When the Mini Countryman was launched in 2010, it challenged the assumption that a Mini was, by definition, small. But while this made it a controversial addition to the range, it didn’t hinder sales; more than half a million have been shifted in the past six years.
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This all-new SUV is even bigger than the original, making it a direct rival for the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca, as well as smaller prestige-badge models such as the Audi Q2. Yet despite the increase in size and sharper creases in its bodywork, the design is still very much an evolutionary one.
The shape of the headlights and side windows, in particular, is pure Countryman, although there is a simpler and less aggressive take on the traditional Mini front grille.
Mini claims that the new car will not only be roomier than its predecessor, but also feel higher quality inside. And it will be the first Mini available as a plug-in hybrid.
What is the hybrid Mini Countryman like?
The hybrid Countryman (called the Cooper SE) is four-wheel drive, with a 134bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine powering the front wheels and an 87bhp electric motor driving the rears, while the batteries have enough capacity for an electric-only range of around 25 miles.
Official average fuel economy is a whopping 134.5mpg, and CO2 emissions are just 49g/km. As with all plug-in hybrids, though, you’ll only achieve these sorts of figures in the real world if most of your journeys are short and you top up the car’s batteries after each one.
It takes 3hrs 15mins to recharge the car from an ordinary three-pin socket or 2hrs 15mins from a specially designed wall box.
With both the engine and the electric motor running, the hybrid produces 221bhp and is the fastest model in the new Countryman range, capable of 0-62mph in a hot hatch-rivalling 6.9sec.
What engines will the new Mini Countryman have?
There are four conventionally powered versions of the new Countryman: the entry-level Cooper uses the same 1.5-litre petrol engine as the hybrid, the Cooper S a 189bhp 2.0-litre petrol, and the Cooper D and Cooper SD have 2.0-litre diesels with 148bhp and 187bhp respectively.
These models get front-wheel drive as standard, but Mini’s All4 four-wheel-drive system is a £1600 option.
Although All4 is designed to improve traction in treacherous conditions rather than turn the Countryman into a real off-roader, a more rugged version of the car is believed to be under development; we expect this to have a raised right height, modified bumpers and front and rear skid plates.
What is the new Mini Countryman like inside?
While the outgoing Countryman mimics the classic Mini in having its speedometer in the centre of the dashboard, the new car follows the latest Mini hatchback and Clubman estate by placing it in front of the driver. The layout of the controls has also been improved; you now get simple rotary knobs for the air-con, and the infotainment system has shortcut buttons to make switching between menus easier.
As before, the infotainment touchscreen is set into a dinner plate-sized ring in the centre of the dash. However, it’s now flanked by rectangular rather than round air vents, so it no longer looks like a silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head. In fact, the whole interior has a more grown-up feel to it.
The Countryman’s increased size has allowed for more rear leg room, so adults should be able to sit in the back comfortably. Plus, the boot is bigger than that of a Qashqai or Q2.
Sliding rear seats that let you free up even more luggage space at the expense of some leg room will be an option, and the rear seats fold 40/20/40 to maximise versatility.
How much will the new Mini Countryman cost?
Unfortunately, the Countryman’s extra space is accompanied by a hike in prices. The entry-level Cooper model costs £22,465, which is £3740 more than the current car, while the range-topping Cooper SD All4 is up by a staggering £5600 to £29,565 (the price of the Cooper SE plug-in hybrid isn’t yet confirmed).
More positively, the standard kit list is more comprehensive, now including sat-nav, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic emergency city braking, and the Countryman’s pricing is comparable with that of the Q2.
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Mini Countryman Cooper
Engine size 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Price from £22,465
Torque 162lb ft
Top speed tbc
Fuel economy (official combined) 51.4mpg
CO2/BIK band 126/22%