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Mini Countryman PHEV all but confirmed for Aus

Incoming: The Mini Countryman S E All4 is likely to land on Australian shores in late 2018, once a local evaluation has taken place.

Late 2018 arrival likely for hybrid Mini Countryman S E All4

7 Aug 2017

MINI’S first petrol-electric hybrid model, the Countryman S E All4, is all but confirmed for a late 2018 Australian arrival, with two evaluation vehicles set to touch down locally next month.

Speaking to GoAuto last week, Mini Australia general manager Tony Sesto said the arrival of the Countryman plug-in hybrid in Australia was something the company was working on.

“We definitely see ourselves going down the path of the PHEV and eventually the electric (vehicle), timing is what we need to work out,” he said.

“This is an exciting extension of the Mini brand, and when you look at it, it makes so much sense for Mini to be a part of these new products but to also have these products in our market.

“So I think it’s probably not a question of if, but a question of when.”

Mr Sesto was hesitant to offer a concrete timeframe for the arrival of the Countryman PHEV, however an arrival late into next year seemed likely.

“We’d like think that within 2018 we might see the PHEV introduced, it’s quite difficult to give exact timing,” he said.

“We will do it, it’s just a matter of getting the timing right.

“I’d like to be very ambitious and say within 2018, but it could be late 2018, early 2019. I’d hate to put a timeframe on it and not be able to achieve that for the market that really wants it.”

To analyse the business case for the Countryman PHEV, two examples of the vehicle will be brought to Australian shores in the next four-to-six weeks to gauge customer interest and feasibility.

Importing the two PHEVs marks the start of the evaluation process for Mini, which has not had any electrified vehicles since the Mini E in 2008.

The Mini E was released in a limited run of 500 vehicles in the US, which helped spawn BMW’s iPerformance brand that now includes models such as the i3 and i8.

Engineers can draw upon the experience and technology from iPerformance, with the Countryman PHEV teaming a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine to a rear axle-mounted electric motor for a combined output of 165kW/385Nm.

Mini senior vice-president Sebastian Mackensen suggested the Countryman PHEV could be successful in Australia due to the sporty performance of the hybrid drivetrain and our country’s thirst for performance vehicles.

“It’s a very conscious choice, because you can commute on an electric drivetrain and still have the flexibility of long distance, but also it’s really a sporty car, because it has the boost coming from the electric part of it, into the gasoline engine even if you drive on gasoline,” he said at a media event in Melbourne last week.

“So I wouldn’t be surprised with the characteristics of this market and the behaviour of some customers … it could also be a performance choice vehicle, even under the label of PHEV.”

If the Countryman arrives priced from around $55,900 – as previously speculated by GoAuto – it would be positioned in a similar price bracket as Australia’s most affordable plug-in hybrid SUV, the Mitsubishi Outlander, which is available from $50,490 plus on-roads for the LS, up to $55,490 for the top-spec Exceed.

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