GETTING to try new cars before they hit UK roads is one of the perks of this job and recently it was a double treat as BMW launched their new iX2 and partner company Mini the latest Countryman models.

In glorious Cotswolds countryside I got behind the wheel of both cars to see just how comprehensive the changes are on these best-selling models from both manufacturers.

First it was the Countryman in exciting John Cooper Works All4 guise. Now this is the range-topping version priced at a shade under £40k, which seems a lot for a Mini but it is a lot more car than Minis of old being SUV sized and with lots of standard kit.

As this is the Cooper Works version it is quick too, 0 to 62 in 5.4 seconds and, as the name suggests, there is also four wheel drive yet MPG figures from the 300bhp 2-litre petrol engine are a very respectable 35.

As well as being roomy the interior has a quality feel with the traditional round instrument cluster front and centre. Mini claim the round screen is a first and it controls infotainment systems including sat-nav and a Harmon Kardon sound system as well as climate controls.

Other goodies include a heads up display, wireless phone charging, heated John Cooper Sports front seats, various drive modes and even a way to change the engine sounds.

If your budget is somewhat less the new Clubman range starts with the C model which is from £29,335 with a little less kit and performance but still great build quality and practicality.

Moving on to the iX2 it has also has had a major refresh being taller and longer that the outgoing model (sharing a platform with the new countryman) yet prices have dropped with the range now starting at £40,515 up to £57,445.

I got to try another range topper in the shape of the xDrive30 M Sport – an EV with over 250 miles of range and impressive performance.

Standard kit includes adaptive sports suspension, heated front sports seats, heads up display and lots of infotainment and safety equipment.

It is a quick, quiet and comfortable way to travel and there are some 20 inches of digital display wrapped across the dashboard to admire plus plenty of USB ports front and back along with a wireless controller and a host of driver assistance systems.

This sporty coupe version of the X1 has three different drive modes and can achieve 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds with a limited top speed of 112mph.

As a nod to that sporting aspiration the iX2 also has a ‘boost’ paddle that gives you a blast of extra power for 10 seconds or so – great fun when used responsibly.

First deliveries to UK customers started earlier this month and we hope to publish full test reports on both cars later in the year.

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By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth