Countryman is fourth body variant in BMW Mini line

Countryman is fourth body variant in BMW Mini line

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BMW's Mini brand has released photos and more details of its fourth model line on sale later this year after a Geneva show public debut in March – the Countryman crossover which, it said, “bridges the gap between the classic concept of the Mini and a modern 'sports activity vehicle' (BMW's description of its SUVs).

It's the first model in the Mini range with four conventional side doors and a wide-opening tailgate (the Clubman has a single rear-hinged rear side door and twin, side-hinged rear loadspace doors) and is said to provide greater, more versatile interior space, a slightly elevated seating position and “optimised driving comfort”.

It's also yet another example of the growing trend to target new niches with new vehicles, such as the BMW X6 'fastback' SUV, and the 5-series and rival Audi A5 five-door hatchback/coupes.

The Countryman will also be the first Minit to be offered with optional 'ALL4' four wheel drive.

Interior details include a central instrument display and air vents surrounded by coloured rings and BMW claims the 'Centre Rail' is unique - extending from front to rear instead of a conventional centre console, with new, individual options for integrating all kinds of storage boxes, cupholders, external audio devices, mobile telephones and other comfort features. Flexibly positioned clip-in elements enable the driver and passengers to subdivide the storage boxes individually as required, keeping travel items within easy reach. The rail also forms “an unconventional, visual and functional connection between the front seats and the rear passenger compartment”.

The Countryman will come standard with four seats, with a three-seat rear bench a no-cost option. The rear seats move fore and aft either individually or in a 60/40 (three-seat bench) split, the backrests may be tilted for angle either individually or in a 40/20/40 (three-seat bench) arrangement, increasing luggage capacity from 350 to 1,170 litres (12.2-41.0 cu ft).

Sales will start with a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines, developed and made in a venture with PSA group, and complying with the latest emission standards for global sales. Power putputs range from 66kW/90hp in the Mini One D all the way to 135kW/184hp in the Mini Cooper S. The 1.6-litre I4 petrol engine in top models has a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection and adds fully variable valve management for what BMW claims is the best balance of engine power and fuel consumption in this class.

Fuel consumption and emissions reduction equipment includes brake energy regeneration, auto start stop, a gearshift point indicator,and on-demand management of the engine’s ancillary units such as the alternator. Six-speed manual gearboxes will be standard and petrol models will have an optional six-speed automatic.

Cooper S and Cooper D versions will get the ALL4 option -  an electrohydraulic differential positioned directly on the final drive varies torque distribution from front to rear infinitely. In normal driving conditions up to 50% of the engine’s power goes to the rear wheels, under extreme conditions up to 100%.

Countryman traction and drivetrain technology is based on the top-end suspension of the main Mini hatchback line - McPherson spring struts and forged track control arms in front, a multi-arm rear axle and electric power steering. The Countryman will also be available with dynamic stability and traction control along with an electronic limited-slip function for the front differential on AWD versions.

A tyre defect indicator is standard across the range while run-flat tyres are either optional or standard on the Cooper S with ALL4.

Few Minis are built to identical specification, such is the choice of models and options, and the Countryman will be the same, BMW said, with exclusive, new, model-specific features.

Air conditioning, the centre rail, and CD audio system are standard and options will include a system to completely integrate an Apple iPhone and other smartphones in the car, panorama glass roof, adaptive headlights with xenon headlight units, heated windscreen, towbar, various light alloy wheels, sports suspension and a range of John Cooper Works performance components.

And that Countryman name? It revives a tag first used for station wagon versions of various British Leyland models decades ago. See some of them here.

Earlier this month Mini showed off a concept reviving the famous Mini Moke at the Detroit show.