[intro[Take a close look at the picture below. It’s not a close-up of two hats; it’s actually a photograph of Mini’s Geneva show stand. If you want to work out the scale, the Mini in the background is full-size.
After a suitable musical intro, two cranes descended from the roof of the Expo building and lifted the hats up, revealing two new Mini Countryman models.
I hadn’t quite got the reference, until three dancers appeared on stage. One was (admittedly quite impressively) working through a kind of hip-hop routine, before male and female dancers (in plaid shirts and denims) line-danced along to a country and western ditty.
Apparently, this stage show was designed to evoke ‘city and country’, representing breadth of capability of the Countryman.
Somebody at BMW needs to have a word with the marketing department. At the recent Detroit show, the Beachcomber concept (predecessor to the Countryman) was introduced by a dance troop acting out surfing scenes.
If anybody in Munich thinks these stage stunts are the way to either impress us hacks, or polish the Mini’s cutting edge credentials, they’re sadly mistaken.
However, the good news is that the Countryman is highly convincing in the flesh. Despite being just 4.09m long, the interior space is impressive, with plenty of headroom and Golf-levels of legroom in the rear.
Up close, the Countryman also reveals an impressively – and subtly - fluid design language, in marked contrast to today’s rather blocky three-door Mini.
BMW director – and Brit – Ian Robertson gave the Countryman its intro with his customary enthusiasm. At one point, however, he said ‘this car is Mini on the outside and Maxi on the inside’.
I asked him later whether he had meant to raise the ghosts of British Leyland’s past. He laughed out loud and said he thought that ‘we were the only two people who got the reference’.
However, it seems that BMW might still own the Maxi brand name. So I suppose we should be grateful this five-door hatch isn’t called the Mini Maxi.