You're thinking... it's a £300 full susser, it'll be pants. As soon as you pick it up - which is surprisingly easily - the first doubts stir.
It's a single-pivot frame with a rear triangle rather than a massive swingarm. It pivots low - just above the bottom bracket, which should limit chain tension problems - and the simple design is relatively light, laterally stiff and robust. The main frame triangle has a kinked top tube where it anchors the shock, and the down tube is strengthened with a gusset.
On the trail the reach is roomy, and low enough to put some steering weight on the front end. The fork has a hydraulic lockout, which is handy for climbing, but you can't adjust the rebound. It's tolerable mainly because the sprung rear end means you're mostly sitting. The short rear shock is rebound adjustable, but it still delivers that single-pivot kick-back when you're pedalling over roots and rock gardens; see-sawing you forwards. But long, fast freewheels are great fun. It soaks up trail chatter without the oil tanker wallow through every corner you get with heavyweights like the faux bar Carrera Banshee.
Twisty singletrack isn't superfast, which is partly the fault of the tyres - Michelin's plasticky Country Muds are misnamed, as they grip winter gloop like Bambi on ice. Gearing, on the other hand, is unexpectedly good, as you get 27-speed SRAMs rather than 24-speed. While the thinner chain will wear faster, until then you've got smaller steps between gears. Tektro Io cable discs stop okay, and finishing kit is aluminium rather than steel. The Viper saddle's forked rear is a pain, snagging shorts or sometimes jabbing plums when you're off the back of it.