THE new MINI Countryman is the biggest and most versatile model to be launched in the brand’s 57-year history, according to the car maker.

With its larger exterior, and increases in space throughout the cabin and luggage area, its designers say it offers occupants even greater comfort and a genuinely premium ambience.

Useful new features such as electric tailgate control with touch-free opening and unique options, including a fold down picnic bench at the rear have been added.

For the first time MINI is offering a plug-in hybrid model with the new MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. This new hybrid features a turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor, reducing fuel consumption to 134.5 mpg, while enabling a nought to 62 mph time of just 6.9 seconds.

The rest of the new MINI Countryman line-up is powered by an all-new range of engines sourced from the latest MINI TwinPower Turbo generation.

The new MINI Countryman is available with both manual and Steptronic gearboxes and with front- and all-wheel drive. The latter, MINI’s ALL4 system, has been further refined for increased driving agility and efficiency.

Equipment levels on the new MINI Countryman have been bolstered when compared with the outgoing model. Additions to the standard equipment list include MINI’s acclaimed Satellite Navigation System, Bluetooth, Cruise Control, Emergency E-call and Active Guard among others.

The new MINI Countryman is available from £22,465 for the Cooper Countryman, with the first UK deliveries in February 2017. Prices for the plug-in hybrid model will be announced later.