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The next-generation 2017 Mini Countryman has been previewed this week with new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology, marking a first for the BMW-owned British brand.

According to Mini, its new PHEV system will maintain the company’s reputation for go-kart-like driving fun, while also significantly reducing tailpipe emissions.

Sebastian Mackensen, head of brand management, said: “With this model we want to convince Mini customers of the benefits of hybrid drive, and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with Mini’s unique go-kart driving feel”.

Inside, despite the black sheets that disguise the dash, the company says little distinguishes the electrified Mini from the conventionally-powered range.

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Subtle differences like the start/stop button – which glows yellow instead of red – and the rev counter that has been replaced with a hybrid power display.

For the first few kilometres after starting up (silently), the display informs the driver of the electric motor’s power reserves before the combustion engine fires up.

Mini has released preliminary details of the hybrid systems driving modes, with the standard Auto eDrive allowing for speeds of up to 80km/h on pure-electric power, while Max eDrive can operate electrically at speeds of up to 125km/h.

“In a hybrid Mini model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience,” said Mackensen.

“This means that entirely electric driving is not limited to speeds of 30 or 40 km/h, but to speeds well beyond city traffic pace.”

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Above: 2008 Mini E

Previously, Mini has dabbled with electrically-powered vehicles. The 2008 Mini E was powered by a 150kW electric motor, offering a range of more than 240km – which made the BMW Group the first premium manufacturer to deploy a fleet of 500 all-electric vehicles for private use as a means of testing the technology.

Spied in prototype guise several times over the last year, the next-generation Mini Countryman was expected to be revealed at the Paris motor show earlier this month.

However, the brand could follow parent company BMW and do a standalone reveal a-la the new 5 Series.

Under the skin, the new Countryman will share its front- and all-wheel drive ‘UKL’ platform with the current-generation Mini Hatch and Clubman range, along with the BMW X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer.

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The plug-in hybrid model previewed this week is expected to be called the Countryman E, with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine coupled with a 15kW/150Nm electric motor driving the front wheels, according to a report in June. Meanwhile, the rear axle will reportedly feature an additional 65kW/165Nm electric motor.

Hooked up to a 7.7kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Countryman E is said to offer an electric range of around 38 kilometres.

The rest of the Countryman range is expected to align with the Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works variants offered in the Hatch and Clubman.

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Expect the new Mini Countryman to be revealed before the end of this year, with first Australian deliveries commencing mid- to late-2017.

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