2017 Mini Countryman to spawn first plug-in hybrid
26 October 2016
The new Mini Countryman has grown into a larger SUV designed to take on the likes of Audi's Q2 and Q3 as well as the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the BMW X1 it shares underpinnings with, and will also be the first Mini with plug-in hybrid electric power.
Launching in February, the new Countryman has followed its Clubman hatchback sibling in moving up a class, and Mini has added another 200mm to its length, which means an extra 100 litres of boot capacity, taking the overall space to 450 litres, growing to 1309 litres with the seats folded, which is an increase of 220 litres. There is also 50mm more rear knee room, although the seats slide back and forth by up to 130mm.
"The new car is recognizable as a Countryman, we have a very wide customer base," explained Mini head of product Nicolas Griebner at an early fleet preview event held at the company's Farnborough headquarters last month. "From a brand and volume point of view it's very important to us and we wanted to bring typical Countryman design to the C-segment."
Griebner was keen to highlight the interior quality improvements - "more than a single step" - and said the 113g/km Cooper D will be the "star of the range" at launch, though a One D lower emission model will launch by the end of next year. "It will be similar to how it is on the Clubman, where for the corporate segment One D is a superb proposition."
"The new car is integral to Mini, the five-door hatch launched us into corporate, then there has been Clubman, and we're now into the C2 (C-sector crossover) segment and the opportunity is huge," he said.
Standard kit will include the roof rails, to distinguish this car as the "adventurer" in Mini's line-up, as well as its most practical car. The Countryman offers the same level of kit as the smaller Clubman on the various trim levels, but with the addition of rear parking sensors as standard, because of the Countryman's status as the largest car in Mini's line-up. This means satellite navigation, Bluetooth, 16-inch alloy wheels and an emergency e-call system all included as standard.
The move up a size means the Countryman is "playing in a bigger pool," according to Griebner, with the possibility of high-end versions even competing with other premium brands. "We could find this car shopped against a Range Rover Evoque and people coming away with a high-end product," said Griebner. "Whereas the more entry product will go up against Qashqai and people will understand that it needs to be specced up to Cooper [equipment] level."
But it's the plug-in hybrid, which will arrive in June and be know as Countryman S E, that the brand is hoping will turn heads. "Maybe people will start to notice Mini in the corporate market in a way they have not before," said Griebner of the model that is predicted to arrive with sub-50g/km emissions from its 136hp three-cylinder petrol engine and 88hp electric motor. There's no boot penalty for the battery version, but it doesn't come with the sliding rear seats fitted to the rest of the Countryman line-up.