Back in the late Sixties, Sir Alec Issigonis, designer of the original British Mini, was faced with a rather difficult task. His little city runabout was a huge success, driven and loved by everyone from Peter Sellers to the Beatles, but beyond it, there was little for family owners to move on to. What was needed was a five-door, four-metre-long sister model that still kept much of the Mini's cleverness. And the result was the Austin Maxi. Forty years on in 2010, BMW were faced with a similar issue. Their new MINI was a hit but it couldn't offer five proper doors or decent space for rear passengers or luggage. That time round, the issue was solved by the first generation version of the car we look at here, the MINI Countryman.
That model did well for MINI, but it was never quite large enough to properly compete with family-sized Crossover models in the Qashqai class. Nor was it quite sophisticated enough to tempt users of premium-badged compact Crossovers, cars like Audi's Q3 and Mercedes' GLA. This larger, cleverer second generation Countryman, launched in 2017, addressed both these issues.