Shoulder space remains surprisingly copious in true Mini fashion (up 7.4 inches in the rear versus the base car). The large windows and elevated seating provide wide, unimpeded views. Its 16.5 cubic-feet of cargo space isn't huge, but with the reclining rear seats folded flat, there's 41.3 cubic-feet available.

Elliptical shapes decorate every interior façade, from the cartoonish instrument cluster, gauges, and cascading dash, to the door handles, seat inserts, doors panels, and air vents. Designers created five bespoke cabin colors, which together with 11 new exterior paints can be matched in more than 10,000 combinations.

Three center clusters can be had, but if you opt for the upgraded Visual Boost Radio or Visual Boost Radio with Nav, Mini Connected is available. Countryman is the first model to get this BMW Group innovation that seamlessly mates smartphone (initially just the iPhone) and automobile by providing real-time Twitter, Facebook, Web radio, news feed, and dynamic music into the infotainment system. For 2011, all Minis get HD Radio and a one-year Sirius XM subscription free.

There is no center console in the Countryman, only an innovative Center Rail that accommodates movable storage bins and cupholders. Ambient lighting illuminates the neat rail, as well as the entire cabin for a lounge-y effect.

The next day, we speak to Mini USA's passionate president, Jim McDowell, who addresses our second query. In a nutshell, Mini set out to build the Countryman because of a large customer base that Mini believes remains untapped - much like Porsche did when the Cayenne hit the streets.