The biggest Mini in the 57-year history of the brand has been completely redeveloped; and now reflects considerable advancement in the area of space, functionality, athletic flair, and upmarket appointments.

Some 20 cm longer than its predecessor, it is approximately 3 cm wider with a wheelbase extended by 7.5 cm, culminating in an increase of 220 litres in interior and luggage space.

Design changes constitute a new hexagonal radiator grille, large headlamps with a slightly asymmetric contour and new arrow-shaped side scuttles. This model now also has an optional electric tailgate and a unique picnic bench.

The Cooper and Cooper S models, available now, is powered by the latest TwinPower petrol turbo units, while the powerful 170 kW John Cooper Works version is expected soon, followed by a diesel derivative.

The 1,499cc 3-cylinder petrol engine of the Cooper delivers 100 kW and 220 Nm, the 1,998cc 4-cylinder petrol mill of the Cooper S is rated for 141 kW and 280 Nm, while the 1995cc 4-cylinder diesel of the Cooper D delivers 110 kW and 330 Nm.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, with a 6-speed Steptronic as optional, while the Cooper S uses the 8-speed Steptronic transmission. With the exception of the JCW model, no ALL4 derivatives will be offered.

The central instrument with touchscreen includes the Radio Mini Boost display and a Bluetooth hands-free ’phone facility. A wide variety of extras are optionally available.

The more powerful S on 17-inch rubber was fun on the road, but if it were our money we’d settle for the normal Cooper – because even without options, the Countryman (prices range from R423,824 to R512,806), is now perhaps too expensive in this highly competitive segment.