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Mini keeps getting bigger and now offered as plug-in hybrid

If the Mini grows any further, BMW may need to change its name to Maxi.

Thirty per cent more spacious than the outgoing model, it seats five adults with more elbow and cargo room. The rear seat folds and slides, and the cargo floor is adjustable. For tailgating, camping and hanging by the airport to watch jets land, the Mini "picnic bench" turns the tailgate into a seat.

The big news though, is the plug-in hybrid option with the Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, creating an all-electric range of 40 kilometres and speeds up to 126 km/h. The technology, already integrated into the BMW 2, 3 and 7 Series, X5 and i8, comes to Mini for the first time.

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The vehicle automatically switches from electric to gas combustion; the electric motor, with more rapid delivery of high torque, operates primarily in stop/start traffic. The battery recharges fully in about three hours.

There are two twin-turbo gas engines: a 1.5-litre three-cylinder with 134 horsepower, and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 189 horsepower. Each pairs with all-wheel drive and a standard six-speed manual transmission with options for a six-speed automatic and eight-speed "Steptronic".

The Countryman will be available in Canada in March, the hybrid option in June.

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3.5 stars (out of 5)

It's bigger and better, with increasing BMW technology, but the Countryman is in a compact crossover field with a plethora of choices.

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