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BMW's Ian Robertson says 'the Mini Countryman' is our answer to the needs of customers who were looking for a bit more Mini and a Mini which goes far and beyond urban boundaries.' (BMW)
BMW's Ian Robertson says 'the Mini Countryman' is our answer to the needs of customers who were looking for a bit more Mini and a Mini which goes far and beyond urban boundaries.' (BMW)

2012 Countryman

BMW takes the Mini to the max Add to ...

Sir Alec Issigonis - who designed the original, iconic Mini - once said, "A camel is a horse designed by a committee." Sir Alec was a purist.

And the purity of Sir Alec's original 1959 mini design was defined by its dimensions: 10 feet long, four feet wide and four feet high. It was a work of packaging and practicality and became a symbol of British ingenuity and modernity.

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The Beatles, swinging London in the 1960s - the Mini was at the core of a transformation from post-war rationing, reconstruction and an empire in decline, to a Britain opening up like a flower to the sunshine of renewed enthusiasm for life and the promise of something better, more fun.

Ironically enough, the Mini was an answer to fuel worries stemming from the Suez Crisis of 1956 and in that sense it was very much a child of Britain in the 1950s. Yet the purity of the design turned it into a pop culture icon.

What's coming

2011 Mini Cooper

Mini is expected to give the Cooper a refresh this fall. Look for BMW's Valvetronic system to add horsepower to the engine offerings, too.

2015 Mini Cooper

Look for the next-generation Mini Cooper some time in 2014. Analysts expect it to ride on an all-new, front-wheel-drive platform shared with an entry-level BMW model.

2012 Mini Cooper Clubman

The three-door Clubman will get a modest refresh for the 2012 model year.

2011/2012 Mini Cooper Clubman

The first big Mini crossover goes on sale in some markets this year and comes to Canada in the early part of 2011.

2012 Mini Cooper Coupe

We saw this one first at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show last September. It will go into production in 2011.

2012 Mini Cooper Roadster

Also unveiled in Frankfurt, the roadster will arrive at the same time as the coupe.

Given this idea of purity, what shall we make of the Mini Cooper Countryman, the biggest Mini ever (4,097 mm/161.3 inches long and a wheelbase of 2,595 mm/102.2 inches)?

What can be said about the first Mini with four real doors, real seating for four (in Canada, but there is a version seating five sold elsewhere) and optional all-wheel-drive?

What is behind this huge effort by BMW AG's Mini to broaden its range with an offering designed to appeal to Mini owners who have grown up and now have children?

It's fair to conclude that the Countryman, however successful, will not enter the automotive hall of fame with iconic status. This Mini is a business decision and a sensible one. Mini is expanding to a lineup of four models (standard, convertible, Clubman and Countryman). It's following a very sensible pattern - the kind that drove BMW AG to report its biggest profit in 2 1/2 years on Aug. 3. (Second-quarter net income jumped to $1.1-billion U.S. and revenue rose 18 per cent to $19.5-billion)

BMW has long been creative at spinning off multiple models from the same basic mechanical platform and sharing parts all across lines. Generally, you can expect to see up to 18 variants of the 3-Series over the course of its lifetime. Similarly, the Countryman essentially is a beefed-up, all-wheel-drive version of the Mini Cooper with rugged, outdoorsy looks and real utility.

Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing, says it makes complete sense to add a big Mini that will bring to the brand "a lot of different customers because this car has a lot more flexibility. The Mini Countryman is our answer to the needs of customers who were looking for a bit more Mini and a Mini which goes far beyond urban boundaries."

So how much to buy one? When it goes on sale next February as a 2012 model, look for the range to go from the low-$30,000s to the mid-$40,000s. Mini Canada will offer just three variants: Cooper Countryman, Cooper S Countryman and Cooper S Countryman ALL4 (all-wheel-drive).

Mini Canada will not offer the stripped-down Mini One version, nor will Canadians be able to buy the diesel variant, either. Instead, the base car will have a 120-horsepower, 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, while the S gets a twin-scroll, turbocharged version of that motor that makes 180 hp. Both engines are new and have direct fuel injection and very fancy valve management technology (BMW calls it Valvetronic) to enhance engine breathing.

Let's be honest here: for a Mini, the Countryman is huge.

Mini doesn't mean small anymore

2012 BMW Mini Cooper Countryman
Click here for a gallery of Mini Coopers

It's 130 mm longer than the three-door version on which it is based. The all-wheel-drive Cooper S version available at the global press launch in Hamburg - one of the less-desirable German tourist destinations, I would add - sits 154 mm higher and weighs the equivalent of an extra two adult passengers. The big, shovel-nosed front end also gives the Countryman a bulldog look about it. A big bulldog is surely the antithesis of what the Mini brand has stood for all these years since its revival in 2002 and before that, too.

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