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Mini crossover to carry base price of $22,350

Thu, 07 Oct 2010 00:00:00 -0700

Mini's new Countryman crossover will start at $22,350, only $550 more than the three-door Clubman wagon.

A well-equipped Countryman in a Cooper S trim with optional all-wheel drive will cost just under $30,000, Jim McDowell, head of Mini USA, said Wednesday during the media launch for the vehicle. The prices include destination charges, Mini said.

The Countryman, the biggest model in Mini's U.S. lineup, will arrive at dealerships in late December.

Mini is pricing the Countryman aggressively as it enters a competitive segment that will require heavy conquest sales for the BMW-owned brand. The Countryman is likely to be Mini's second-biggest-selling vehicle after the Cooper hardtop, which accounts for about 30,000 sales annually, said McDowell.

McDowell expects the Countryman to appeal to buyers who wanted to buy a Mini but need the extra space that the new crossover offers. The most significant selling point is “that is still drives like a Mini--it hasn't lost that fun, go-cart feel,” he said.

“The Countryman is a game-changer for us,” McDowell said. “We are going from extra-small to small.”

The Countryman sits on an all-new platform and has a 102-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 161 inches. It is about four inches shorter than a five-door Volkswagen Golf but six inches longer, five inches taller and four inches wider than the Clubman. Interior room is as good as the considerably larger Nissan Rogue, McDowell said.

The Countryman has four bucket seats. The optional rear bench seat offered in Europe initially won't be sold in the United States, McDowell said.

A central rail running down the middle of the car offers storage space.

Individual modules that lock on the rail can be purchased--for instance, additional cupholders. McDowell predicts this feature will take off like smart-phone applications, with outside vendors offering all sorts of add-ons--practical and whimsical.

Although the Countryman will do little for Mini's 2010 sales because of its launch date, McDowell said he expects this year to be Mini's second-best year for sales.

Mini has been sold in the United States since March 2002, with demand peaking at 54,077 in 2008. McDowell wouldn't give a specific sales target for 2010 but said they'll top last year's 45,000 cars. Sales through September rose only about 1 percent to 34,588 because Mini demand jumped last summer during the federal government's cash-for-clunkers program.

By Diana T. Kurylko- Automotive News