It might be bigger than ever before, but the Countryman Cooper S, $46,500,  retains the soul of the brand's sportier models, planting smiles on dials as it navigates tricky hillclimbs and twisting backroads.

It's powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine that will produce 141kW at 5,000rpm and 280Nm from 1,350rpm,  channeled to the front wheels via an eight-speed sports automatic gearbox. That's enough to knock off the sprint to 100km/h in a sprightly (but not lightning-quick) 7.4 seconds.

Along with the sportier gearbox, you'll find adjustable drive modes and the steering wheel from the brand's John Cooper Works models. They join 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate (with rear vents), LED headlights and an armrest for backseat riders that also houses two bonus cupholders.

Safety is impressive: a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parking system join AEB, active cruise and five airbags.