ON THE ROAD: MINI its not, this latest Countryman is bigger than ever and it was pretty big - in MINI terms - as it was.

While it might not have the cult status of the original, it has undoubted cache among the relatively well-heeled.

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North of £27,000, before the addition of a raft of options, such style does not come cheap, but this car is more than just a fashion accessory.

With five decent seats and the ability to create more room in the rear at the expense of boot space, it is, relatively speaking, a practical beast.

The completely revamped model was launched at the end of last year with a range of four conventional engines, two diesel and two petrol, plus a plug-in hybrid.

We tested the Cooper D All4 with the 2.0 litre diesel unit. Having driven this for a week I cannot imagine needing anything else.

Frugal and with all the punch you need - despite the MINI's obvious heft - there wasn't a situation I confronted it with that it didn't pass. The chunky, short-shifting gearbox allied to responsive steering makes for an engaging drive.

The ride is firmly firm, and will put some off, but having driven countless MINIs over the years I was completely prepared for this and accepting of it.

The addition of the All4 all-wheel drive system not only gives a feeling of increased safety in testing on-road conditions, it also improves the versatility of the model.

ON THE INSIDE: THERE had been criticism that you weren't getting enough bang for your buck with the original Countryman, but I would be nit-picking to say the same here. There's always a certain price you have to pay for something aimed towards the higher end of the market, but I didn't feel short-changed when it came to the MINI's interior. It doesn't seem like the SUV its exterior portrays, feeling more in keeping with its smaller siblings.

The layout is reassuringly familiar with the now traditional circular design dominating, from the clocks to the infotainment system to the controls for the air conditioning.

There's solid build quality in evidence, from the thunk of the door as it closes to the manufacture of the controls, all in all a considerable improvement.

WHAT DO YOU GET: THE MINI brand is all about personalisation, so although you get enough of the obvious, you are enticed by plenty from the options range. Our car included the XL version of the MINI's navigation system, enhanced Bluetooth, 18ins alloys with run-flat tyres, electrically folding mirrors, powered boot, chrome line interior, larger capacity fuel tank, sports seats, sliding rear seat bench, illuminated interior and a picnic bench.

HOW PRACTICAL IS IT: IT'S not the biggest SUV out there, admittedly, but it can do a job. There's plenty of legroom in the front and room for three in the rear, although its a little on the snug side. As mentioned earlier, you can slide the bench forward and back to create more legroom or increase luggage capacity. The boot is a decent size to begin with and it's designed to make loading easy. The aforementioned picnic bench, which emerges from the boot floor, is quirky, but again will serve a purpose if you're looking for somewhere to sit while removing muddy boots, for example.

RUNNING COSTS: WE managed 48.4mpg from a week of urban and dual carriageway driving. CO2 emissions on our car come in at 132g/km.

VERDICT: STYLE with substance ALTERNATIVES: NISSAN Qashqai, BMW X1