Mini Countryman: family matters

* Mini suitable for families * Four-wheel-drive option * From less than 17,000...

Mini Countryman: family matters

Mini is describing the Countryman its new crossover as a car for Mini lovers who want to start a family.

The company admits that its current range of hatchback, convertible and Clubman cars is not suitable for family use, but the longer, wider, taller Countryman is designed to remedy this.

Efficient engines
The emphasis is also still on fun, but efficient motoring. The 1.4- and 1.6-litre engines develop from 90 to 184bhp, with emissions starting at just 113g/km for the entry-level diesel unit and rising to around 150g/km for the range-topping Cooper S.

Two- and four-wheel-drive variants will be offered, making the Countryman an obvious rival for the Skoda Yeti.

The all-wheel-drive system is based on parent company BMW's x-Drive and uses an electro-hydraulic clutch on the rear differential to bring the rear wheels into action as necessary.

'We are not becoming an off-road brand all of a sudden, but if you think back to the weather we had recently you can see why we are making this available,' said Jochen Goller, the head of Mini in the UK.

Four- or five-seater
All UK versions will be five-seaters with a three-seat rear bench, but two individual rear seats will be offered as a no-cost option. There's also a rail running along the spine of the car, which is used as an anchorage point for storage boxes, a source of ambient lighting and a power supply for electrical devices such as MP3 players.

Mini is hoping to announce prices before the car makes its first public appearance at the Geneva motor show in March. It has already said that the range will start at less than 17,000.