and wide-opening doors. Kids fit a treat (including their high-headrest car seats), rear leg- and headroom is absolutely fine for all and luggage space is tall, extending well below the lip of the car's rear, if not exactly deep . 350 litres with seats up - twice that in the Hatch and 90 litres more than the Clubman - expands to 450 litres via individually sliding rear seats and on to 1170 litres folded. Inside is familiar Mini with lots of circular and oval design themes, best of all, the signature huge centre dial with a large but clear graphic reversing aid  plus satnav.
The latter isn't standard though, it's the main part of the £1310 Media pack, which alongside the 'Pepper' option's highlights - including clever interior lights, auto aircon and on-board computer for £1140 - make up the lion's share of the hefty £3435 extras list (see 'Mini Cooper D Countryman' panel, right).
Our engine and transmission choice - the 112hp 1.6 diesel manual in front-wheel drive with standard stop/start - will offset those costs though - promising 60-plus mpg and 115g/km of CO2 for a super low 13% BIK tax band and no first year road tax.