The Mini Countryman junior SUV is just one of three variants that will be based on this new Mini platform - and could also form the basis of a rally car for the WRC.
After the Countryman hits the showrooms next September, the next model to be launched is expected to be a lower-riding five-door Mini aimed at young families.
This will be followed up by a hot version, which insiders describe as “a sort of Mini GTI”.
The standard-issue GTI will be good for at least 175bhp and will be tuned to offer a similar driving experience to the three-door Cooper models.
A front-wheel-drive version will be the mainstay model, but there’s no news yet on whether BMW will commission a ‘baby Quattro’ version with four-wheel drive.
There’s a good chance, however, that the Countryman GTI will also be available with a BMW-sourced 2.0-litre diesel engine producing as much as 200bhp.
But the hot five-door family won’t stop there. It’s widely expected that BMW will enter the World Rally Championship with the high-performance Countryman.
Prodrive is said to be already working on turning the Mini into a WRC car. Confirmation of the deal is not expected until next March’s Geneva show.
BMW has expertly mined the Mini’s history since the brand was relaunched in 2001. But the Mini’s record in rallying is arguably the most evocative aspect of the brand’s history.
Giant-killing adventures, such as the factory-run Minis’ victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo rally against the huge Ford Falcon and Citroën DS, offer the sort of heritage other brands can only dream about.The arrival of the Citroen DS3 WRC, due in 2011, could once again pitch Mini and Citroën against each other in top-level motorsport.