Mini has at last revealed the full European specifications for its upcoming Countryman crossover, following its official unveiling earlier this year.
Essentially an enlarged, high-riding, five-door version of the Cooper, the Countryman is aimed at buyers wanting the MINI image, except with more interior space and flexibility.
The Countryman immediately stands out as the most visually unique model of the MINI family, sharing no panels or other bodyparts with its two and three-doored cousins. Its SUV-like ride height and stretched wheelbase provide ample room for two rows of seating, and it's also the first modern MINI to feature a proper pair of rear doors.
Although a markedly bigger car than current MINI models, the Countryman is still recognisable as a MINI product.
The brand's familiar blacked-out glasshouse, clamshell bonnet and plastic-clad wheelarch flares are still there, as is the retro-inspired front end styling.
However, while the Cooper features oval headlights and a simple front grille and airdam, the Countryman has larger, more irregularly-shaped light housings and a few extra scoops and openings in its front bumper.
It also boasts more visual bulk, with the leading edge of the bonnet jutting forward over the front bumper and the tailgate sheetmetal being especially broad.
Foglights frame the lower air dam, while twin tailpipes exit from under the rear bumper. A pair of vents are moulded into the rear bumper and make the Countryman's rump look a little less heavy, however the winged MINI badge that adorns the hatch is almost comically oversized.
From the driver's seat, the Countryman's cabin should feel familiar to anyone who's piloted a MINI Cooper. MINI's signature centrally-mounted speedometer dominates the dashboard, and is complemented by a smaller tachometer attached to the steering column.
With the exception of some extra chrome trim, the steering wheel is identical to the Cooper's. The centre stack is laid out in a similar way too, but an extra row of buttons and more controls for the ventilation system have been added.
The biggest change, however, is the new centre console design that extends beyond the front seat area and into the rear cabin, bisecting the two individual rear seats.
Two aluminium rails are fixed to the centre console and specially-designed clip-on inserts allow the centre console to be customised according to passenger needs, with anything from cupholders to portable music player mounts able to be attached.
The two individual rear seats are standard (in the European market, at least), but a full-width rear bench can be optioned instead to give the Countryman a five-seat capacity.
The rear bench seat can be slid fore and aft, while the 40/20/40 split backrest can be folded down to boost luggage space. With the rear seats up the Countryman's boot can hold 350 litres of cargo, expanding to 1170 litres with the seatbacks folded.
Specific details on in-car entertainment and other features has yet to be announced, however MINI says the Countryman will come fitted with airconditioning, power windows and an AM/FM player with MP3-compatible CD player as standard.
Options will include sat-nav, a premium audio system, Bluetooth phone integration, auxiliary audio inputs, a panoramic sunroof, heated windscreen and xenon headlights.
Safety equipment comprises stability control, traction control and ABS with EBD and brake assist. In the even of a crash, all occupants will be protected by three-point seatbelts, dual front and side airbags for the front seats and curtain airbags for both front and rear seats. ISOFIX mounting points for child seats are fitted to the rear seats as standard.
The Countryman will be offered in Europe with the choice of three petrol and two diesel engines, all of which have been newly developed by BMW for the MINI range.
The MINI Cooper S Countryman is powered by a 135kW/240Nm turbocharged 1.6 litre direct-injected petrol engine, and using the turbo-charger's Overboost function, torque can briefly be pushed to 260Nm.
The 0-100km/h run is covered in 7.6 seconds (auto 7.9 sec), and average fuel consumption is listed at 6.1 l/100km (auto 7.1).
Fitted with the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system, the Cooper S Countryman gets to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds (auto 8.3), with fuel consumption only marginally higher at 6.7 l/100km (auto 7.7).
The regular Cooper Countryman will be powered by a 90kW/160Nm four-cylinder petrol engine - the same engine used in the entry-level MINI Cooper available here in Australia.
The MINI Cooper Countryman wanders from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.5 seconds (automatic 11.6 sec), listing fuel consumption of 6.0 l/100km (auto 7.2 l/100km).
The entry-level MINI One Countryman also features a 1.6 litre petrol engine, developing 72kW and 153Nm of torque. The 0-100km/h run is covered in 11.9 seconds (auto 13.9) and average fuel consumption is a low 6.0 l/100km (auto 7.2).
Generating 82kW and 270Nm of torque, the MINI Cooper D Countryman gets to 100km/h in 10.9 seconds and lists fuel consumption of 4.4 l/100km.
The ALL4-equipped Cooper D Countryman takes a little longer to hit 100km/h, coming in at 11.6 seconds.
At the lower end of the spectrum is the 1.6 litre 66kW/215Nm turbodiesel of the MINI One D Countryman, pushing to 100km/h in 11.9 seconds for the manual and 13.9 for the automatic transmission. Average fuel consumption is listed as 4.4 l/100km.
As is to be expected, the Countryman is more than a little heavier than its regular MINI compatriots. The Cooper S ALL4 Countryman comes in at around 1451 - nearly 400kg heavier than the regular MINI Cooper. Select the automatic transmission and weight creeps up to 1476kg.
The regular front-wheel-drive Cooper S Countryman drops weight to 1381kg, and gets the same engine and transmission options as its portlier ALL4 sibling.
In Europe, a range of fuel-saving technologies will be offered as standard, including regenerative braking, low-drag engine ancillaries, electric power steering, engine start-stop and a gearshift prompt for manual-equipped vehicles.
Countrymen fitted with a diesel engine are only available with a manual gearbox, while petrol-powered models have the option of a six-speed Steptronic automatic.
The Countryman will be available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive form, with the ALL4 AWD drivetrain being an always-on system rather than the part-time systems favoured by other small soft-roaders.
Normally, 50 percent of torque is directed to the rear wheels. However as much as 100 percent of power can be sent to the rear axle if the front wheels completely lose traction, and the front axle features an electronic pseudo-LSD to help improve grip.
As with other MINI vehicles, the Countryman is suspended on a simple MacPherson strut arrangement up front; however the need to accomodate the rear differential and driveshafts on AWD models necessitates a reworked multi-link rear end.
An optional sports suspension package will be available, and lowers the car by 10mm while stiffening the ride. MINI says the full range of John Cooper Works high-performance parts will also be available on the Countryman's options list.
Australian pricing for the MINI Countryman has yet to be announced, however it can be expected to go on sale here towards the end of 2010 or in early 2011. Expect more information on the locally-delivered Countryman to surface later this year.