Don’t panic, I haven’t turned into a 1960’s tree-hugging hippie, however, it would appear that the Countryman version of the small car that arguably defined the swinging sixties, has become greener than ever. Yes the MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 now comes with a plug, and I got to test it out – sadly without an afghan coat.
Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter, and that’s what powers it. The hybrid system of the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is made up of a 3-cylinder petrol engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology and a synchronous electric motor. Together they generate a system output of 165kW, and enable the car to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds. However, equally important is the fact that this large Mini (yes I get the irony), consumes fuel at a rate of 2.4L/100km and only emits gases of 54g/km. How’s that for tree hugging!
It’s a rather clever powertrain set up too, as the traditional engine sends its power to the front wheels via a 6-speed Steptronic transmission, while the electric motor moves the rear wheels through a two-stage single-speed transmission. Smart technology takes care of the conversation between the two systems, creating an electrified all-wheel drive system (so you don’t have to) and in turn, makes this Mini SUV agile and yet stable on multiple terrains, even snow. So now you know.
Yes there is a new Countryman model on the way, but in the meantime, Mini have loaded this model with a raft of treats, inside and out. The exterior sets itself apart from its siblings with things like an ‘E’ emblem on both the grille and side scuttles as well as door sill finishers with a yellow ‘S’ logo. Added to this, the CountrEman sits on 17-inch alloy wheels in a design that’s exclusive to the model.
There are more hybrid-specific accents on the interior too, such as eDRIVE toggle switch plus a three-spoke sports steering wheel, leather seats and a 6.5-inch on-board computer in the central instrument cluster, but it’s also every bit as practical, with a luggage space of 405L litres, which can be extended to as much as 1,275L with the rear backrests folded down.
Getting behind the wheel of the electrified Countryman is a familiar experience, it’s all very Mini-fied, just with more room, the big difference coming when you push down on the Start/Stop toggle below the infotainment screen, nothing happens, well nothing audible anyway.
Basically, when setting off, the Mini SUV relies on the electric motor initially, meaning a virtually noiseless start but more interesting for me was that all the Mini’s 385 Nm of torque is immediately available (it’s only when you get to 80 km/h that the 3-cylinder joins in the fun), and hence the hot hatch 0-100 time.
It’s worth pointing out that if ‘EV only’ is your thing, you can mess with the eDRIVE toggle switch (beside the Start/Stop) and continue to drive with the pure electric power (MAX eDRIVE mode) all the way up to 125 km/h, however, the electric-only range of this PHEV is 40 km.
For those interested, the PHEV’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery is located underneath the rear seat, so weight-wise low and central and can be charged via a household socket or more powerful Wallbox, with charging taking just a mere 2-3 hours.
Then there’s the ride. Despite the Countryman’s compact SUV appeal, the chassis and suspension combination is unmistakably Mini. Not quite as go-karty as a three-door Cooper S, but almost firm enough to spill your fish and chips and certainly strong enough to make avoiding potholes a priority. The steering is heavy too, so my recommendation is not to skip arm day at the gym.
Now both of the above comments may sound like a gripe, but to me, much to the contrary, as I personally like a vehicle to be stoic in its handling, and when you add the weight of the 10kWh battery to the already low centre of gravity, you get an SUV that’s as playful as it is practical.
And practical it is, I was lucky enough to have guests during my time with the Countryman PHEV and not only did it accommodate five of us with (relative) ease, but the frugalness of the motor meant that I happily became their Auckland tour guide, topping up for free at the Sylvia Park mall was a real bonus.
Admittedly Mini’s have grown in size since the sixties (haven’t we all), but the Countryman PHEV does seem to take its road presence to another level, plus it’s so much more fuel-efficient and tighter on its emissions then it’s ever been. So for those looking for a traditional Mini experience, but also want more space and have an environmental conscience, the Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 PHEV does seem to have it ALL – man.