MINI joins the hy­brid party with a fine start

South Wales Echo - - MOTORS -

IT’S taken a while, but MINI has joined the hy­brid party with its first-ever plug-in hy­brid model.

With all the talk of phas­ing out of fos­sil fu­els, the hy­brid of­fers pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion of per­for­mance and econ­omy.

It fea­tures a lively 1.5-litre three cylin­der en­gine mated with a pow­er­ful lithium-ion bat­tery, it­self with an im­pres­sive 88bhp to pro­duce a com­bined 224bhp.

MINI says the car can be driven at speeds of up to 78mph with a range of 26 miles on bat­tery power only.

This de­liv­ers a nom­i­nal 134mpg ca­pa­bil­ity but only when driven un­der strin­gent con­di­tions, but nearer 60mpg is still pretty ef­fi­cient and that’s a fair real world fig­ure.

It is fa­cil­i­tated by the four-wheel drive sys­tem where the front wheels are pow­ered by the petrol en­gine and the rear wheels by the elec­tric mo­tor.

This means the car can run on elec­tric­ity alone not just in ur­ban traf­fic, but for longer dis­tances too, but draw­ing on the power of both drive forms when nec­es­sary.

The bat­tery which sits un­der the rear seats can be charged in just over three hours via a house­hold mains elec­tric­ity socket or two and half hours by a be­spoke wall charger unit.

Charg­ing can also take place at the slowly grow­ing num­ber of park­ing/ charg­ing points through­out the UK. As ever, charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture re­mains an ob­sta­cle to elec­tri­cally-pow­ered ve­hi­cles.

It doesn’t lack per­for­mance and if the Cooper S brand­ing is slightly mis­lead­ing, it still has hot hatch ca­pa­bil­ity.

Floor the pedal and the car can hit 62mph in 6.8 sec­onds while spit­ting out just 49g/km of CO2, lively per­for­mance and still en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. Run on elec­tric only and tailpipe emis­sions fall to zero.

There is no vis­i­ble com­pro­mise with styling either, al­though boot space is more lim­ited to ac­com­mo­date the bat­tery and the car is heav­ier than non­hy­brid ver­sions.

It still looks the part, all mus­cu­lar styling with smart lights, al­loys, roof bars and tinted glass.

Inside it has a proper ex­ec­u­tive feel, with high qual­ity fix­tures and fit­ting, soft touch ma­te­rial and chrome de­tail­ing.

The sig­na­ture tog­gle switches and din­ner plate-sized cen­tral dial re­mains. It houses the touch screen which in turn houses the sat nav, and other ma­jor ma­jor fea­tures.

As with most hy­brids, screen dis­plays in­form the driver of how ef­fi­ciently the car is be­ing pow­ered at any par­tic­u­lar time.

Space is good, af­ter all this is a maxi Mini. Four adults are seatsed in com­fort with good head­room all round, while boot space of 405 litres opens up to 1,275 with the rear seats folded.

On the road are three drive modes, Auto eDRIVE, Max eDrive and SAVE BAT­TERY.

Auto al­lows purely elec­tric driv­ing up to 50 mph when the petrol en­gine is au­to­mat­i­cally kicked in when ac­cel­er­at­ing quickly or when the bat­tery charge falls be­low seven per cent.

The max set­ting is purely elec­tric driv­ing up to 78 mph, the en­gine is ad­di­tion­ally en­abled at higher speeds or on kick­down, while save bat­tery, as the name im­plies, the car is pow­ered by the petrol en­gine.

Auto mode is per­haps the best un­less you are tootling about around town and can man­age on elec­tric power alone.

But ths also al­lows the com­bined power units, mated to the six-speed Step­tronic gearchange to give the driver a re­ally en­gag­ing driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with brisk ac­cel­er­a­tion and ex­cel­lent han­dling.

With the power on, the in­tel­li­gent all wheel drive means the car feels sure­footed and ag­ile

The Coun­try­man is the big­gest MINI in the range and in my view the best.

It could eas­ily be de­scribed as a multi-pur­pose cross­over, while still main­tain­ing the funky and sporty styling it is famed for.

Big­ger and more ef­fi­cient and not cheap, but the MINI magic still en­thralls buy­ers.

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