Review: Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4

Review: Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4
Review: Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4

The plug-in Mini you can buy today

The Mini Countryman Cooper S E-All4 is a bit of a mouthful to say, but is nevertheless a significant car: it’s the first plug-in hybrid electric-drive Mini. Capable of running as a pure electric car with an engine on board for longer trips, it compete with other PHEVs such as the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Audi A3 e-tron and Toyota Prius Plug-in.

Unlike those other cars, the Countryman Cooper S E All4 has an extra dimension – a bit of crossover style to it, courtesy of a raised ride height and driving position, ably backed up by four-wheel drive. The rear axle is driven by electric, an 87bhp motor that backs up the 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine driving the front wheels.

This adds up to impressive power and torque figures: 221bhp and 284lb ft of torque. However, the 7.6kWh lithium ion battery also makes it heavy, weighing 200kg more than a standard Countryman, itself hardly a light car.

Mini Countryman SE

It doesn’t feel too heavy at first though. The direct-drive rear electric motor gives it very strong throttle response, surging at the merest brush of the accelerator. It backs up this lack of hesitancy with an excellent 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds, and is as fast as a hot hatch for in-gear acceleration. Trouble is, the motor shuts down at higher speeds: without it, the Mini feels much heavier.

And while handling isn’t bad, it doesn’t have the sharpness a keen driver may look for in a Mini through corners. The batteries actually make it better-balanced than a standard Countryman, but fuel-efficient tyres have an impact on overall grip and it lacks bite, particularly in the wet. Its limits are not as high as a standard model – although the extra weight of the batteries does improve the ride.

There are several driving modes: Auto eDrive tries to keep the petrol engine off as much as possible in real-world driving, while Max eDrive shuts it down entirely until you either hit 78mph or the batteries run flat. A Save button stores electricity in the batteries so you can use it later; great for guilt-free driving in the city.

Mini Countryman SE

And what about the thing you really want to know about, fuel economy? Well, if you do short trips on a full battery and recharge it all the time, you’ll naturally use almost no fuel. But this isn’t fully representative. So we tried it on a mixed run, starting with a flat battery – and returned just under 50mpg. And how far can you go on full batteries before the engine starts? Around 22 miles, we reckon. Not bad then – and although it’s expensive to buy, at more than £31,500, ultra-low emissions will save a 40 percent tax-paying company car driver a whopping £130 a month. Not to be sniffed at.

What about the rest of it? You’ll be hard pushed to tell the Cooper S E All4 apart from a normal Countryman inside. The boot is a bit smaller, but still decent, and although the rear seats are mounted a bit higher (and no longer slide), this is hardly disastrous. Up front, the driver has an identical dashboard, with a premium feel, and even the instruments are all bit identical – the only difference is swapping the regular rev counter for a power meter.

Arguably, this isn’t quite enough: rivals have more ways of monitoring power flow, which helps you drive them more efficiently. The Mini lacks this functionality, which is a pity.

Overall, it’s perhaps a bit of a mixed bag, although there’s no denying the Countryman Cooper S E All4 still has appeal. It’s different to its more straight-laced PHEV rivals, and is interesting to drive, particularly as a shorter-range EV. However, press it harder and its limitations show through, both as a hybrid and as a driver’s car. It’s decent, then, but we’d still rather have a Volkswagen Golf GTE…

Mini Countryman SE

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