Wider Countryman range
The S E joins the wider Countryman range, which is already on sale and priced from £22,465. The SD All4 version — the range-topping regular model — costs £29,565.
The new Countryman is the largest Mini model yet, measuring 20cm longer, at 4.3 metres, and 3cm wider than the six-year-old outgoing model. An extra 7.5cm has been inserted into the wheelbase. Mini says the Countryman is now firmly anchored into the C-segment, making it an alternative to everything from a Volkswagen Golf to premium compact SUVs, such as the Audi Q3.
In the metal, the new Countryman looks significantly more masculine than its predecessor. Although it is recognisably a development of the original, the deep sides, large wheels and notably squared-off rear corners give it much more four-square stance. The headlights are a similar shape to those of its predecessor but less dominant and the classic Mini grille is slightly less prominent.
The distinctive three window profile has been retained, but the rearmost side windows are now much longer, helping to underline the car’s increase in size. Mini says all models will get large silver roof bars to help mark the car out as a true crossover
Another new styling feature is the use of distinctive hard edges — unusual on a Mini model produced under BMW’s ownership of the brand — pressed into both the front and rear wings.
Opening the doors reveals notably tall apertures which make getting in and out exceptionally easy. The extra length in the wheelbase has liberated impressive rear leg room, too, and although the driving position remains solidly upright, it’s not necessary to climb up into the driver’s seat.
The dashboard design is also all new, rather than being borrowed from its Clubman sister model. It retains the giant ‘dinner plate’ central screen, although it now has rectangular air vents in a move away from Mini’s traditional circular vents. The interior architecture remains distinctively Mini, but the build quality and material finishes are designed to signal that this car is more upmarket and less frivolous than the somewhat eccentric original Countryman.
Mini product boss Nicolas Griebner said 85% of Mini sales are to private buyers specifying their own car. To that end, personalisation touches such as dual-colour door trims and options including piped and quilted leather trim are intended to allow buyers to specify the Countryman “up to the level of a luxury car”.
Ultimately, this new Countryman is intended to be big enough to act as a sole family car as well as being more upmarket and versatile than a conventional hatchback. It has a bigger boot than the typical C-segment hatch (a useful 470 litres), as well as the option of a rear bench seat that will slide 13cm and a rear seatback that reclines and splits into three sections (40/20/40).