The 2017 Mini Countryman will not only grow in size compared to its predecessor, but it looks likely the SUV will be the first model from the brand to boast a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
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Our European spies have caught the next-generation Mini Countryman undergoing winter testing with the prototype vehicle brandishing "Hybrid Test Vehicle" stickers across its body.

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If the new Mini SUV does come with a plug-in hybrid option it won't be too big of a surprise, given that the Countryman is set to be based on the BMW/Mini UKL platform, which also underpins the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (which has been spotted testing a plug-in drivetrain, too).

Details are yet to be confirmed, but our sources suggest the hybrid drivetrain will use an electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed, while a small capacity turbocharged petrol engine will send its power to the front hoops.

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The electric motor is expected to produce about 75kW of power and 250Nm of torque, while the petrol engine - likely to be the same three-cylinder 1.5-litre unit seen in the regular Mini hatch and Mini 5 Door - should boast at least 100kW and 200Nm. Combined, the pair could allow the Countryman plug-in hybrid 180kW/450Nm.

Not only have we seen the first plug-in Mini, but this is also our first glimpse of the interior of the new-generation Countryman (which was snapped inside a non-hybrid version of the car).

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It is clear from the single image (above) that the new Countryman features a vastly different cockpit to the model it replaces, with its larger central media screen flanked by squared-off vents and more conventional switchgear.

As we've reported in the past, the new-generation Countryman is expected to grow in all directions, and interior practicality is likely to see a generous boost due to the packaging benefits of the new modular platform. A bigger boot and more copious back seat are two of the likely improvements - and Mini has also hinted at an even larger SUV.

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There's no word yet on when the new Mini Countryman will be unveiled, but there's every chance we'll see it early in 2016 ahead of its scheduled on-sale date later next year.

Click the Photos tab above for more images on the 2017 Mini Countryman.