Here’s another potential solution for people who want a small, efficient, all-wheel drive car for the extreme weather events that are described as once-in-one-hundred year occurrences, but which seem to be happening most years.
The much-anticipated MINI Countryman is the brand’s first five-door hatchback, and the first model with the option of MINI ALL4 all-wheel drive.
In case you’re worried that the larger body dimensions are at odds with the basic concept of the MINI, the firm reassures us that the Countryman still has the now-famous quality of ‘go-kart-like handling’. Along with the option of all-wheel drive, the car also has greater ground clearance than current MINIs.
The Countryman will have a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines at launch, ranging from 90 hp in the MINI One D Countryman to 184 hp in the MINI Cooper S Countryman .
The 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the Cooper S comes for the first time with a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection, as well as fully variable valve management. All models come with BMW’s Efficient Dynamics technologies such as Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start Stop, a gearshift point indicator, and on-demand management of the engine’s ancillary units.
All models come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but the petrol engine models are also available with a six-speed automatic with Steptronic.
Although you might imagine that all models have permanent MINI ALL4 all-wheel drive, it’s actually only available as an option on the MINI Cooper S Countryman and MINI Cooper D Countryman. The electrohydraulic differential positioned directly on the final drive varies the power distribution from front to rear as required. Under normal driving conditions up to 50 per cent of the engine’s power goes to the rear wheels, but this can increase up to 100 per cent if needed.
The Countryman comes as standard with DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), with DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) coming either as an option, or as a standard feature on the MINI Cooper S Countryman and the MINI Cooper D Countryman with ALL4, both of which also have an electronic limited-slip function for the front axle differential.
Another standard feature is the Tyre Defect Indicator, with runflat tyres coming as an option, and as standard on the Cooper S Countryman with ALL4.
Inside, as per the concept cars, there is a central rail between the seats which is designed for storage, but which definitely limits the car to a strict four-seater, although a three-seat rear bench is available as a no-cost option. With the three-seat bench, the seats can be split 60/40. The boot size is 350 litres, or 1170 litres with the seats folded.
Standard features include air conditioning, the MINI Centre Rail, and an audio system with a CD player. As expected from MINI, there are lost of customisation options to allow owners to ensure their car is individual, including high-end audio and navigation systems as well as mobile phone interfaces such as the ability to completely integrate an Apple iPhone and other Smartphones in the car.
Further options are the extra-large Panorama roof, Adaptive Headlights in combination with xenon headlight units, heated windscreen, towbar, light-alloy wheels ranging in size from 16 to 19 inches, sports suspension lowering the entire car by 10 millimetres (an interesting option for a car designed to have higher ground clearance…) as well as the wide range of John Cooper Works Performance Components.
Prices for the UK and the on-sale date are still to be confirmed, but the MINI Countryman has the potential to offer a small, economical and fun car with the added reassurance of all-wheel drive.