Mini is going to debut their new electric car (or crossover or whatever these are known as now) for North America at the Climate Week NYC event to be held in Lansing, Michigan. I’m kidding! Of course Climate Week NYC is in New York City, and that’s where this new, not-so-Mini Mini is being revealed to America. This new Mini is the largest Mini ever, and Mini is pushing it hard as it’s a key component of their plan to be an all-electric brand by 2030. They need a popular, mainstream EV crossover, and that’s what Mini is hoping the new Countryman becomes. I’m not sold on the looks exactly, but it’s not boring, and the interior is pretty striking. You know, from this three-quarter angle, with those particular reflections, I like the look?
What I did manage to get some footage of is the most important thing to note: Mini seems to have fixed its horrific rear turn indicator nightmare that was on the previous Countryman, where the Union Jack-style taillight design caused the turn signal arrows to look like they were pointing in the opposite direction. Look at the video here:
I did get to very briefly sit in one that was being shown at the Goodwood Revival in the UK, and while it was a bit too crowded to get usable pictures, I did get a good sense of what the interior feels like, and I think that’s where this car will make its biggest impression. The interior is minimalistic but quite comfortable, roomy and with a lot of novel materials used. Here’s a GIF of what the old taillights used to look like, btw:
Back to the interior, though; the dashboard is especially striking, as it uses a very novel round OLED display, on a fabric-covered dashboard surface that has colorful patterns projected onto it, patterns that vary by drive mode and perhaps do more. I’m not entirely certain if they’re just decorative or may have some status-indicating function as of yet, but I’m very curious.
Looking closely at the Dash and door cards, you can see there’s a lot of use of what I believe are some kind of sustainable, coarse-weave fabrics as opposed to the traditional plastics and rubbers and faux or genuine leathers. It’s certainly not the first time we’ve seen this done on cars (think about early Fiat Panda interiors, for example) but I’m always pleased to see new approaches to the concept.
The overall visual experience is quite minimalistic, at least according to Mini, who describes various aspects of the car’s design as “expressive minimalism with character” and I guess I can agree to that. Oh, also, in that image above, you can see what I believe are the projector units behind that big round screen that project the dot pattern onto the dashboard surface. Those vents are interesting, too, also quite minimal, but hopefully they direct air around well enough.
I only got to sit in the back seat for a moment when I was at Goodwood, and while my Shtetl Hobbit dimensions aren’t really the best benchmark here, I had plenty of leg and headroom. It’s a boxy car, so the interior is going to be fairly roomy no matter what, and it seems to be.
Exterior-wise, I’m pretty conflicted. From some angles I think it looks clean and tidy, a nice modernist update to some of the essential Mini elements, but then I see the front and I’m not so sure. The headlights have been recast from the original round/ovoid designs over the years and are now sort of heptagonal shapes, with a DRL ring on the outside and some projectors inside. I think this was done to gradually give the car a more aggressive face, and they did, but does a Mini really need that?
The fake grille I’m also a bit torn on. The crucial identifying elements of the Mini face do include that distinctive grille area, and what Mini is doing here is, I suppose, a sort of playful pattern-and-color-based take on the visual idea of a grille, but I’m not so sure it works. Should the big bumper area in the lower part, still surrounded by the basic grille shape, be body colored, or fit in with the grille? Like, would this be better?
Maybe? Hm. I mean, it doesn’t look like everything else out there, and I’m delighted to see such an unashamed green, so there’s that.
In profile, it’s clean, and the somewhat tall and stubby proportions still retain some feeling of Mini, despite its larger size. One detail I’m really unsure about though; it’s hidden by being black on this car, but there are other variations of it, as you can see here. It’s this thing by the C-pillar:
I guess it can vary color based on if you have a white or black roof? The All4 version seems to be for the all-wheel-drive variant, while the one shown in the US press release has that sort of Union Jack-like type of pattern, or a double-headed arrow, whatever it is. From the inside, as you’d guess, these little flaps or whatever do take a pretty big visibility toll, and I don’t really know what their purpose is. Was a designer just hedging their bets by making something so otherwise minimal? I’m really not sure.
When viewed from behind, I’m starting to think that the little flaps are like the modern equivalent of a vestigial landau bar.
The taillight design I think is generally good, with the Union Jack motif composed of little triangular, rectangular, and rhomboid elements:
Hopefully the US spec one will retain an amber indicator (which seems to be formed of correctly-facing arrows, in the center part there) but knowing how US models tend to be, I’m not going to get my hopes up.
Specs-wise, the press release for the US model doesn’t go into details, but there are some out there, just not in the absurd non-metric units we still use here. It’s ok, I’ll do the math. We do know that the new Countryman has a longer 105 inch wheelbase and comes in two levels of power: There’s the Countryman E with 204 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque or an SE version with 313 hp and 364 lb-ft. Range is about 269 miles, though I’m don’t think official EPA numbers have been given yet.
So what do we think of this new electric Mini? Overall, it seems generally usable and capable, a practical package that’s stylish in a mostly understated way. I’m still not totally sold on the look, and I don’t think it has a frunk – if it does, nothing has been said about it – which I still regard as a negative. Mini should be good about interesting, non-grayscale color selections, which is nice, and hopefully there’s an attempt to make it engaging to drive, which is also a key part of the Mini heritage.
Will people pick one of these over a Tesla or Mach-E or electric Volvo or VW or whatever? Does it have enough essential Mini-ness to be appealing to their traditional niche Mini-loving market? I’m not sure.
But at least they fixed the damn turn signals.
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