The 2017 Mini Countryman's move to a new front-wheel-drive architecture makes for a pretty big jump.
The redesigned Countryman, now on the same architecture that underpins the BMW X1, is longer, wider, has a roomier cabin and more cargo space than its predecessor. It has more standard equipment. Its engines, transmissions and all-wheel-drive system are new to the nameplate.
Base pricing on the Countryman increases a considerable 13 percent to $26,950, including shipping. But Mini has loaded a lot of additional equipment -- a panoramic sunroof and rearview camera, for instance -- on the vehicle for that price. The same content on the outgoing Countryman would have cost 5 percent more than the 2017 base model, said Patrick McKenna, head of product planning and aftersales for Mini USA.
"We just want to make sure the value-for-money equation is there," McKenna said.
Though still nimble, the Countryman is 8.1 inches longer, 1.3 inches wider and has 5.4 additional cubic feet of cargo space compared with the outgoing version. It's roomy enough to fit four adults.
The Countryman Cooper and Cooper S models went on sale in early March. The performance-oriented John Cooper Works model will be on sale in April. And a new plug-in hybrid will be available in June. Awd is now available on even the entry-level Cooper model.
Powertrain: 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine with 6-speed manual or automatic or 8-speed automatic on awd models; 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 6-speed manual or eight-speed automatic
Technology: Optional 8.8-inch touch-screen display with natural voice recognition, available wireless charging for phones, available Bluetooth-enabled tags that can be attached to personal items and tracked down through the Mini smartphone app
Safety: Standard rearview camera and rear park distance control; optional front parking sensors and parallel parking assistance; optional driver assistance package with collision warning with braking function, camera-based adaptive cruise control, pedestrian warning
U.S. sales target: Mini isn't giving a target, but executives think it has the potential to sell more than its previous peak of 22,645.
Competitors: Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA
Strengths: Improved exterior styling and proportions, nimble handling and nice array of features even in base model, lots of interior room for its dimensions
Weaknesses: No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but Mini executives say they're working on bringing the features to the brand
Bottom line: The much-improved Countryman lands as sales of small crossovers and SUVs have heated up. The nameplate has a good chance of reaching a new sales record.