New MINI Countryman makes its UK debut


MINI will launch its latest and largest model, the MINI Countryman, to the UK market on September 18 2010. Countryman will be the fourth member of the MINI family following Hatch, Convertible and Clubman but the first to have four doors, seating for five adults and the first to offer four wheel drive. The MINI Countryman will be available in seven models, two of which will offer ALL4, MINI’s new four wheel drive option. Countryman offers more space, more practicality and more versatility than any MINI before and it will also spearhead MINI’s return to the World Rally Championship in 2011.

“Countryman takes the MINI story to a new level in the brand’s 51 year heritage” said Jochen Goller, Director of MINI UK. “With extra space, ALL4 and four doors we believe the MINI Countryman will appeal to a completely new audience and with prices starting at £16,000 with a very high standard specification, I think we are on to a winner” he said. “The fact that Countryman is already sold out for this year indicates that MINI showrooms are going to be popular this autumn” Goller observed.

The market for Countryman
The demand for crossover vehicles has grown substantially in recent years: drivers want the best of both worlds with normal saloon-like driving responses as well as the added versatility of soft off-road ability and the interior flexibility to cope with all the hobbies, shopping trips and activities that are such a huge part of busy modern family life.

As a result, MINI Countryman arrives in a growing segment that presents an opportunity to attract buyers from a wide range of competitive cars. Not only will they find the flexibility their lifestyle demands but they will also discover the world of MINI, a world where practicality and versatility does not bring limitations on the fun that can be derived from driving.

“The Countryman models still pack in the driving thrills that put a grin on your face the way all MINIs do” said Lee Connolly, Product and Planning Manager at MINI UK. “But the Countryman also brings new levels of space and versatility to the range that will attract not only existing MINI owners but also new customers. We expect that the extra space will mean that around 80 per cent of Countryman sales will come from customers completely new to the MINI brand. Already we see the MINI Countryman being the benchmark in terms of residual values and lease company whole life costs. ”

Typically MINI yet topically different

One could not mistake the new Countryman for anything other than a MINI yet it is distinctly different to any that has gone before. It is 374mm longer than a MINI Hatch (at 4097mm), 106 mm wider (at 1,789 mm) and 154mm taller (at 1561mm). Countryman offers 190 litres more luggage capacity than a MINI Hatch with the seats up (a total of 350 litres) and 1,170 litres with the rear seats folded flat. For the first time ever a MINI has four wide-opening doors, passenger capacity for five adults and a flexible, activity-orientated interior packed with innovations. All UK models will be built as five seat cars, although customers can specify the four seat option at no extra cost.

Featuring that typical ‘wheel at each corner’ stance with short overhangs, the Countryman not only has larger dimensions than its cousins but also a higher ride height. This provides the commanding driving position preferred by many drivers with a 10mm higher ground clearance for soft off-road driving.

Many design characteristics are familiar such as the high window line surrounding the glasshouse while others are new interpretations of iconic features. For example, the roofline with roof rails, the reinterpretation of the hexagonal radiator grille on the Cooper S models, and the prominent headlight units integrated into the bonnet.

The front of the Countryman is more upright projecting a confident ‘face’ which also offers improved pedestrian safety. The wheel arches are more flared highlighting the robust nature of the Countryman as a true crossover and its soft off-road ability while the design of the wide-opening tailgate offers easy access to the large boot space.

Practical, flexible and fun interior

Inside the MINI Countryman is all about comfort, practicality and innovative style. The higher seating position offers better visibility for the driver and passengers, a feature particularly appreciated by children. From the four wide-opening doors to the high-opening rear hatch, Countryman provides easy and comfortable access and it’s a dream to load. The boot space of 350 litres is more than double that of the Hatch and 90 litres more than Clubman offers. With the rear seats folded flat the interior provides no less than 1,170 litres of load space. Flexibility is not compromised but celebrated in the new Countryman range.

The multi-function rear seats are arranged with a 60:40 split base for the three rear seat passengers and both rear seat squabs are also individually adjustable, sliding back or forth by 130mm to make the best use of space. The backrests, by contrast, are arranged in a 40:20:40 split that provides absolute flexibility with all three seatbacks capable of folding flat in any combination.

