When the production of the Mini Countryman car was announced by the firm in 2010 this car became the first crossover SUV car ever produced under the iconic British car brand. As an SUV, or Sports Utility Vehicle, the Countryman is longer, wider and taller than its siblings, making it the largest Mini car ever produced. In fact, some people have suggested that the large size of this vehicle means that it is not very ‘mini’ any more, although the style of the car is unmistakably ‘Mini’ with a capital M. It is also the first 5 door model ever made by the firm, and with its Austrian production facility it is also the first ever to be manufactured outside of England – which makes for a lot of firsts for this unique and original vehicle.
BMW first launched the Countryman Sports Utility Vehicle at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. Two different engines are available for this used Mini vehicle – a 1.6-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre diesel, both of which are four-cylinder engines and are available in various different versions tuned to allow for different power outputs and fuel efficiency levels. These are the same engines which are also fitted to the Hatch and Clubman ranges. This car is also offered with a choice of two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox as the standard transmission system, and the option of automatic transmission on every version of the car apart from the 90bhp engine One D. The first cars went on sale in late 2010, as a 2011 model year car.
The Countryman SUV is larger even than the Clubman, which is the estate version of the Mini Hatch also produced under BMW ownership and direction. It features an elongated wheelbase and consequently has a more spacious interior. It also has a higher ground clearance than the estate model, and when the ALL4 four-wheel drive system fitted it has some limited off-road / rough terrain driving capability.
The Mini Countryman has been developed and produced in order to offer the possibility of Mini ownership to a much wider range of buyers. Many people have fallen in love with the classic design and enjoyable driving that come with owning a Mini, but an equally large number of people are put off by the fact that they are a long way from being the most practical cars to own and drive. If you have ever seen a 6 foot tall man trying to climb into the seat of one of the firm’s Hatch model cars then you will know exactly what I am talking about. The Countryman car takes the classic design and adds a whole new layer of practicality, offering increased space inside the vehicle for the driver, passengers, and also for luggage storage.
Of course this has not been popular with everyone, and some people have suggested that this car pushes the boundaries too far, effectively going against the whole point of the Mini brand – a small car with fun go-kart handling. Of course the handling is always going to be affected somewhat by the increased size of this vehicle, so purists will notice that this car does not feel the same as one of the firm’s classic models when you are behind the wheel, but if you always wanted to own a Mini car but couldn’t quite get past the impracticality of its size, then the countryman may just be the model that you have been waiting for.
Recognising the inevitable criticisms of this car, which is undoubtedly a big departure from previous models, BMW have been keen to show that it is still a fun car to drive. As part of this campaign the Countryman was chosen in 2010 to enter the World Rally Championship for 2012.