MINI’s all-important third-generation Countryman, which will play a crucial role in the brand’s all-electric reinvention, has broken cover on public roads for the first time.
Due in 2023, the big-selling crossover will join its closely related BMW X1 sibling in being offered with a choice of pure-electric and combustion powertrains, and will be built on the same line as its German sibling in Leipzig, Germany. The current-generation Countryman is built 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 accomodate pure-combustion, hybrid and all-electric powertrains, and will provide the basis for the successors to most of the BMW Group’s compact models.
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 will likely launch before the Countryman, given near-ready prototypes have been testing on public roads for several months, which will provide further details on the powertrain offering for MINI’s largest model.
The EV option for each is likely to use an all-new powertrain, given 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 a noticably bigger proposition compared to today’s car, with early estimates suggesting a 200mm increase in length to provide enhanced load capacity and legroom. 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.