The interior is dominated by iconic MINI design characteristics such as comfortable yet grippy optional sports seats, the trademark central speedometer and neat, funky switch packs. New elements of MINI design language are introduced with the elliptical interior door trims that continue from the front to the rear door and back. Also new is the MINI Centre Rail system. When ordered as a four seat configuration, In place of the conventional centre console the U-shaped Centre Rail runs from front to rear down the centreline of the Countryman and opens up new, individual options for integrating all kinds of storage boxes, cup holders, power chargers, music players, mobile phones and other accessories such as a sunglasses case. A user-friendly clip-in attachment system allows the MINI Centre Rail to be divided up as desired and each item can slide easily backwards or forwards for the convenience of all occupants. When ordered with the rear bench seat, as is standard in the UK, the Centre Rail stops between the driver and passenger seats.

Inspirational engines – powerful responses and supreme economy in equal measure

At launch the Countryman range will include three petrol – MINI One, Cooper and Cooper S – and two diesel models – MINI One D and Cooper D – as well as two ALL4 all wheel drive models, the Cooper D ALL4 and Cooper S ALL4. Each model is equipped with an entirely new generation of power units. The petrol engines are the new 1.6 litre four cylinder power plants already announced for the Hatch, Convertible and Clubman models in spring 2010 and feature the BMW Group’s considerable expertise in marrying free-revving, refined and efficient driving characteristics.

The petrol engines all feature Variable Valve Timing (VVT), similar to the BMW Valvetronic system, and produces more torque low down and aids response and efficiency. The Cooper S model also benefits from a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection that gives blistering performance with modest fuel economy and low CO² emissions.

The diesel models are powered by an all-new BMW 1.6 litre four cylinder, the N47 turbocharged unit that employs all the BMW Group’s proven prowess with compression ignition engines. The lightweight aluminium engines use common-rail direct injection and a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry. Both are fitted with a diesel particulate filter and an oxidation catalytic converter. These state of the art diesel power units set the highest standards, not only for performance and response but also for fuel economy and low emissions. The Cooper D Countryman will be available with an automatic transmission in March 2011.

All MINI Countryman models drive through a six speed manual gearbox. A six speed automatic transmission is available as an option for the petrol-engined cars.

MINIMALISM is the MINI name for energy-efficient technologies that not only save money for customers through lower running costs, but also add to the driving pleasure. The overall efficiency of the engines, which in diesel form emit a mere 115 grams of CO², is peerless but the breadth of smart technologies employed in the new range demonstrates that MINI lies at the cutting edge of modernity and intelligent energy management.

For example, Brake Energy Regeneration is standard on all Countryman models. Rather than waste the energy dissipated when the brakes are applied the energy is recycled and used to charge the battery. This enables the alternator to disengage thereby saving engine’s power for driving the front wheels. Overall the system saves fuel and lowers emissions. At the same time the intelligent energy management system constantly manages battery charge and matches regeneration phases with the new Absorbent Glass Mat battery.

Other examples include the Auto Start/Stop function on manual cars that stops the engine whenever the car stops, the clutch is disengaged and the gear lever is moved into neutral: at traffic lights for instance . The engine starts again immediately the clutch is engaged again. When one considers the nature of start/stop driving on Britain’s roads it is easy to appreciate the fuel saving this system can achieve.

The standard Shift Point Display also helps the driver of the manual gearbox MINI Countryman to perfect his or her driving style to maximise fuel economy. The engine electronics maintain a constant vigil on engine speed, driving conditions and accelerator position to calculate the best gear for economical driving. The recommended gear is displayed to the driver.

Another MINIMALISM feature is Electric Power Steering that only uses power assistance when it is needed. Therefore there is no unnecessary energy use.

