The Mini badge has been applied to some truly dinky models in its illustrious history, but in the past decade or so it seems as if it has less to do with size and more to do with overall identity.
That's good news for the Mini Cooper S Countryman, because this is officially the biggest ever Mini. And with great size comes great responsibility.
The Countryman was revealed in early 2010 and went on sale later the same year, offering buyers something of a hybrid design that combines the practicality of a small family car with the big, bold fun of an SUV.
It's larger inside and out than the Mini Clubman thanks to its extended wheelbase, which allows for five doors and enough room for adults in the back.
Although the Countryman has only been on the market for a few years, a good number of used variants are starting to appear and the Cooper S edition is definitely worth giving the time of day if you want driving fun in combination with innate practicality.
Bang for your buck
The used Mini Cooper S Countryman is instantly identifiable as part of BMW's revamped Mini range, with its design and styling acting as a natural evolution and a good deal of charm to be found throughout.
This is a four seater rather than a five seater, so in the rear you'll get two grown people quite comfortably. You can opt for a bench seat in the rear which gives you a capacity for a third person, although it's not really something you'll want to consider for long distance slogs.
On the plus side there's a big boot with a capacity that ranges from 350 to 450 litres depending on how you arrange the seating. This should give you ample luggage room, at least in comparison to the amount available on a standard Mini hatchback, which offers about half as much.
As standard you get all of the design touches that define this range, including the exaggerated speedometer which can be equipped with the new Mini Connected system as an option, opening up a world of multimedia and navigational possibilities.
This Cooper S edition offers a 184bhp petrol power plant up front and is only a rung below the oh-so special John Cooper Works iteration, so it delivers decent power even if it is a little bulkier than a standard Cooper S.
What you'll pay
You'll find that early Mini Cooper S Countryman cars for sale are now selling for around the £15,000 to £20,000 mark, depending on their options. Many have low miles and will still fall under the manufacturer's warranty, which helps to keep the price buoyant.
In addition the Mini brand is a strong one and so residual values are decent, even if these cars will tail off after a decade or so.
What to check
Make sure that you've got all of the paperwork showing any service history for a Cooper S Countryman, while also checking the car thoroughly for aesthetic damage inside and out. Just because a model is relatively new does not mean it won't hide nasty surprises.
The Cooper S Clubman's parts are comparable in cost with other Mini models, but this newer generation of the car is actually a little cheaper to run thanks to various efficiencies. This includes brake energy regeneration and those stop-start engines that give the uninitiated a bit of a scare when they cut out at traffic lights.
How it drives
It's a little unfair to compare the Countryman version of the Cooper S to its smaller hatchback iteration, but you'll inevitably want to make some links between the two. While the larger example doesn't quite feel as tight or swift as its sibling, you still get bags of energy and fun from the driving experience and the handling is particularly impressive, since it feels lively in spite of the extra bulk.
When it comes to living with the used Mini Cooper S Countryman, you'll definitely get a lot out of the extra space and improved seating compared to three door Minis, which might make it a very valuable family wagon as opposed to a funky and fun one person go-kart.