Mini Countryman arrives next spring

Mini Canada has confirmed the arrival of the new Countryman crossover in the spring of 2011.

What strikes us first about the new Countryman is its size. Mini has always been the builder of tiny cars, but the Countryman is the first four-door in the Mini range. It rides higher off the ground and has a wider body than other Minis. It even has a wide opening rear lid to ease loading in the back – especially handy when you need to throw down the rear seats and load up your camping gear.

The interior of the Countryman is an exercise in simplicity, with a single speedo gauge facing the steering wheel and a slick, compass-like façade for the center console. The interior feels somewhat spartan, but the MINI wears it well. In what is a nice touch, the Countryman has a rail that travels, from front to back, down the center of the car. The items that fit in the rail have clip-releases that allow you to slide them along the rail to place them where needed. So, if your passengers have some drinks in the back, just slide the cupholders back there for them to use.

The Countryman will come to Canada with a choice of two engines — a normally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder for the base model while the Cooper S adds a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection. As an alternative to the standard six-speed manual gearbox, both Cooper and Cooper S models are also available with a six-speed manumatic transmission. Most newsworthy of all, however, is the fact that the Countryman comes with an all-wheel drive option.

In spite of the newfangled looks, the Countryman is still quintessentially Mini. It stands apart from the other Minis, but there will be no mistaking it for any other car brand. In a world of sculpted car designs, it is somewhat refreshing that a car company consistently retains the same basic design style over time and they manage to do so without it looking or feeling stale.

The fourth model to the family, Mini Canada says the Countryman bridges the gap between the classic Mini and a modern crossover vehicle. As the first model in the Mini range with four doors and a wide-opening rear lid, the Countryman will provide greater versatility, not to mention a slightly elevated seating position. Optional ALL4 all-wheel drive for the Cooper S Countryman offers additional utility.

Measuring 4,097 millimetres in length, with a wheelbase extended to 2,595 mm, the Countryman features an interior that offers greater space and function. The four-door body has short overhangs, a high window line and windows extending around the entire car.

The Countryman will come with bucket seats specific to the model. The ones at the rear can be moved fore and aft 130 mm independently of one another. The rear seat backrests can be moved to a cargo position increasing luggage space to 15.5 cubic feet from 12.35 cu. ft. With the rear seats folded down, cargo capacity increases to a commodious 41.3 cu. ft., enough for two mountain bikes with their front wheels removed.

More details to come when the Mini Countryman Crossover makes its official debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

— With files from Canadian Auto Press