Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

MINI insists on putting the electric window buttons on the central console, which some may find annoying, but that control button located on the central tunnel is a cinch to use.

There's a gargantuan speedo in the middle which still requires quite a sizeable glance away from the road ahead to check your speed although there is a digital readout in front of you that you never ever notice. Again, MINI insists on putting the rev counter right in front of you, which only serves to remind you that this is where the speedo should be.

The aircraft-style u-shaped handbrake is an unnecessarily fancy inclusion that is normally impeded by your mobile phone if you have dutifully put it in the holder in the central tunnel. You may like the MINI quirkiness, but that illogical layout is not made any better by the rather hard plastics used for the dashboard and glovebox. The Countryman cabin isn't a disaster but form has ruled over function here.

Sadly MINI Countryman comfort levels are not its strong point. The ride does get a little busy because the car is pretty stiff - like every other MINI really. It's not unbearable, but rear-seat passengers might start to look a little queasy on poorly surfaced country lanes and potted city streets after 30 minutes of driving.

Although the high driving position is welcome the seats are on the firm side. They are better than those on other MINIs but back sufferers might find them somewhat uncomfortable.

Both cars we tested were noisy, particularly the diesel, which sounded unreasonably agricultural. Inside we experienced buzzing from the rear of the car, which was irritating, and overall wind and road noise suppression was inadequate: the Countryman has a tinny ambience and although you might consider that all part of the charm, we don't.