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Countryman takes MINI to the max 

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IT’S been a favourite little car for many motorists over the years and now those looking for a bigger model can join in the MINI fun.

An all-new Countryman was added to the range earlier this year – and it comes with FIVE full-sized seats.

This muscular-looking MINI is in the C-segment and is built to battle it out with other family SUVs.

There’s a new generation of Twin Power turbo diesel and petrol engines, as well as a MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 – the first MINI with plug-in hybrid drive.

And a MINI Electric Concept – fully electric model – was revealed earlier this month at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with production versions due in 2019.

The engine line-up offers top performance and efficiency.

I sampled a Cooper D model that is the most economical in the range with a combined figure of 65.7mpg.

Equipment levels have been raised with lots of high-tech features in the new car.

Standard equipment on all models now includes satnav, Bluetooth, cruise control, emergency E-call and Active Guard.

MINI owners like to personalise their cars and there are lots of colour and trim options.

Advanced technology features include a first-time MINI option of an 8.8inch touchscreen along with the MINI multimedia and navigation system.

The interior is more spacious but retains the MINI style look with the circular central instrument display – surrounded by an LED ring that displays driving feed-backs.

Driver and front passenger get more head and shoulder space and there’s extra leg room in those three rear seats that can be shifted back and forth.

There’s decent boot space of 450 litres and this expands to 1,390 litres with the split rear seats folded.

Although the Countryman is bigger and comes with more ground clearance, it is still a fun car to drive.

The 2-litre 148bhp four cylinder diesel engine in the Cooper D had plenty of oomph.

It impressed right from the start with a zero to 62mph time of 8.9 seconds and there was plenty of acceleration power when needed.

The six-speed manual gearbox was slick for quick changes as I tested the car on a winding and hilly route.

It proved agile enough when tackling bends at speed and ride comfort was also good for driver and passenger.

With a top speed of 129mph, it wasn’t under pressure when buzzing along happily on the motor-way.

Cost of this model is £23,850 but the test car had a number of options that rocketed the price up to £32,145.

These included a £2,980 Chilli Pack that brought items such as front sports seats, driving modes, LED headlamps and auto aircon.

A handy option for motorists driving out in their Country-man for a picnic is a £150 picnic bench.

This slides out of the luggage compartment, providing seating for two people.

The MINI Countryman – the brand’s biggest and most versatile model in its 57-year history – is stylish and won’t disappoint motorists looking for a quality compact SUV.