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LA show: Mini plugs in hybrid Countryman for Aus

Big country: Mini’s second-generation Countryman will reach Australia next year and it will be offered with a plug-in hybrid variant.

New Countryman is officially largest Mini ever made as company broadens brand focus

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Mini logo18 Nov 2016

By TIM ROBSON

A BMW Group executive has confirmed that the plug-in hybrid version of the Countryman would be coming to Australia as the covers came off the all-new Mini SUV at this week’s Los Angeles motor show.

The second-generation Countryman is longer, lower and wider than the model it replaces, making it the largest Mini ever built, and introduces a cleaner, evolutionary design.

Complementing a four-engine, three-transmission line-up is the addition of Mini’s first plug-in hybrid, the Cooper SE All4.

As part of the 2017 range reveal, BMW Group board member Peter Schwarzenbauer told GoAuto that the Countryman hybrid would be sold in Australia.

“It’s a worldwide offer,” he said. “We are bringing it to Australia.

“I don’t have the details, but it’s definitely something for Australia. I don’t see why a market shouldn’t take it.” BMW Group Australia general manager of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher said that the company was “certainly” considering the car.

“We have a very strong and proactive approach to plug-in hybrids within BMW Group Australia, so a PHEV Mini was always going to be of great interest to us,” she told GoAuto.

“We are still going through the business case and hope to have a final decision in the next couple of months.”

Mr Schwarzenbauer said that the advantage of the hybrid system – which uses a 100kW version of BMW’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and a 65kW rear axle-mounted electric motor for 165kW and 385Nm total output – is more than just lower emissions and longer range.

“It’s not just the fact you can drive it electrically,” he said. “The electric engine gives it a kind of turbo boost. We just drove the final versions last week, and it’s something that’s extremely exciting – the electric engine helping to push the combustion engine.”

The all-wheel-drive Countryman PHEV can be driven for 40km on electric power only, according to Mr Schwarzenbaur.

When asked about performance of the brand in Australia, the BMW board member said that there was a renewed push to be more inclusive of the company’s smaller markets.

“The biggest (market) is the UK, then the US. Australia is number 12 or 13, roughly. We have more potential there,” he said. “At the beginning, we only focused on the big markets, but now we are focusing on a worldwide rollout of the Mini brand, so Australia is becoming a much more important market.

“We are getting much more international and more mature brand. I like to say we are out of the teenager years, and now we are young adults.”

The Countryman has been a success for the Mini brand, accounting for one in four Minis sold since it was launched in 2010 for a total of more than 540,000 sales globally.

The F60 Countryman, built atop BMW’s latest UKL2 platform, is 200mm longer and 30mm wider than the F56 three-door Mini hatch, and has a 75mm longer wheelbase.

Luggage space jumps 220 litres in seat-down capacity over the old car, with a total of 1309 litres available when the 40/20/20 split-fold seats are lowered. Capacity is 450 litres with the seats in position.

An optional load kit offers a lowered floor for more space, along with a clip-in two-seat bench for the rear hatch ledge.

Four engines will be available at launch in February next year, including a three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged 100kW/220Nm petrol, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot 141kW/280Nm petrol and a 2.0-litre 110kW/330Nm or 140kW/400Nm turbo-charged diesel.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard fitment, with six- and eight-speed automatic transmissions offered as options on the various grades.

All-wheel drive is also offered as an option across the line up.

Inside, the traditional Mini centre-mounted circular screen is retained, and will feature a touchscreen for the first time. A three-mode drive select switch will also be offered as an option.

Automatic emergency braking is offered as standard across the line, while camera-augmented radar cruise control, pedestrian warning with brake function, roadside sign recognition, parking assistant and head-up display will be available.

Chassis-wise, adaptive dampers will be offered as an option, with a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear end combining with electro-mechanical steering.

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