Off the beaten track with ALL4
For the very first time in MINI’s 51 year history two models in the new Countryman range will offer four-wheel drive. The MINI Cooper D and Cooper S ALL4 models will be available from day one while a MINI Cooper ALL4 version will follow in 2012. Employing the BMW Group’s expertise and considerable success with Sports Activity Vehicles and xDrive, MINI will now enter a new chapter with Countryman.

No one needs four-wheel drive to be active all the time so MINI has a typically smart and fuel efficient answer for this conundrum. The Countryman ALL4 is a front wheel drive car in most normal circumstances, but when any slip is detected on the front wheels, or if the car is being driven enthusiastically, an electro-magnetic clutch, located on the rear axle, engages drive to the rear wheels to improve traction. To enable this imperceptible change of the driven wheels a propeller shaft from the front axle is driven constantly and is ready to direct drive forces from the front axle to the rear immediately. The amount of power fed to the rear wheels is infinitely variable between one and 100 per cent, depending upon the driving conditions.

Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) allows controlled slip through the driven wheels to aid moving off on loose sand or deep snow. DTC is standard feature on the two ALL4 models and the front-wheel drive MINI Cooper S Countryman, and is also available as an option for the other models. When the stability system is deactivated (in DSC Off mode) an electronic locking function for the front axle differential comes into play. In tight corners it brakes a spinning wheel as required to reduce slip and enhance handling. Known as Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), this system enhances the car’s traction without adversely affecting its steering properties.

“Countryman ALL4 is a soft off-roader for use in everyday situations like driving in snowy conditions, parking in a field for a sporting event or driving on the beach” explained Lee Connolly, MINI UK Product Manager. “It works like a dream and brings new found flexibility to the MINI driving experience” he claimed.

Chassis – typical go kart handling
The MINI Countryman benefits from new chassis technology that affords it the best handling characteristics in its crossover segment and enables all models to exploit their performance with agility, comfortable ride quality and absolute safety.

The front suspension uses MacPherson struts and forged track control arms that, together with the multi-link rear suspension, provide safe and agile handling responses. The Cooper S Countryman has sports suspension that lowers the ride height by 10mm. Sports suspension can be specified as an option on all other Countryman models.

The other key elements of the Countryman chassis include powerful ventilated disc brakes (294mm front [Cooper S 307mm], 280mm rear), precise Electric Power Steering that delivers responsive driver feedback and speed-related assistance as well as a host of electronic chassis aids that promote both safety and agility on the road. These includeDSC (Dynamic Stability Control) which comprises ABS anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Brake Assist and Hill Assist.

The Countryman is equipped with 16 inch wheels on One and Cooper (alloy wheels on the Cooper), with 17 inch alloys on Cooper S. Options of 18 and 19 inch wheels in various styles are available.

MINI returns to rallying
Following a break of over 40 years MINI will return to the World Rally Championship as a works team to challenge the cream of the crop in this most testing of competitive endurance contests. The Classic Mini built an important part of its reputation with three giant-killing victories in the gruelling Monte Carlo Rallies of 1964, 1965 and 1967 piloted by iconic drivers such as Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen and Rauno Aaltonen. It won countless other rallies and the 1965 European Rally Championship.

The new MINI Countryman WRC has been developed by Prodrive, the company formed and run by David Richards since 1984. The provenance of Prodrive could not be more promising: motor sport victories over the years include six WRC titles, five British Touring Car Championships and three class victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Prodrive has developed the MINI Countryman WRC in accordance with the new Super 2000 regulations to be introduced in 2011 which stipulate that cars will be powered by 1.6 litre turbocharged engines and four-wheel drive

The first practical test for the MINI Countryman WRC will take place in autumn 2010 in preparation for competition in selected events of the 2011 WRC, before competing in the full series in 2012. Customer cars will be available to the same specification, thus enabling privateers to challenge for sporting glory at the very highest level.

“This is an exciting time for MINI” Goller enthused. “Not only are we ready to open the fourth chapter of the current MINI portfolio with the Countryman road car, but we are also taking MINI back to its glorious past as a rallying icon. I am as optimistic about MINI’s prospects in the forests and tarmac stages as I am about the action in MINI showrooms this autumn” he concluded.

Source: MINI (press release/media site)