A new generation of the Mini Countryman is just around the corner and on Monday we received confirmation that the compact SUV will be the brand’s first hybrid.  Mini says the arrival of the hybrid Countryman marks the start of a new phase for the brand, one that is electrified yet still centered on driving fun.

The hybrid Countryman features a plug-in hybrid powertrain combining an internal combustion engine with an electric motor. Mini hasn’t provided details but we can confirm the setup is similar to the one found in the related BMW 225xe. The 225xe, which isn’t sold in the United States, features a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-3 driving the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission, and an electric motor driving the rear pair, in essence creating a “through-the-road” hybrid all-wheel-drive system.

In this way, the hybrid Countryman can be powered solely by the combustion engine, the electric motor or both. The battery, located beneath the rear seats, is big enough to provide sufficient electric range for most commutes, expected to be around 25 miles. Top speed in electric mode is 77 mph. Crucially, the hybrid management system is linked with the vehicle’s electronic stability control, so that if only one power source is working and slip is detected, the alternative power source can be activated.

2016 BMW 225xe

2016 BMW 225xe

Operating the hybrid Countryman will be familiar to anyone that’s driven a regular Mini. Everything looks familiar in the cockpit, though the start/stop button in the center of the dashboard glows yellow instead of red. As usual, you simply press the button to start the car, though the hybrid Countryman remains silent as it’s designed to always start in electric mode. The rpm counter in the main instrument cluster has been replaced with a power display. When exactly the combustion engine kicks in will vary depending upon on the driving style and level of charge in the battery.

The new Countryman is slightly larger than the model it replaces, which has allowed for more space in the cabin. Regular Countryman models will come with inline-3 and -4 engines, all of them turbocharged. The vehicle is expected to make its world debut in mid-November at the 2016 Los Angeles auto show, with the market launch due in 2017. Mini is yet to confirm when the hybrid Countryman will be added to the range.

Mini was one of the first brands to experiment with mainstream electric cars, having unveiled the Mini E electric Cooper in 2008 and starting a leasing program shortly after. However, Mini’s BMW Group parent would later focus its electric car efforts on the BMW i sub-brand and now Mini is in catch-up mode. The brand is initially focusing on hybrid technology but will add an electric car to its fleet before the end of the decade.