LOS ANGELES -- The redesigned Mini Countryman has grown enough in size to compete in the compact crossover segment with premium and volume players.
Riding on a new front-wheel-drive platform shared with BMW, the 2017 Countryman due in the United States in March is about 8 inches longer than the prior generation. It joins the redesigned Clubman in moving from a subcompact to a compact. A plug-in hybrid Countryman is to go on sale in June.
As a compact crossover, the Countryman will take on competitors such as the premium BMW X1 and the popular Subaru Forester.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW AG board member for Mini, has no qualms about making the Countryman bigger. In fact, Mini executives believe the Countryman could become Mini's best-seller in the United States. Today, the Cooper in its two- and four-door versions is the top-selling Mini.
Mini has sold 550,000 units worldwide of the current Countryman since it launched in 2010, "far more than we had ever planned," Schwarzenbauer said in an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
While planning the new model, Mini asked owners what changes they would like in a successor. "They all said, "Give me a bit more room -- especially in the back and in the trunk,'" Schwarzenbauer said.