After months of 2D viewing, we’re finally able to give you our first impressions of Mini’s new Countryman in the flesh. The Mini Cooper Countryman is Mini’s first attempt at a 4 door, 4 wheel drive vehicle. The new Mini is a crossover that combines typical small car driving dynamics with greater utility and space.

In an apt April Fools joke, Mini unveiled the Countryman from under a traditional linen cover, but a surprise lurked beneath. Wide eyed journalists had looked inquisitively upon the silhouette of the vehicle beneath – but it was a monstrous silhouette, probably closer to the Escalade in size. Pictures can be deceiving – but was the Countryman really that huge? The linen was pulled, and the joke revealed – a giant wooden shell encapsulating the new Mini. Several young men descended on the vehicle to remove the wooden enclosure and finally the Countryman was sitting before us. Take a look at all the action in our gallery below.

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So how does it look? How “large” is it in the 3rd Dimension? The most surprising thing about Mini’s new Countryman is its subtly, the way it hides its mass through its tight skin and by way of traditional Mini proportions. While taking a long, careful walk-around I was shocked to eventually notice another Countryman parked close by on the show floor. The entire time I had paid no attention, assuming this was a regular Mini Cooper through my peripheral vision. It just hid itself so well, blending into the Mini family as a legitimate biological sibling. To be fair, it was parked beside Cooper Clubman cars – the stretched version of our beloved Mini Cooper – but I can’t help but feel embarrassed that my environmental awareness had let me down.

The interior is typical Mini fare: rounded gauge clusters and interior appointments, trendy, fresh and surprisingly spacious. Materials felt of good quality, though not upscale or supple as would be found on more expensive BMW models. Rear seat space was good and reclining rear seats will win points on any road trip. Rear storage space was adequate for most grocery runs – larger items will require the rear seats folded down, and the Mini is happy to comply, offering up a full 40 cubic feet of space. A secret compartment in the rear floor is ideal for stowing your valuables.

True to Mini’s motto for fun, the Countryman will be offered with a 6 speed manual or automatic gearbox. Adaptive Xenon headlights will show the way, a first in the Mini lineup.

The Countryman is a genuine Mini product – it does not look out of place in the lineup. It’s raised ride height, all wheel drive, increased utility and four usable doors will no doubt make this Mini one of the most popular and profitable in the range.

Jim McDowell, Vice President, MINI USA was on hand to speak about this latest offering from the brand. “Mini is growing with the times,” referring to the Countryman’s larger size, it looks like “this Mini went to the gym.”

Photos credit Shawn Molnar