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Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid Spied Testing

Hybrid power, SUV chops.

Captured testing for the first time, this next-generation Mini Cooper Countryman prototype indicates a move toward plug-in hybrid power. The new MINI Cooper Countryman will be the first plug-in hybrid for the brand, but it could also represent a shift toward more SUV-like capabilities for the second-gen crossover.

Projected to arrive in 2016, the next MINI Cooper Countryman will ride on the new Mini hardtop's UKL front-wheel-drive platform. Although the platform is also shared with the next BMW X1 and the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, the prototype we spied testing in winter conditions with a hybrid testing badge bears unmistakable Mini cues.

Up front, the headlights and black grille betray the Mini styling underneath, as does the white-contrast roof. Along the side, there is an interruption in the camouflage on the front fender ahead of the mirrors, which tells us the extended A-pillar treatment seen on the current Countryman will likely continue. Overall, the new Mini Cooper Countryman's look should end up very similar to that of the current Mini Cooper four-door, save for the taller proportions and more raked roofline. Inside, the Countryman's cabin will likely adopt the same design, technology, and layout as the smaller Mini Cooper.

When the Mini Cooper Countryman is eventually revealed, it will likely come with multiple engine choices alongside the new plug-in hybrid. When the plug-in hybrid arrives, our sources predict it will employ a 102-hp electric motor fitted for the rear wheels. European bureau chief Georg Kacher also says the new Countryman should adopt more SUV-like abilities, leading us to believe it will have much in common with the upcoming BMW X1.

For the U.S. market we'll surely see some version of the 1.5-liter turbo inline-three seen in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, in which it makes 136-hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. Presumably the Countryman S would nab the Cooper S' 2.0-liter turbo-four good for 189 hp and 207 lb-ft. There is indeed a JCW version in the pipeline according to Mini product planners; the new JCW hardtop is the most powerful Mini to date with 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque.

We'll report back if we hear or see anything new about the next-gen Mini Cooper Countryman or its plug-in hybrid powertrain.