Is a Mini still a Mini if it's now an SUV?
Recently I was privy to a short drive in a 1990 E30 BMW, which brings about a strange experience to those who've never driven something that size. Navigating traffic was actually easy, but the only reason why is that compared to the more modern cars on the road, the E30 was a dwarf. Parking it next to a modern day BMW 3 Series is about as telling of the pattern of growth as the eye can see, and unfortunately, the trend appears to have happened to one of our favorite small cars, the Mini.
Newer renditions of the brand have all ballooned, some so much that they can no longer be called cars, and the Mini Countryman that our spy photographers caught testing here may be the first of the batch to fall into the SUV category. Based on the BMW X1's chassis, the new Countryman looks comically large, especially when seeing how small occupants seem compared to the car itself. To make do both on road and off road, it will come bearing either front-wheel drive for the city or in all-wheel drive flavor. Americans will satiate their Mini cravings with gasoline models while abroad the diesel should be a strong seller. Those wanting a bit more grunt can opt for the 231-horsepower John Cooper Works version of the mini SUV.
While the JCW has some pep, somewhere in the recesses of our imagination, we think it would be great if Mini and the M Division of its parent company BMW teamed up to build an ultra-quick Mini. Those who think performance is for children may be interested in a plug-in hybrid variant, which should utilize a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine to send 136 horsepower to the front and an electric motor to push 102 horsepower to the rear. Given the relatively light camouflage layered on the car, we can safely say this Mini is almost done baking and is nearly ready for debut. That should happen at this month's Paris Auto Show or possibly even at Geneva in March with the JCW and plug-in models following soon after.