The long-expected Mini 4x4 crossover has been announced today. The new Mini Countryman is not only the first MIni to offer four wheel drive, it is also the first with four passenger doors (the Clubman has three passenger doors, the third controversially being on the “wrong” side for the UK).
The fourth model in the growing Mini range, the new Countryman joins the ubiquitous hatch, the Cabriolet and the Clubman. BMW say that the new model is a genuine crossover, because it “bridges the gap” between the Mini and a modern Sports Activity Vehicle.
The Countryman is somewhat larger than its siblings, offering a slightly elevated seating position and greater ground clearance. Despite this the engineering team have apparently sought to maintain the “go-kart” feeling of the Mini’s driving style and responses. Following the lead of other manufacturers, the Countryman will be available in both two and four-wheel-drive versions.
Despite the greater size, the Mini design cues are obvious. The proportions follow the Mini style and there are short overhangs both front and rear, combined with a high window line. BMW say the new car, reinterprets the characteristic Mini icons, such as the roofline and the hexagonal radiator grille, plus the headlights and the upright rear lights. Flared wheel arches are added to signify the 4x4 robust style of a sports activity vehicle.
Inside the central display and air vents are surrounded by coloured rings. A Mini ‘Center Rail’ extends from the front of the car to the back, in place of a conventional centre console. It offers options for integrating all kinds of storage boxes, cupholders, external audio devices, mobile telephones and other equipment, using clip-in elements.
The Mini Countryman comes as standard with four seats, but a three-seat split-fold bench is available as a no-cost option.
There will be three petrol and two diesel engines in the Mini Countryman range at launch, ranging from the from 90 hp Mini One D Countryman through to the 184 hp in the Mini Cooper S Countryman. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the top model comes for the first time not only with a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection, but also with fully variable valve management which BMW claims will offer the best balance of engine power and fuel consumption in its class.
Aiming to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, the Mini Countryman also has BMW features like brake energy regeneration and auto start-stop. In addition to the six-speed manual model, petrol engine models have the option of a six-speed Steptronic automatic.
The four-wheel-drive (“MINI ALL4 all-wheel drive” as it is known) system, when fitted, is permanently engaged. It utilises an electro-hydraulic differential positioned directly on the final drive, to vary the power distribution from front to rear, with an infinite range of permutations.
Under normal driving conditions up to 50 per cent of the engine’s power goes to the rear wheels, but under extreme conditions this can go right up to 100 per cent. There is also an electronic limited-slip function for the front axle differential.