It's the 4x4 MINI that wasn't supposed to be revealed until next month! Following the arrival of three leaked pictures yesterday, MINI has decided to release official details and pictures of the newcomer- now known to be called the MINI Countryman.
With four-doors and an optional four-wheel drive system, the new car is taking the MINI brand into previously unexplored territory. But the BMW-owned company are keen to show that the essence of MINI hasn't been lost. Despite its chunky off-road design, styling elements of the firm's smaller cars are clearly noticeable, including the high-window line, large head-lamps and upright tail-lights.
>>SEE A VIDEO OF THE COUNTRYMAN IN ACTION
On top of that, engineers have also done their best to maintain the go-kart style handling that has characterised MINI cars in the past.
The familiar variant naming scheme is also carried over. The entry-level MINI ONE Countryman is powered by an 89bhp engine while the range-topping Cooper S model is powered by a 181bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. Engines are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard but all petrol models are available with an ultra-efficient six-speed automatic gearbox with steering-wheel mounted paddles.
Other fuel-saving additions include brake energy recuperation, a stop/start system and a gearchange indicator.
MINI's new four-wheel drive system, known as 'All4' is optional on the flagship Cooper D and Cooper S models, while all other variants will be front-wheel drive only. MINI claims that under normal conditions the 'All4' system divides power equally between the front and back wheels. However, in extreme conditions the rear-wheels can deliver as much as 100 per cent of the car's power.
Inside, the Countryman has room for four adults and includes a centre-rail which runs the length of the cabin and allows rear-seat passengers more space and comfort. An optional three-seat arrangement in the back is available at no extra cost. Depending on how the seats are arranged, boot space can be increased from 350 litres to a cavernous 1150 litres.
The cabin is crammed full of kit too. On top of the standard air-con and built in CD player, buyers can opt for a panoramic roof, adaptive headlights and high-end audio and navigation systems. Exterior additions include alloy wheels ranging from 16 to 19 inches and lowered sports suspension.
The Countryman will go on sale in September, with prices starting at around £17,000.