The MINI Countryman is a great value for an SUV — and it's a blast to drive

MINI JCW Countryman

The whole point of MINIs has been and presumably always will be F-U-N. They're fun to look at, fun to drive, and fun to own. 

For much of MINI's history, however, MINIs weren't fun to take on a lengthy road trip or even on some shopping excursions. This is because the vehicles were based on the very mini original MINI, which were designed by the legendary Alex Issigonis and introduced in the late 1950s in the UK and later rebooted under BMW in the early 2000s. 

The MINI Cooper isn't un-roomy, exactly, but it is snug. The MINI Clubman, which came later, added some space, but not a whole lot. And even though MINIs have a devoted following, the brand was lagging the market, especially in the US, as consumers shifted their preferences toward SUVs and crossovers. 

So in 2011, the Countryman arrived — and it was immediately decried by MINI-istas as the "Big MINI." Regardless, the Countryman gave MINI a needed extra: a notably larger vehicle.

We recently borrowed a $35,400 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 (base price: $31,100) and used it to conduct life in suburban New Jersey. Here's how it did in proper SUV country:

SEE ALSO: The MINI Cooper S Convertible is the MINI perfected

No mistaking this ride as a MINI. Our tester came in a "Thunder Grey" paint job.

The "Big MINI" is indeed larger than its stablemates, which can be sort of deceptive because ...

... it shares an engineering platform with the BMW X1 — BMW's smallest crossover SUV.

Read the review here.

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