New 2017 MINI Countryman shown off at LA Motor Show

New Countryman is the largest car the firm has ever produced; heads upmarket with more tech, improved engines and a plug-in hybrid model

First there was the updated MINI hatch, then the Clubman estate, and now the BMW-owned brand has revealed the all-new MINI Countryman. It's the second-generation Countryman since MINI's rebirth, and is the biggest car the firm has ever produced. We first saw official pictures last month, but now it's gone on show at the 2016 LA Motor Show.

The new Countryman will arrive in the UK in February, with prices starting from £22,465 at launch, going up to £28,430. Auto Express got the chance to view the new Countryman up close with MINI UK's head of product, Nicolas Griebner. He explained the changes to the big-selling crossover to us.

“What we really wanted to emphasise with the new design was the ruggedness and toughness. It’s a car to have an adventure in,” he told us.

• Best crossovers and small SUVs on sale

Despite moving to a new platform, the design is still “recognisably MINI”, according to Griebner. In practice this means the fundamentals haven’t changed much – but there are a lot of new details.

The new Countryman is 200mm longer and 30mm wider than before, as it moves up a class into the C-segment. That places it between the Audi Q2 and Q3 in terms of size – and those cars are its main rivals, Griebner told us. As a result, it’s the largest MINI ever; a 75mm-longer wheelbase gives it 50mm more rear legroom and 100 litres of extra boot space, at 450 litres or 1,309 litres when the seats are folded.

With the extra size comes a design that emphasises the SUV elements. All UK cars feature silver roof rails and sill plates, which work with the sculpted sides and high shoulder line to add to the trendy off-roader look. Griebner reckons it’s one of the most masculine MINI designs ever.

The big LED headlights, wide grille and pop-out tail-lamps have been adopted from the MINI hatch, while the rear number plate has been moved up on to the bootlid, also mirroring the rest of the updated MINI range.

“The Countryman’s customisation is what differentiates it from the competition,” Griebner told us, pointing out the unique blue paint option, alloy wheels and contrasting black roof featured on the car shown here.

Inside, the newcomer shares plenty of elements with the MINI hatchback, including the circular-themed central screen, dials and gearlever. However, the dash itself is more substantial and features suitably grown-up touches such as vertical air vents and ambient lighting.

To accompany the all-new design, the Countryman will be available with five engines: two petrols and two diesels, along with a plug-in hybrid version - a first for the brand. The All4 four-wheel-drive set-up will be offered across the range, and there’s a choice of automatic or manual gearboxes, too.

At launch the entry-level car will be the Cooper, which gets a 134bhp three-cylinder petrol. The Cooper D uses a 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, while the Cooper SD has a 187bhp version of the same unit.

The most powerful petrol version will be the Cooper S, which has a 2.0 unit with 189bhp and 280Nm of torque. There’s a 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds for the MINI Cooper Countryman, with a fuel economy figure of 51.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 126g/km. The more powerful Cooper S claims 45.6mpg and 141g/km of CO2, but is able to cover 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds.

The lower-powered Cooper D diesel will go from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, but promises a more impressive 64.2mpg and emits 113g/km of CO2. Finally, the Cooper SD will manage the sprint in 7.7 seconds, with 61.4mpg and 121g/km emissions.

The plug-in hybrid model is called the Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, and is a first for MINI. It uses a selection of components from BMW's eDrive models like the 330e to produce a compelling blend of performance and economy. MINI claims a 0-62mph sprint of just 6.9 seconds and headline economy figures of 134.5 mpg, with a tax-busting 49g/km CO2 figure.

BMW 330e review

The Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor combination to provide all-wheel drive. The electric motor powering the rear wheels can offer up a range of 25 miles of electric-only driving, at speeds up to 78mph.

Adaptive dampers will be optional on the Countryman, bringing the choice of three settings via a control on the gear selector. The driving modes – Green, Mid and Sport – also change the steering, throttle, engine noise and (if fitted) automatic gearbox shift settings to suit the driving style selected.

Safety kit includes collision warning and auto city braking as standard, while adaptive cruise control, pedestrian warning, road-sign detection, a rear view camera and auto high beams are on the extras list.

We’re told around 80 per cent of buyers will go for the optional Chili Pack, which adds leather seats, LED lights, climate control and heated seats. It costs £2,980, but MINI says this is a £1,150 saving over buying all the items individually. Standard kit on all Countryman models includes sat-nav, 16-inch alloys and parking sensors.

No John Cooper Works model has been announced, but it seems inevitable that a hotter Countryman is coming – probably with the same 4WD, 228bhp powertrain as the recently revealed JCW Clubman.

Do you like the new, bigger MINI Countryman? Let us know below...

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