MINI Coun­try­man S E

MINI’S first PHEV makes some im­pres­sive claims, but can it back them up when it comes to our test?

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THE Coun­try­man S E is MINI’S first plug-in hy­brid. With a 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylin­der petrol en­gine mated to an 87bhp elec­tric mo­tor, the £29,075 S E ALL4 of­fers sur­pris­ing pace, all-wheel drive and im­pres­sive claims of up to 134.5mpg. Can it de­liver on its on-pa­per prom­ises?

DE­SIGN & ENGI­NEER­ING

THE ad­di­tion of a pricier plug-in hy­brid to the Coun­try­man range broad­ens the ap­peal of MINI’S com­pact SUV range, but the petrol-elec­tric pow­er­train, elec­tric four-wheel drive and off-roader body put it in the fir­ing line of the Mit­subishi Out­lander.

MINI is ex­plic­itly ref­er­enc­ing this car as a tar­get. With the firm’s UKL2 plat­form un­derneath, the growth in the Coun­try­man’s chas­sis for this sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion model means it’s now big­ger and more prac­ti­cal (3cm longer than the Golf, but nearly 40cm shorter than the Out­lander). How­ever, the growth in in­te­rior space means the bat­tery pack has a min­i­mal im­pact on the MINI’S prac­ti­cal­ity.

The Coun­try­man’s petrol en­gine pow­ers the front wheels, while the rear-mounted elec­tric mo­tor sends power to the back axle, hence the ‘ALL4’ tag.

In Max e-drive mode, which op­er­ates on elec­tric power only up to 78mph if there’s enough charge, it tech­ni­cally also be­comes MINI’S first rear-wheel-drive model, too.

The lithium-ion bat­tery mean it’s 130kg heav­ier than an equiv­a­lent Cooper S All4, but, as with the reg­u­lar car, qual­ity is ex­cel­lent, and fit and fin­ish match the Golf ’s over­all. Equip­ment specs in this stand­alone model are good, too, be­cause sat-nav, park­ing sen­sors, cruise con­trol, Blue­tooth and DAB,

pow­eredɃ4l4l are stan­dard, although op­tions are ex­pen­sive. DRIV­ING

score THE Coun­try­man S E might be heav­ier than con­ven­tion­ally mod­els, but it re­tains that sense of fun that has been a MINI trait for years. Still, that 1,735kg kerb­weight means the MINI isn’t as ag­ile as the Golf.

The steer­ing is quick and with plenty of grip turn-in is pos­i­tive – plus the elec­tric four-wheeldrive sys­tem gives good trac­tion and you can feel the sub­tle boost from the mo­tor un­der full throt­tle.

On test the Coun­try­man served up an im­pres­sive 0-60mph time, tak­ing just 6.4 sec­onds to cover the sprint. It’s helped by the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion that shifts smoothly and con­trib­utes to the over­all re­lax­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on the move.

In gear, the in­stant torque from the elec­tric mo­tor gave ex­cel­lent re­sponse as the MINI ac­cel­er­ated be­tween 30 and 50mph in fourth in 3.1 sec­onds, while there’s plenty of urge to roll along in EV mode.

You get some three-cylin­der thrum from un­der the bon­net when the en­gine kicks in, but the car is rel­a­tively re­fined at speed. How­ever, the chas­sis has been stiff­ened to cope with the ex­tra weight of the bat­tery pack, so the Coun­try­man doesn’t float over bumps with as much com­po­sure as the reg­u­lar car.

Push harder and the ex­tra weight is no­tice­able through the looser body con­trol as the dampers strug­gle to con­trol the mass. It’s a fair match for the Golf, how­ever, and is far more com­posed and fun than the Out­lander. You can also tweak the drive modes for ex­tra ef­fi­ciency or a sportier feel; the lat­ter adds weight to the steer­ing, but the de­fault mode is best. An area where the Coun­try­man scores well is its brakes. Pedal feel on th­ese re­gen­er­a­tive set-ups can be vague, and although the MINI isn’t per­fect, it’s one of the bet­ter ones we’ve tested.

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

THE sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Coun­try­man’s broader di­men­sions mean that, for the first time, it can be con­sid­ered along­side proper fam­ily SUVS when it comes to us­abil­ity.

At 405 litres, its boot is much larger than the Golf ’s 272 litres and al­most a match for the big­ger Out­lander’s 463-litre load bay. How­ever, there are some sac­ri­fices to be made for the hy­brid – the big­gest be­ing the small fuel tank, which im­pacts the to­tal range – while the boot is 45 litres less than the reg­u­lar Coun­try­man’s. In re­al­ity, it makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence as the lug­gage area is still prac­ti­cal enough for even long jour­neys loaded up with lug­gage.

Leg and head­room in the rear are good, de­spite the bench be­ing raised to ac­com­mo­date the elec­tric mo­tor. Charg­ing is also a big part of own­ing a PHEV. The MINI’S 6.1kwh bat­tery can be fully charged in 2.5 hours us­ing a home wall­box, which gives a re­spectable 26-mile all-elec­tric range.

OWN­ER­SHIP

THE MINI in­her­its the reg­u­lar Coun­try­man’s full five-star Euro NCAP rat­ing, with safety kit such as au­tonomous brak­ing and col­li­sion warn­ing both stan­dard.

You can up­grade your Coun­try­man with items such as adap­tive cruise con­trol and high-beam as­sist as part of the £810 Driv­ing As­sis­tant pack. As a pre­mium mar­que, MINI im­proved its plac­ing in our 2017 Driver Power owner sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey, fin­ish­ing eighth.

RUN­NING COSTS

THE MINI’S tax-beat­ing CO2 emis­sions fig­ure of 49g/km is a big draw for fleet and busi­ness users, with a 9 per cent Ben­e­fit in Kind (BIK) rate.

All three mod­els at­tract the same com­pany car tax rate, so as the cheap­est on the test, the Coun­try­man will be the best for busi­ness users. It’ll cost high­er­rate taxpay­ers £1,045 a year; this is only £20 cheaper than the Golf but £98 less than the Mit­subishi.

How­ever, as with the oth­ers there’s less in­cen­tive to go plug-in on the 2017 road tax rules; all three cars fall into the £130-a-year hy­brid flat rate.

REAR Space still good de­spite elec­tric mo­tor be­neath the seat

Full charge takes just 2.5 hours and gives 26-mile elec­tric range

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