By Carl Malek
When MINI first launched the Countryman CUV, it was decided that the U.S spec version would only have a four seat configuration (two bucket seats up front and two in the back). However MINI has confirmed that the rear bench seat option would make its way to U.S bound Countryman’s beginning this fall. The addition of this option would give consumers an alternate seat arraignment if they need to haul more people or cargo than the present four seat configuration allows due to the use of the interior center rail storage system.
It is believed that MINI was able to bring the rear bench across the pond for U.S consumption thanks to a change in the NHTSA’s policies regarding minimum rear seat room width. Under the previous policy, the Countryman’s rear bench seat was unable to meet the requirements set forth by the NHTSA (albeit just barely), and because of that it could not be offered for sale here in this country. Rather than spend unnecessary time and money in creating and engineering a whole new seat just for the U.S market that would pass the requirements in the old mandate. MINI opted to wait for a possible change in policy that would help cut the red tape on the bench and make selling it here in this market much easier.
The company’s wait appears to have paid off, with some news outlets now reporting that the NHTSA regulations were updated back in March, and because of this update, the Countryman’s rear bench was able to qualify according to the new standards. Consumers can expect the bench seat option to make its way to MINI Countryman ordering materials beginning this fall. Official U.S prices for the bench seat have not been released as of this writing, but expect the new bench seat to bring a bit more versatility and practicality to MINI’s least-mini model.