The new Countryman’s press literature implores us to appreciate Mini’s bigger picture.
By 2010, BMW’s idea of the Mini had been around for a decade. The slightly larger and haplessly left-field Clubman had appeared in 2007, but otherwise the brand was locked into the supermini archetype prescribed to it by Alec Issigonis’s original.
‘Going large’, therefore, was always the Countryman’s hard sell. The first Countryman was recognisably a Mini, albeit puffed out to ensure entry into the far more profitable crossover segment.
In retrospect, it seems a fairly logical step, but Mini previewed the idea with concepts before launching it and even made a Mini WRC version – a gestural grope at the original Mini’s rallying heritage.
The first Countryman did as advertised in proportional terms, yet it failed to kick off the transformation of Mini into a broader brand.
But at least the Countryman did sell fairly well: for several years of its life, this was Mini’s most popular new car.
Now the model returns for a second swing, trumpeting, it must be said, much the same point it made last time round: namely, that size counts. To show Mini means business they have also added a hybrid to the Countryman range too.
And so Cowley’s modern version of the car whose closest antecedent in the original Mini’s history is probably the 1969 Austin Maxi gets larger still, gaining five ‘full-size’ seats as part of the deal, plus the obligatory styling makeover.
Alongside improved practicality comes better material richness and a more generous level of standard kit. On the technical front, both two and four-wheel drive are again offered, mated to engines (two petrols and two diesels) that carry over from the current Clubman.
And so the idea of a larger, more mature, more capable and more liveable Mini remains the Countryman’s promise. Time to find out if it’s been better realised at the second time of asking.