MINI’s all-important third-generation Countryman, which will play a crucial role in the brand’s pure-electric reinvention, has broken cover on public roads for the first time.
Due in 2023, the big-selling crossover will join the closely related BMW X1 in being offered with a choice of pure-electric and combustion powertrains, and will be built on the same line as its X1 sibling in Leipzig, Germany. The current-generation Countryman is made in the Netherlands under contract by VDL Nedcar.
The SUV duo will move across to an evolved version of the front-driven UKL architecture that underpins the current models. Called FAAR, it can accommodate pure-combustion, hybrid and all-electric powertrains and will provide the basis for the successors to most of the BMW Group’s compact models.
We have now had our first look at the hot Cooper S range-topper, which gave itself away with its beefy quad-exit exhaust, sports alloys and prominent rear spoiler. Powertrain details remain under wraps, but an evolved version of the turbocharged 131kW four-pot used by the current car, in both front- and four-wheel-drive forms, is a likely candidate.
Importantly, however, FAAR will not be used for Mini’s long-awaited entry-level supermini, known at this early stage as the Minor, which will be built in China as part of a new joint venture between BMW and Great Wall Motors and use a platform supplied by the latter.
The X1 is likely to be launched before the Countryman, given that near-ready prototypes have been testing on public roads for several months, and that will provide further details on the powertrain offering for Mini’s largest model.
The EV option for each is likely to be an all-new powertrain, because the existing electric Mini hatchback uses a relatively small-capacity battery and motor and the slightly larger BMW iX3 is rear driven. Otherwise, the duo are likely to offer a familiar mix of petrol and petrol-electric powertrains, with the longest-range plug-in hybrid offering an EV range that surpasses the current car’s 50-kilometre maximum.
Crucially, the Countryman will be noticeably bigger than today’s car, with early estimates suggesting a 200mm increase in length to provide enhanced load capacity and leg room. Effectively, this increase will bump Mini’s crossover into a new segment, moving it away from rivals such as the Toyota CH-R and Nissan Juke, and lining it up against the larger RAV4 and Qashqai.
The Countryman’s tenure as Mini’s only SUV model is nearly up. It will be joined in dealerships shortly after launch by an all-new electric crossover model built in China by Great Wall Motors, as part of the ‘Spotlight’ joint venture between the two companies.
However, that model is expected to be smaller than the Countryman, so the existing car will continue to cap out the fourth generation of models sold by Mini under BMW ownership.