The expansion of Mini into previously untapped SUV markets makes sense, especially as the Countryman is simply too small for most US buyers. But we can’t help casting our mind back to previous range additions that didn’t make a lot of sense to anyone.
Reviving the Paceman in concept as a sleek-looking EV crossover is a much better idea than the first use of the name. It was launched in 2012 as a kind of three-door, sloping-roof version of the previous-generation Countryman. Unsurprisingly, it was never a huge hit: it looked very much like the standard SUV but brought with it greatly reduced practicality. It was axed less than four years after it was launched.
Again, looking back, it’s hard to see what the intention was: take an already sporty four-seat hatchback and convertible, graft on a much lower roof and smaller glasshouse, and end up with something that’s neither a true small sports car nor anywhere near as usable as the standard model.
This new approach seems to be led by a stronger understanding of the global market. Even five years ago the idea of Mini launching a bigger product than the Countryman seemed at odds with the brand's name and philosophy. Indeed it may still do to many, yet all that seems secondary when the very survival of brands is on the line due to falling profits.
The simple facts are this: Mini's Chinese market is crying out for a bespoke EV crossover, and in the US it needs something bigger than the Countryman to secure a long-term foothold there. Let’s hope the expansion pays off this time.