With the recent unveiling of the first-ever five-door MINI hatch, the manufacturer can afford to be a little more daring with the new Countryman as the cars currently occupy a similar position in the market. To help separate the two, the Countryman will take a more rugged approach to styling to tackle the challenge of the forthcoming BMW X1 replacement and new Audi Q1.
Much larger proportions are also expected, as previewed in our main image. This is set to be the biggest MINI available when it arrives, with bulging wheelarches and extensive use of rugged body cladding to mark it out as the new range-topper. But the latest Countryman wouldn’t be a MINI without the trademark circular headlamps, chrome grille and wraparound windscreen.
As with the recently launched new MINI hatch, the Countryman’s overhaul will continue under the skin. The versatile UKL1 front-wheel-drive platform will be used and can be adapted for all-wheel drive, too. There’ll be various Cooper, S, SD and John Cooper Works models of the Countryman, all using the new downsized and turbocharged three-cylinder engines, which boost performance and efficiency.
Currently, only the new three-door and five-door MINI models are underpinned by the UKL1 platform, but a total of eight new model lines from the brand can be expected. A new Clubman, Convertible and Paceman are all under development.
MINI also looks set to tap into the two-seat sports car market after revealing the Superleggera Concept earlier in the year. This rival for the Mazda MX-5 and Audi TT would replace the Roadster and Coupé models which have never really proven popular with buyers, as MINI looks to build on the 300,000 cars it currently sells in the UK each year.
The company is also looking to expand into markets like China with new MPV and saloon models, although these cars are unlikely to make it here.
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On sale: Late 2014
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Read our review of the new MINI here...