What's so MINI? What's a better oxymoron than jumbo shrimp? Try the MINI Countryman. This is the largest of all the MINIs, a crossover that is only compact by the standards of the segment at large. When parked alongside past MINIs, it looks positively massive.

Its size comes with pros and cons. On the one hand, the Countryman has the space and versatility to work with a variety of lifestyles, from the typical yuppie urbanite to the suburban couple settling down. Yet if you're looking for the classic MINI handling, you won't find it here. The powertrains – which are all shared with the smaller members of the lineup – feel taxed here. The handling suffers as well.

The styling retains the quirky charm so integral to the MINI experience, only enlarged. Thankfully, nothing was lost in translation. This is clearly a MINI, even at a glance.

Porky fella. MINI has deemed its powertrain options versatile enough to use across its lineup of models. That's all well and good for the smaller MINIs, but something as big as the Countryman needs a bit more motivation. We're complaining specifically about the base turbocharged three-cylinder engine, which makes a mere 134 horsepower, which is enough for the basic MINI Cooper but not nearly adequate for the heavier Countryman.

The uprated 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder found in the Countryman S is a much better option. Its 189 horsepower won't blow you away, but it at least will be sufficient to tackle hills and on-ramps without causing undue anxiety. Like the three-cylinder, it mates up to a seven-speed gearbox, which is probably our favorite aspect of the powertrain thanks to its snappy shifts.

The most hardcore MINI is the JCW, with 301 horsepower from its blown four-cylinder. A plug-in hybrid is the best choice for those seeking some semblance of performance, but it doesn't come cheap – the most affordable way still costs north of $40,000. If you're willing to pay the cover charge, though, you can expect 221 horsepower from the three-cylinder, electric-motor powertrain. That's enough for 18 miles of electric range; beyond that, expect 29 mpg combined.

All-wheel drive is available on most models, which only further adds to the curb weight of this nearly two-ton MINI. That kind of weight naturally impacts handling, which is simply not in the same league as the Cooper. There's too much weight and height here to have any real fun in the technical corners. If you're not caning it, the Countryman rides fairly composed, though a touch on the harsh side.

Quirky, well-finished cabin. MINI interiors aren't cheaply made, but they don't enjoy the sort of obvious luxury touches that you'll find in the brand's BMW-branded sister cars. Case in point: the Countryman rides on the BMW X1 platform, but the interior feels a step down from the diminutive Bavarian machine. MINI's trim and materials are more on par with Buick; nice, but not overtly so. We're happy to say everything is screwed together well.

Front and center in the MINI's circular center stack – a tradition-tinged relic from when the brand mounted its TV-sized speedometer there – is a 6.5-inch touchscreen. That's on the small side at this point; most competitors run screens that measure at least eight inches. Thankfully, MINI relegates their small screen to just the base model. Upper trims sport an 8.8-inch screen.

Both infotainment systems feature Apple CarPlay, but Android users are out of luck because MINI doesn't offer any such compatibility. Other features include satellite radio, while the bigger screen also boasts navigation.

Seating is comfortable up front thanks to excellent bolstering and thigh support. Headroom is the best among any MINI, as we'd expect from the biggest model in the lineup. Backseat passengers don't have too bad, either: its 37 inches of legroom is decent for a car in this class.

Cargo space is decent for the segment, coming in nearly 48 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

Questionable value. The MINI Countryman is offbeat, funky, and a generally whimsical choice among a crowd of otherwise rather vanilla compact crossovers. But how much are you willing to pay to make such a statement?

The cheapest Countryman begins at around $27,000 or so. That sounds like a fair deal until you realize that you'll be getting a dearth of features (there's little besides the 6.5-inch touchscreen, which itself is hardly notable) as well as the weak-chested, three-cylinder engine. Getting into the cheapest four-cylinder requires shelling out over $32,000. Keep in mind that buys no additional amenities, just more horsepower.

The most desirable powertrains are the hybrid and the JCW, but both cost around $40,000 to start and top out closer to $50,000 with all the options. We think that's absurd. For that money, you can buy any number of larger crossovers that wear properly premium nameplates and come with all the expected amenities.

So where does that leave the MINI? Occupying a lonely, no man's land between cheaper, more practical runabouts like the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek and the more expensive luxury models such as the Mercedes GLA and BMW X1 and X2. The Mazda CX-30 might be the closest competitor thanks to its upmarket aspirations and its surprisingly agile chassis, but the price is far less dear than what MINI is asking for the Countryman.

If you're set on this XL-sized MINI, take our advice, and don't spring for the expensive JCW or hybrid. The sweet spot in the lineup is the S trim with its perky turbo-four. Within the S line, we'd opt for the Signature trim. It boasts enough amenities to feel premium but doesn't hit with the same sticker shock of the upper trims.

Final thoughts. The Countryman is relatively spacious and charismatic, but the lack of dynamism and the high prices give us pause. After all, is a rather slow MINI worth the same price as a more competent Mercedes GLA? What about the premium you'll have to pay over something like the competent Mazda CX-30? We're just not sure the math adds up with this big MINI.

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