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With the core Hardtop and new Clubman already revealed, Mini is moving along with its plans to expand its model lineup around five "hero" models. Next down the pipeline will likely be the new Countryman, which Autocar projects will be larger and more rugged than the existing model.

According to the British publication, the new Mini Countryman is set to take more of a proper SUV approach than the outgoing crossover. That means an even larger form, and more serious off-road chops to better take advantage of the connection with the X-Raid rally machine that has been dominating Dakar for the past four years. It's expected to be based on the same UKL front-drive architecture as the Hardtop, Clubman, and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, and offer the latter's all-wheel-drive system as well. Those underpinnings would still make it a crossover, strictly speaking, but with a more rugged approach. It could also emerge a good half-foot longer than the model it will replace, over a third of an inch wider, and offer considerably more cargo space.

Although the existing Countryman was derided by many as a step too far for the Mini brand, it ended up accounting for a substantial share of the company's sales – making its replacement a no-brainer for the BMW Group. That's more than could be said for the quirky Paceman crossover coupe, which is not expected to follow this time around, however a slant-backed Countryman variant could be in the cards.

The next question is what Mini might do next. Of the five core models it's anticipated to launch, the Countryman would be the third. The Superleggera roadster, a smaller hatchback like the Rocketman concept, and a larger minivan potentially to be dubbed the Traveller have all been rumored. Of course, whatever goes into production could be something else entirely. We'll just have to wait and see.

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