BMWBLOG had the unique opportunity to speak with MINI Canada’s Director, John Cappella. Shortly after he released the new Paceman concept car to the Canadian press we were able to join him beside the concept car and talk about ‘all things MINI.’

John was very friendly and engaging – while he had a certain focus and energy about him while describing his cars within the MINI brand. We thoroughly enjoyed our interview and look forward to bringing more MINI interviews at upcoming auto shows.

John, how do you feel that the new Countryman will fit in with the Canadian lifestyle?

Well, as the fourth model in our MINI lineup it offers two firsts: number one, it’s the first MINI with four doors for greater versatility, more space and greater functionality. It’s easier to get in and out, particularly in the rear of the vehicle. And secondly it’s the first MINI to offer all-four all-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive is very popular in Canada and our unique combination of all-wheel-drive and go cart handling – as I said before it really provides for a very unique driving experience. Driving in winter in winter in Canada will never be the same.

Who would be the ideal MINI Countryman driver if you were to define that buyer?

The MINI customer comes from all different sorts of places: we have very young customers who are attracted to the youthfulness of the brand and then we have older customers who are also attracted to the youthfulness of the brand. Of course, with the increased versatility of the vehicle, certainly we’re getting a lot more couples and families now coming in and asking about the vehicle where maybe they loved the MINI brand before but the hatch was maybe a little bit too small for them. With the Countryman, they now have the extra space, the extra versatility, it can now become a family vehicle.

A quick technical question about the all-wheel-drive system: is this a derivative of BMW’s x-drive or is it bespoke to the MINI brand?

It is not necessarily a direct derivative of the x-drive system, it is unique to MINI. Of course we’ve taken some lessons from the x-drive but it is an all-new chassis that is unique to MINI, and an all-wheel-drive system that is unique to MINI. It’s a chassis and all-wheel-drive system that we want to use on other vehicles because it is so great that we want to build on it now in other models.

Is it a 50:50 torque split or does it still send most of the power to the front wheels?

Regular day to day driving it is still sending the power to the front wheels however it is variable seamlessly and you will not notice the difference other than if you’re in slippery conditions the car just goes – it gets you out. The computers do everything for you, but also the four wheels can drive and in some cases it will actually send all the power to the rear if the front wheels are both slipping.

And the pricing in the Canadian market for the Countryman?

It starts off at 27,850.

And it tops out at?

Well, that’s up to you. There are eight different packages that you can put on the car and various other special options. MINI is about customization and you can really customize our cars. We’ve already had a few customers that have put just about everything into their Countryman; we’ll leave the price of that to your imagination.

Speaking of new cars to MINI, could you describe the Paceman concept car for us?

Well, the Paceman concept car is taking everything that is great about the Countryman, and now creating a coupe like version of that vehicle. So first and foremost it has two doors, it has a more sloped roofline in the rear, the rear is quite different. Obviously, MINI has always been known for its vertical headlights but the Paceman actually has horizontal headlights which is a first time for MINI. This gives the car a more sporty, more dynamic look at the rear of the vehicle. This particular vehicle in front of us has a 208 hp John Cooper Works engine and all-four all-wheel-drive and of course it has the same chassis as the one we’d find in the Countryman. It’s a very exiting car – it will be the seventh model in the MINI line-up after the coupe and the roadster which are not here today, but more information on those cars is coming.

Would it be fair to say that the Paceman is to the Countryman what the X6 is to the X5? Sort of a more coupe like, sportier version of an SAV?

Yes, that would be a good comparison… in a MINI kind of way!

John, let’s switch gears quickly and talk a little more about you: how long have you been with MINI Canada?

I’ve been with MINI Canada for a year and a half and I’ve been with BMW Group Canada for eleven years – so I’ve actually worked in various different roles in the organization from sales and marketing. Two years ago I took on the position of Director of MINI Canada.

What is your daily driver John?

Right now, because my cars tend to get borrowed a lot, I switch between a JCW hatch – it’s the new eclipse grey with the red roof – I wanted to be one of the first with that new roof on the JCW and we also have a Countryman all-four with JCW body work on it which is a really good looking car. It’s black with red stripes, JCW body kits all around and big JCW wheels as well – fitted with snow tires, of course!

And how are the JCW cars selling in the Canadian Market?

JCWs are clearly for the enthusiast. There are a lot of special bits and parts that go into a JCW that an enthusiast will appreciate. As an example: last year my favorite car was the 50th anniversary JCW special edition in connaught green with the pepper white roof. Only eight were built for Canada, 500 for the world, and all eight were sold immediately upon their arrival to Canada. The JCW brand is strong and there are a lot of passionate JCW fans out there. We’re quite happy with the performance of JCW.

John, thank you for joining us at BMWBLOG, we hope to speak with you again soon!

Please enjoy our live interview by listening below!