New 2023 Mini Countryman EV: every detail and first ride

Mini Countryman drive front three quarter

The new Mini Countryman will go on sale in February 2024

We get a ride in the British brand’s larger, more family-friendly SUV with electric power

The third iteration of the Mini‘s SUV, the Countryman, is set to grow considerably when it moves to a third generation next year. 

It thus makes room for the slightly smaller new Aceman crossover and caters for Mini owners with growing families.

Twinned with the BMW X1, the new Mini Countryman will go on sale in February 2024, shortly after the new Cooper hatchback. Like its BMW sibling, the Countryman will gain electric versions for the first time.

“This is something for people that say ‘I have a second child now so I can’t get the stroller into this one [the current Countryman]’,” said Mini boss Stephanie Wurst. “We need it for the people that we’re losing right now because they don’t have enough space.”

The Volkswagen ID 4 rival has also been conceived to grow Mini in the US market, which favours larger vehicles – something Mini hasn’t been able to cater for until now.

Visually, the car will differ from the current model with a squarer front end, large front and rear overhangs and a more rugged treatment. It wears a more angular interpretation of Mini’s new bulbous headlights, as seen on the Cooper and Aceman.

At 4429mm, it will be 132mm longer than the current Countryman. It’s also set to grow 56mm taller, to 1613mm, for more head room inside.

The new Countryman will expand on the current car’s powertrain line-up, with electric power replacing the soon-to-be-axed plug-in hybrid, alongside a petrol offering.

Mini will offer a standard and a more potent ‘S’ version of both the petrol and electric Countryman, with hotter John Cooper Works (JCW) versions to follow later.

No specifics have been confirmed about the petrol Countryman, but it will most likely mirror the current range, with a front-driven three-cylinder option and four-cylinder, front-wheel drive S model. Only the electric Countryman SE will offer four-wheel drive.

The electric versions of the new car will be called Countryman E and Countryman SE. The former will introduce a 188bhp, front-wheel-drive powertrain with a 54kWh battery that isn’t available (yet) in the BMW iX1

The Countryman SE will use the 308bhp, dual-motor powertrain and 64.7kWh battery that’s familiar from the BMW iX1. Mini estimates that it will offer 280 miles of range.

Although bulking up and changing shape, the Countryman will keep its name, something Wurst doesn’t believe will confuse customers: “I think they will understand. The Countryman is already established as the ‘big Mini’.”

Production of the petrol Countryman is expected to start this November and first deliveries are expected in the first or second quarter of 2024.

First ride: Mini Countryman SE All4

The new Mini Countryman shares a lot of its underpinnings and powertrains with the X1 and iX1, so is it a case of ‘see our BMW X1 review’ for the way it drives? Mini’s engineers are at pains to point out that any Mini should feel like a Mini and have ‘go-kart feeling’. 

The latter is likely to be a bit of an overstatement in what’s likely going to be a two-tonne EV, but there’s certainly room to make the X1 feel a bit more direct and engaging.

At a recent event, I got the opportunity of a short passenger ride in a prototype of the new Countryman. The big change is that it’s noticeably roomier in the back, and the boot space has been boosted too.

Even more obvious is the revolution that has taken place up front. The dashboard and centre console have lost nearly all their buttons, including the rotary infotainment controller. All have been replaced by a very large, very thin, circular OLED touchscreen. 

The only physical controls that are left are confined to a small panel with a handful of shortcut buttons, plus the drive selector and the start-stop switch, which takes the form of a classic ignition key affixed to the dash.

The car still ran a prototype build of the infotainment system, with numerous unfinished features and lots of bugs, so it would be unfair to cast judgement on whether this move has been successful. After all, it’s still roughly a year away from reaching customers. It seems substantially different from the current BMW iDrive system, however.

Although a lot of the interior was still covered in camouflage and there were plenty of rough prototype parts, I got a peek under the sheets, and one change that stood out was that parts of the dashboard were made of colourful woven fibres instead of the usual textured rubber. It should give the finished car quite a distinctive and cheery atmosphere.

On the road, the Countryman shares some characteristics with the iX1, of course. Having the same powertrain, it’s more than quick enough, and it gets three normal fixed regenerative-braking modes, plus an adaptive mode and a one-pedal ‘B’ mode that will bring the car to a complete stop.

Despite that, it’s quite striking how different the chassis feels from the iX1’s. Unlike that car, the Countryman runs passive dampers and fixed-ratio steering, and even from the passenger seat, there’s something about its ride and roll rates that makes it feel more alive than the iX1.

This is designed to be a more comfortable car than the outgoing one, as befits its more family-friendly remit. Nevertheless, it’s quite firm-riding, which could prove too much in the UK, but it deals with potholes remarkably well.

The vehicle dynamics engineer who drove us around said the steering where most of the Mini character will come from, but that’s something to verify when we actually get behind the wheel – hopefully later this year.

Source: Autocar

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