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