Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

There is plenty of choice when it comes to MINI Countryman performance levels thanks to both petrol and diesel engines being offered.

Petrol engines

All of the petrol engine used in the MINI Countryman are 1.6-litre units and come in 98-, 122- and turbocharged 184bhp forms. The turbo’d engine belongs to the Cooper S model and it covers off 0-62mph in just 7.6 seconds in front-wheel drive, manual gearbox form.

Choose the four-wheel drive, automatic version and 0-62mph takes a more leisurely 8.3 seconds. The 98bhp engine used in the One model is short on puff, so the 122bhp Cooper model is the better all-rounder. Only the Cooper S model is available in front- or four-wheel drive, the other engines sticking with front-drive only.

The John Cooper Works model arrived in September 2012 and has a 218bhp version of the Cooper S’s 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine to deliver 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 140mph.

Diesel engines

The MINI Countryman One D has a 1.6-litre, 90bhp turbodiesel engine that drives the front wheels and sees off 0-62mph in 12.9 seconds while returning 64.2mpg and just 115g/km of carbon dioxide emissions.

However, this engine struggles on faster stretches of road, so the 112bhp version of the Cooper D is a better bet as it offers 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds and much more mid-rev muscle. However, the best diesel is the 2.0-litre motor with 143bhp and bags of shove throughout the rev range. It provides 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox (9.5 seconds with the auto) and is a refined, swift cruiser.

Parkers recommends

So long as your budget can stretch to it, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel of the Cooper SD is the pick of the engines thanks to its economy, emissions and punchy performance.

Yes, the 'legendary' go-kart handling... MINI's hallmark, and it's fair to say that the Countryman still has these characteristics. Yes, you get a fair bit of body lean into the corners and, yes you are in an elevated driving position, but it still has that 'pointiness' that is part and parcel of other MINI models. It is agile and if you enter a bend quickly, it'll respond accordingly without needing too much correction.

The handling on the all-wheel-drive diesel that we tested didn't differ that much from the two-wheel-drive version but it did over that extra smidgeon of grip that the MINI purist will require. The system offers a 50-50 split of power between the front and back wheels, but it can transfer all the power to one end if the road conditions change and the system detects slippage.

All this is done automatically: there's no 4x4 button to press. The steering is nicely weighted but doesn't deliver quite enough feel to make the Countryman a real driver's car, but the brakes are solid and gearchange is positive, although a little notchy when moving vertically up or down the gate.

There's a few complaints though: MINI has installed a u-shaped handbrake, which is monumentally cumbersome, and the car is prone to tramlining and undulations in the road that can put the car off line when travelling at speed.