Give the Mini Countryman S All4 a big ole bootful of gas, and the little turbo engine hisses into action, quickly shoving seatbacks into occupant backsides, cranking the giant centre-mounted speedometer upwards with mischievous urgency, and pumping a meaty roar into the cabin as velocity is slathered on. And, give it some steering commands on a winding backroad, and the heavyset rack loads up nicely for a bolted-down feel, while a quick ratio enables big steering action with little inputs at the wheel.

So, from a first romp, this is a compact mini-ute that instantly feels tuned to be fun to drive, rather than fitted with limp-noodle steering and shock-absorber viscosity on par with a coagulated glob of mayonnaise.

It’s a Mini, after all. Specifically, a confidently frisky little fella’ – and one that delivers key Mini dynamic traits in a model more practical, spacious and flexible than the rest of the Mini lineup. Plus, with the up-high seating position and All4 AWD system, drivers can enjoy the performance, with more practicality and more confidence, all year round.

When trying to ensure your brand’s products find homes in many Canadian driveways, it’s always a good idea to offer a big selection. From a brand once known for a handful of models big on being small, Mini has expanded, literally, to offer just that. What started with the Mini Cooper and Cabriolet has now grown to include coupe, roadster, mini-minivan, and even sport-ute-coupe models, as well as the subject of this story, just-updated version of the brand’s miniature crossover.

What’s new? Not tons. Subtle styling tweaks and added connectivity drive improved value this year, and though shoppers can find a larger and more spacious crossover for the money, standout styling and Mini brand attributes like agile handling and uniqueness are, for the most part, what make the Countryman S All4 most worth a look.

Outside, fans of the brand will feel at ease with the Countryman’s new grille treatment and expanded use of chrome. All key styling elements are alive and well here, and the unit looks true to its heritage, albeit in a bigger and more bulbous way.

Onboard styling yields few surprises. It’s got a cheerful-looking cabin with plenty of trademark round, chrome circly bits working towards a cohesively playful atmosphere. Toggle-switch control arrays are used to activate things like the new LED fog lights, mood lighting, Sport Mode and the door locks. The giant centre-mounted speedometer encircles a vivid display screen, linked in the tester with navigation and a slick command system with central control knob that functions just like iDrive from parent company BMW. At-hand storage facilities around the driver are above average, including two proper cupholders and deep, generous door-mounted storage pockets.

2015 Mini Cooper S Countryman2015 Mini Cooper S Countryman2015 Mini Cooper S Countryman dashboard
2015 Mini Cooper S Countryman, dashboard. Click image to enlarge

Test drivers will likely note good all-around visibility, decent headroom, easy entry and exit, a driving position that’s commanding and on the tall side, a tight turning circle, and adequate room for four adults. So, an easy machine to load up, hop in, and maneuver in tight spaces. The deep cargo area well behind the rear seats should prove adequate for a four-person road trip’s worth of gear, and the rear seats can be folded down to accommodate larger items as needed.

Ghost, my Golden Retriever pup who yet lacks the confidence to hop into a vehicle and is a total klutz of the most slobbery variety, had a relatively easy time hopping in back of the tester and lounging on the rear floor, though he’ll quickly outgrow it, as rear-floor real estate is chewed up by a generous centre hump and floor-mounted cupholders.

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