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Driven: Countryman to become top-selling Mini

Tree change: Mini’s Countryman is back in its second-generation, bigger, better-equipped and with more more efficient engines.

Mini predicts new Countryman to more than double sales this year

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Mini logo10 Mar 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

MINI Australia is attempting to capitalise on the SUV sales boom, having launched its second-generation Countryman with ultra-competitive specification that the brand believes will help more than double its sales and lead it to become the top-selling bodystyle.

The F60-generation Countryman has been tagged as the final new model switch for Mini’s ‘core’ five-bodystyle range, which also comprises the three-door hatchback, five-door hatch, convertible and Clubman, and it has ascended to become a critical growth model that is tipped to almost double sales this year.

A four-tier lineup includes the $39,900 (plus on-road costs) Countryman three-cylinder turbo petrol, $43,900 Countryman D four-cylinder turbo-diesel, $46,500 Countryman S with four-cylinder turbo petrol and $51,500 Countryman SD with a more powerful version of the entry diesel.

For the first time, an automatic transmission has been made standard – six-speed in Countryman, eight-speed in D, S and SD – while only the latter range flagship has all-wheel drive capability.

Despite a simplified range – Mini cited a low take-up rate for the all-paw S as the reason for it being ditched from the range – the brand listed enhanced specification and a roomier and more practical cabin as core reasons for its expectation that sales would soar.

Speaking at the national media launch of the new Countryman in Canberra this week, Mini Australia general sales manager Tony Sesto revealed that the Mini SUV was now tipped to outsell the three-door and five-door hatchbacks individually.

“It definitely could become the best-selling Mini if you look at the trend of where the market is going and the strength of SUVs,” he told GoAuto.

“We expect it to be the top-seller for us this year if you split the three- and five-door hatchback. We think this is going to be a big seller for us.”

Last year Mini sold 2429 units of the Mini Hatch, split 1304 five-door and 1125 three-door, while only 530 sales were recorded for the Countryman.

While Mr Sesto added that “sales figures are something I can’t comment o.”

the numbers indicate that the new Mini SUV has been tipped to more than double sales to beyond 1300 units this year.

With the Mini brand up 12.7 per cent in 2016 to 3765 units, the local sales managerfurther revealed that, “Obviously with the brand new Countryman we expect that growth to continue.”

Mini also says that ‘premium’ models accounted for 8.0 per cent of the small SUV segment in 2015, but that extended to 11.0 per cent in 2016 – and the brand expects growth to continue, as the Countryman wrestled with models as diverse as BMW’s own X1, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q2 and Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Fiat 500X, Nissan Qashqai and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Of the sales split, the S has been dubbed the “sweet spot in the range for product substance” and together with the SD has still been tipped to account for over 50 per cent of sales for the first time.

The brand said it conducted research that showed that one-third of Countryman ‘considerers’ – those who looked at the vehicle but did not purchase – required more space and practicality than what the first-generation model offered, and it argued that the second-generation model has now addressed these issues.

Mini Australia product planning manager Daniel Silverwood further said that although the original model “played a very strategic role for the brand” it was pegged as only a second or third family car in the household.

“Many of the customers who considered a Countryman previously and didn’t go onto buy it and bought something else, gave us that feedback in the survey that they required more space and practicality than what we could offer,” he said.

“Previously the size of our vehicles huddled our range within a small category, so we had R60 being the previous Countryman, R55 being the previous Clubman, that were similar in size to the current hatch.

“Back then it was often the second or third car in the household. When we introduced the latest-generation Clubman in 2015 it was a larger vehicle, more comfort and more space, and it could become the first car in the household. And our expectation with the Countryman is that that is further enhanced.

“It can be the first car in the household and it’s built for every occasion.”

Previously, 78 per cent of Countryman customers were new to the BMW brand and 60 per cent were aged between 31 and 50 years old.

The Countryman has become the largest Mini ever, with a length increase of 202mm to 4245mm compared with the previous model, while body width expands by 22mm to 1822mm.

Mini claims that this has resulted in a 50mm increase in both rear legroom and shoulder room, while the rear backrest can recline and the bench slide 150mm fore and aft, and boot space has expanded by 100 litres to 450L.

Mr Silverwood also believes that enhanced specification will draw in buyers.

“It’s a fast growing part of the market, it’s really competitive and that was a key part of how we’ve decided to price our cars, to specify our cars, and to present them the way that we do,” he explained.

“We are confident we have the right substance to get onto more shopping lists than ever before. All up with all the equipment we’re offering, it’s better value than ever before. We need to because the segment is competitive.”

Despite range-wide price increases of $4600 for the D, $3400 for the Countryman, $2160 for the SD and $1600 for the S, Mini Australia has claimed that an additional $6500 in features have been added as standard across the range.

Standard equipment has now extended to 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic high-beam, foglights, electric tailgate, front camera-based speed-sign recognition, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors with automatic park assistance, keyless entry, active cruise control, forward collision warning with low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), 6.5-inch colour screen with digital radio and satellite navigation and dual-zone climate control.

Only the S and SD further include LED headlights, driving modes and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

A duo of range-wide exterior packages included Chilli ($1500 extra on Countryman and D) comprising LED swiveling headlights and fog-lights, and driving modes John Cooper Works Chilli ($4900 extra on Countryman and D, $3600 for S and SD) featuring the contents of the Chilli plus 18-inch JCW wheels and aero bodykit, two-mode adaptive suspension and ‘cross punch’ leather trim.

Inside, a further four rangewide interior packages included Multimedia Pro ($2400) featuring 8.8-inch touchscreen, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and head-up display Climate ($2400) adding panoramic sunroof, front seat heating and privacy glass Convenience ($2150) inclusive of electrically adjustable front seats, auto-dimming rear view mirror and alarm and Road Trip ($750 on Countryman and D, $500 on S and SD) boasting a rear picnic bench, rear seat armrest, luggage net and tyre pressure monitor.

Mini also reports power and torque increases, with the 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder featuring 100kW and 220Nm, up from 90kW/160Nm of the previous 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine. Claimed combined cycle fuel consumption drops 1.6 litres per 100 kilometres to 6.0/100km, while the 9.6-second 0-100km/h claim is quicker by a second.

The D’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel gets 110kW/330Nm, up from 82kW/270Nm, while the 4.8L/100km claim drops by 1.8L/100km and the 8.8s 0-100km/h falls by 2.5s.

The S’s identical capacity turbo petrol features 141kW/280Nm, up from 135kW/240Nm, while its 6.5L/100km claim dives by 1L/100km and its 7.4s 0-100km/h is ahead by 0.5s.

Meanwhile the SD takes the D’s engine up to 140kW/400Nm versus the previous generation equivalent’s 105kW/305Nm, with the 5.2L/100km claim ducking 0.3L/100km under the last version. Its performance claim mirrors the S and is 2.0s faster.

2017 Mini Countryman pricing*
Cooper (a)$39,900(+$3400)
Cooper D (a)$43,900(+$4600)
Cooper S (a)$46,500(+$1600)
Cooper SD (a)$51,500(+$2160)
*Excludes on-road costs

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