COUN­TRY­MAN ALL4 LAUNCHES MINI’S FIRST DRIVE DOWN ELEC­TRIC AV­ENUE

As the clam­our for elec­tric and hybrid elec­tric mo­tor­ing grows, Jack Evans try out Mini’s new petrol­elec­tric hybrid, the first from the man­u­fac­turer

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE JACK EVANS

MINI COOPER S E COUN­TRY­MAN ALL4

WHAT’S NEW?

With diesel cars very much in the head­lines at the moment – for all the wrong rea­sons - it’s un­der­stand­able man­u­fac­tur­ers are bring­ing more al­ter­na­tively-fu­elled op­tions to mar­ket. Here’s Mini’s of­fer­ing. Pow­ered by a three-cylin­der petrol en­gine cou­pled to an elec­tric mo­tor, it’s ca­pa­ble of a claimed 134.5mpg and should be able to run on all-elec­tric for up to 25 miles at speeds of up to 78mph. It’s a car for those who want to keep run­ning costs down, and all for a smidge un­der £30,000.

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

The ex­te­rior re­mains rel­a­tively un­changed from the stan­dard Coun­try- man. Its chunky styling and over­sized light units re­main, sup­ple­mented by large yel­low E badges on the car’s flanks and on its boot. In truth, it looks like any other Coun­try­man – but that’s no bad thing.

Mini’s im­age is rid­ing high at the moment, with all of the cars in its range ex­hibit­ing the build qual­ity and look that buy­ers want in this pre­mium price bracket. The Cooper S E is no dif­fer­ent; inside and out, it feels solidly built and smartly de­signed.

Inside, the changes are even less vis­i­ble. The starter but­ton in the cen­tre of the dash­board, while usu­ally red has now been changed to yel­low, mir­ror­ing the styling touches on the ex­te­rior. SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY You could be fooled into think­ing that be­cause it is fit­ted with an elec­tric mo­tor and bat­ter­ies placed un­der­neath the boot floor, the Cooper S E Coun­try­man ALL4 would be lack­ing in lug­gage space. How­ever, it’s got a lot more to of­fer than you’d think. With a seats-up load area of 405 litres, there’s more than enough room for a few week­end bags. This area can be in­creased in size by low­er­ing the rear seats, push­ing ca­pac­ity to a re­spectable 1,275 litres.

There’s plenty of space in the cabin, too. Those sit­ting up front are treated to a good amount of head­room and shoul­der room, while there shouldn’t be too

many com­plaints from those sat in the back, either. The cabin can feel a lit­tle dark at times, though this can be helped by spec­i­fy­ing the op­tional panoramic sun­roof.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

The most no­tice­able thing when you first set off in the Cooper S E Coun­try­man ALL4 is its eerie si­lence. The car will set off us­ing all-elec­tric power and can con­tinue do­ing so, Mini claims, for about 25 miles at speeds of up to 78mph.

This means that zero-emis­sions driv­ing isn’t just re­stricted to ur­ban ar­eas. Thanks to three sep­a­rate driv­ing modes, how­ever, you can spec­ify how and when you’d like that elec­tric power to come in.

By se­lect­ing Auto edrive, the car al­lows for all-elec­tric driv­ing up to speeds of 50mph. The petrol is used in this mode only when it’s needed, such as un­der heavy ac­cel­er­a­tion or when the bat­tery’s charge drops too low. In Max edrive mode, all-elec­tric driv­ing is avail­able up to 78mph, and the com­bus­tion en­gine is used, again, when ac­cel­er­at­ing hard.

Fi­nally, the save bat­tery mode uses the petrol en­gine alone. Se­lect­ing this mode means that you’re able to save bat­tery charge for later. This is ideal for those driv­ers who have to go through ur­ban ar­eas af­ter a longer jour­ney on mo­tor­ways or out-of-town roads. Switch­ing be­tween the three while mov­ing does im­part quite a change upon the car, though we found Auto edrive the most use­ful mode over­all.

Else­where, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is much like any other Mini. There’s lit­tle way to tell of the ex­tra weight im­parted into the car’s over­all mass by the bat­ter­ies on board, while its four-wheel-drive sys­tem means there’s plenty of grip at all times.

The six-speed au­to­matic gear­box has a ten­dency to shift mid-cor­ner at times, but for the most part, goes through the gears well enough. The steer­ing has a good amount of weight to it and, though lack­ing any real feel, is ac­cu­rate enough to al­low you to place the car where you want it on the road.

How­ever, de­spite hav­ing sim­i­lar per­for­mance fig­ures as the petrol-pow­ered Cooper S, the E sim­ply doesn’t feel as keen un­der heavy ac­cel­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially when fac­ing a gra­di­ent.

With charg­ing times, Mini claims it’ll take two and a half hours to re­plen­ish the car’s bat­tery via a higher-out­put wall socket. When charg­ing through a con­ven­tional do­mes­tic socket, this time rises to three hours and fif­teen min­utes.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The Mini Cooper S E Coun­try­man ALL4 is priced at £31,585. How­ever, it qual­i­fies for the govern­ment’s plug-in grant of £2,500, of­fer­ing a size­able in­cen­tive to those who are think­ing of buy­ing it. For the amount, you get satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion as stan­dard, as well as Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and cruise con­trol.

Also, be­cause the Mini emits just 52g/km CO2, tax­a­tion costs will be much lower than with a tra­di­tion­ally pow­ered hatch.

As al­ways, there’s a size­able op­tional ex­tras list on the Coun­try­man, with high­lights such as wire­less tele­phone charg­ing and a larger satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion screen im­prov­ing the car’s over­all feel, but adding con­sid­er­ably to its price.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

The Coun­try­man S E Hybrid is ideal for those who want all the looks and charm of a nor­mal Mini, but with bet­ter econ­omy fig­ures than even the diesel-pow­ered cars can of­fer. It’s good look­ing, well made inside and sur­pris­ingly good to drive, while all of this is backed up by im­pres­sive ef­fi­ciency.

For those who are mainly driv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas, it makes sense to choose the Coun­try­man S E Hybrid.

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