It might look like the outgoing Mini Countryman, but the all-new 2017 model shares little more than a few nuts and bolts with its predecessor. It's a well thought-out subcompact crossover SUV that's far better aligned with what buyers are generally after—roominess, refinement, and on-road polish.

Here's a look at seven things we think you should know about the brand's latest foray into the increasingly competitive world of tall-riding wagons—or crossovers.  

Also, don't miss our full first drive review of the 2017 Mini Countryman. 

Mini's lineup (finally) makes some sense.  After years of variants in search of a point, the Mini lineup has been pared to four basic models—Hardtop, Convertible, Clubman, and Countryman. The Hardtop (in three- and five-door configurations) is the pint-size one that emphasizes driving pleasure. The Clubman is the citified subcompact for those who need real-world space for stuff. And the Countryman? It's a Clubman with a taller body and a 5-inch higher seating position. Don't count out the possibility of more weird variations someday, but for now the Paceman and Paceman Coupe (that wasn't a coupe) are increasingly distant memories.

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

It's a BMW with personality. Peel away the Countryman's Mini on 'roids body and you'll find that it's a BMW X1 underneath. No, that doesn't mean it's a rear-wheel drive Mini like the original. Instead, the X1 recently became BMW's first front-wheel drive model. While the X1 is remarkably composed, it's short on driving excitement and personality. Enter, then, the Countryman, which zips around corners and brims with as much quirk as you'll find in anything these days, aside, perhaps, from smaller Minis. 

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

It doesn't really have any natural rivals. It's hard to say just what you should cross-shop if you're looking at a Countryman. It's pricier (and feels like it) than a Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Tucson, or Kia Sportage. But it's a lot less than a comparable Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLA, or BMW X1. It's probably closest to the Audi Q3, but the Mini is considerably roomier inside than the four-ring brand's pint-size crossover. It's the right crossover for someone who wants an Evoque but doesn't want to stretch that far. Big audience? Probably not. 

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

There are a lot of transmissions to sort through. Warning: numbers to follow. Opt for a base Countryman with its 3-cylinder turbo motor and you can choose from a 6-speed manual, a 6-speed automatic (front-wheel drive only), and an 8-speed automatic (all-wheel drive only). The Countryman S adds 55 more ponies from its 2.0-liter turbo-4 and a new mix of gearboxes. These speedier variants can be ordered up with a different 6-speed manual (all-wheel drive only) and two tunes for the optional 8-speed automatic. A sport version of that gearbox includes paddle shifters, beefed up internals, and different shift mapping for a more aggressive feel. 

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman

... but even more options to order. Mini has built much of its reputation on its cars' personalities. In an era of increasingly homogeneous cars, the brand's lineup offers a seemingly endless array of options—so much so that Mini tells us about two-thirds of the cars it builds don't have an identical twin. Take that, muscle car owners bragging about how their cars are "1 of 10" with that particular option combination. 

 

Mini Find Mate fob

Mini Find Mate fob

You'll find technology in spades. It may still be a fairly small car (albeit huge for a Mini), but the Countryman doesn't lack for available tech. One optional highlight is a Mini-badged fob that can be hooked to a keychain, a purse, or a backpack. Like the popular Tile item tracker, the Mini Find Mate works with an app to tell you where it (and the item it's hooked to) is located. But it goes one step further by communicating directly with the Mini's infotainment system to alert drivers that they've backed out of the garage without their briefcase or purse.  

2017 Mini Countryman

2017 Mini Countryman

There's more to come. Up next? The 228-horsepower Mini John Cooper Works Countryman arrives a few weeks after the first Countrymans hit dealers (in April) with one of the longest car names we've ever encountered. It will inevitably offer sharper handling, but the variant that intrigues us is a 221-hp plug-in hybrid called the Countryman S E. Mini promises performance not far off from the JCW with the benefit of instantaneous electric torque and a 24-mile electric-only range.