Yes, the new Mini (by name, not by nature) Countryman is here and it’s bigger than ever. Try 20cm longer than its predecessor, and 3cm wider, as the brand moves to tackle more spacious, popular alternatives. We guess you can’t fault the business logic behind offering the most practicality possible for buyers. So, endless ‘its not a Mini’ jibes aside, what exactly is the story?
It’s not just a few extra mm sheet metal. There is more interior space, a much bigger boot – 450 litres seats up, 1309 seats down, a 220-litre improvement over the previous Countryman, larger rear door openings and split rear seats with 13cm of forwards/backwards adjustability and variable-tilt backrests.
Engine wise there is a new range of 3-cyl and 4-cyl engines from BMW’s latest ‘TwinPower Turbo’ family, and even a plug-in hybrid (which is unconfirmed for SA). Correct, the new Countryman range includes the first plug-in hybrid Mini model, catchily called the Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4. It drives its front wheels with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and its rears with an electric motor, for a total system power and torque output is 165kW, and 0-100kph in 6.9sec.
As for the other engines there are two petrols and two diesels. The 99kW 1.5-litre 3-cyl in the Cooper, and a 140kW 2.0-litre 4cyl in the Cooper S. As before, the diesels are unlikely to make it to SA shores. All-wheel-drive (badged ‘All4’) is an option with all engines. Front-wheel drive is standard, with a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes.
Sat-nav, Bluetooth and cruise control are standard, as is the ‘Mini Country Timer.’ It’s a sort of Strava app for off-road driving; this stability control system-linked data logger detects when the Countryman is travelling over uneven terrain. Keep veering off the beaten track in your Countryman and a cartoon Mini in the display gradually grows into a monster truck as it reaches, ahem, ‘Cliff Champ’ status.
The massive centre dial, a New Mini hallmark, returns – but this time houses a touchscreen for the first time, as part of the ‘Navigation System XL’ option. Perhaps more usefully, an electric tailgate is an option, with touch-free opening and closing and the further option of the ‘Mini Picnic Bench’ – a foldout sill cushion for two people.
And as you’d expect from Mini, there’s a dizzying array of colour and trim personalisation opportunites. We’d expect deliveries to start by the middle of 2017. Prices still TBC.