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Mini Cooper SUV? The Countryman beefs up the petite car brand

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(Read caption) A Mini Cooper SUV? The Countryman shares the line's British charm while faulting a heftier frame.

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Mini Cooper has always been a Goldilocks car brand. Not too big. Not too small. Not too spartan. Just right – if you're in the market for an elfin auto. Looking for something meatier? How about a Mini Cooper SUV?

The Countryman will be the fourth model in the Mini line since BMW relaunched the name in 2001. Available in early 2011, the Mini Cooper Countryman promises the British accents of its quirky cousins with a frame fit to compete with the Honda CR-V and Land Rover LR2. It will be the first four-door Mini and will come with a wide-mouthed hatchback, more interior room than previous models, and optional four-wheel drive.

Americans may choose from two engines. (Europeans must pick from a list of five!) There's the more fuel efficient 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that can rev from 0 to 62 m.p.h. in 10.5 seconds. The more powerful Cooper S sports direct-fuel injection, 180 horsepower (52 percent more), and a 0-to-62 rate of 7.6 seconds.

Other features include stability control; front, side, and curtain air bags; optional smart phone integration; and a run-flat tires upgrade.

More details will follow, leading up to its public debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show in March.

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