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Biggest MINI ever unleashed - the new Countryman. Image by MINI.

Biggest MINI ever unleashed - the new Countryman
Five seats, touchscreen infotainment and a PHEV for MINI Countryman MkII.
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What's all this about?

It's the all-new MINI Countryman we knew was coming, which was (sort of) revealed the other day during that announcement of the company's first-ever plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model.

Hold on, a PHEV MINI?

Yes, the MkII Countryman will have five models at launch, the range-topper being the part-electric variant.

MkII? I thought this we were on the third-gen MINI?

We are, of which this Countryman is the fifth body style to be introduced after the Hatch, the 5-Door, the Convertible and the Clubman. But as the off-roading MINI didn't appear until the second generation of the popular style icon (it was launched in 2010, if you want to be specific), this is only the MkII Countryman.

OK, what have we got?

We'll start with the conventional models. There are four of them, two petrol and two diesel, and the drivetrains will be familiar from the related vehicles elsewhere in MINI's fleet. With the exception of the Cooper Countryman entry-level model - powered by the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine, rated at 136hp/220Nm, as seen in the PHEV - they are all four-pot turbocharged engines. There's the 150hp/330Nm Cooper D Countryman, the 190hp/400Nm Cooper SD Countryman and then the 192hp/280Nm Cooper S Countryman. Best economy comes from the Cooper D (65.7mpg and 113g/km CO2); while the most rapid performance is provided by the Cooper S with an automatic transmission and drive to all corners, which can do 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds, fully nine tenths quicker than its predecessor.

Are all of these MINIs four-wheel drive?

No, but MINI's ALL4 twin-axle system is an option across the board. Gearboxes as standard are a six-speed manual on all cars, bar the Cooper SD Countryman, which gets an eight-speed Steptronic auto alone. That transmission is an option on the two other four-cylinder cars, while the three-cylinder MINI's alternative gearbox is a six-speed Steptronic auto.

Can you talk me through the looks?

There are squarer headlamp units featuring a sort of 'squashed ring' daytime running light feature, a bolder front bumper arrangement, typically third-gen MINI massive rear light clusters and the same descending roofline in profile - plus roof rails, of course. This Countryman is the biggest MINI ever built, stretched by 200mm over its already-pretty-beefy predecessor. That means inside is seating for five adults and a boot that starts at 450 litres, but which can be extended to a van-like 1,309 litres. An 8.8-inch touchscreen makes its debut in the MINI world up front, while all models will have more technology on the standard and optional equipment lists, such as driver-assist systems, MINI Connected infotainment and split-zone climate.

OK, what's the PHEV all about?

It's officially called the Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 and it ports over the running gear from the BMW 225xe Active Tourer PHEV wholesale. That means it has huge outputs from its combined drivetrain, with a peak 224hp comfortably eclipsing anything the combustion cars can serve up, while the 385Nm is only just bettered by the Cooper SD. These numbers are achieved through the 1.5 three-cylinder petrol engine up front (136hp/220Nm), which is augmented by a 65kW (88hp) e-motor with 165Nm at the rear. A six-speed Steptronic auto is mated to the petrol engine, while a two-stage reduction gear is paired up with the electric unit. A lithium-ion battery of 7.6kWh capacity and a 35-litre fuel tank are located under the back bench (marginally reducing rear headroom and boot space), with the front axle powered by the 1.5 and the rear axle dealt with by electricity - hence the ALL4 bit of the S E Countryman's name. All of this is enough for the PHEV to do 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds, with the potential for 134.5mpg and 49g/km CO2 emissions. Recharging the battery takes between 2.25 and 3.25 hours, with a maximum EV range of 25 miles and a zero-emissions top speed of 78mph.

What marks the S E Countryman out?

It has yellow as its colour scheme: the hue can be seen on the 'S' badges front and rear, highlighting the toggle start/stop switch inside and on the part-silver 'E' logos you'll spot in various places outside and in; any S-branded 'regular' Countryman has red detailing for the same items and no E badges (naturally). The Countryman's distinctive arrow-shaped side indicator units hide the plug-in charging point, which is on the nearside of the car for right-hand drive markets. Additional differences come courtesy of hybrid-specific displays in the instrument clusters.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Well, the Countryman will make its debut at the LA Auto Show in November, before going on sale in the UK in February 2017. More than 540,000 examples of the MkI Countryman were sold globally and we have no reason to doubt this one will do even better. And that's despite the addition of kitsch in the form of the Country Timer.

The Country Timer?!

Yes, whereas the MINI Convertible has an Open Timer to chart how often you have the roof down, the Countryman's clock measures your 'driving fun over demanding terrain'. Gag.

Matt Robinson - 25 Oct 2016

Earlier articles featuring 2017 MINI Countryman

2016-10-16: It's an electrifying MINI adventure...

2017 MINI Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Countryman. Image by MINI.

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