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First drive: MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Image by MINI.

First drive: MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4
MINI goes electric with its first plug-in hybrid model, based on the new Countryman.

 



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MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4

4 4 4 4 4

Joining the range of Countryman models is MINI's first plug-in hybrid model, called the Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Not only does it promise low emissions and the potential for impressively low fuel consumption, it still drives with just a much vim as other cars from the MINI stable.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4
Pricing: 31,585
Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with synchronous electric motor
Transmission: six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat crossover
CO2 emissions: 49g/km (10 for first year, 130 thereafter)
Combined economy: 134.5mpg
Top speed: 123mph
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Power: 224hp combined system
Torque: 385Nm combined system
Boot space: 405 litres (seats up), 1,275 litres (seats down)

What's this?

MINI has become the latest car maker to introduce a plug-in hybrid crossover. Officially, this is MINI's first series production 'electric vehicle'. There was the MINI E, which debuted in 2008 and ran as part of a research project, but of the 730 or so cars it produced, all have either been recycled or are back in BMW Group's possession. There are reminders of that car in this new Cooper S E Countryman though, namely the yellow accenting given to the 'S' badging on the front grille, boot lid and kick plates on the sills. Then there are the side scuttles that are finished in a slightly tacky looking black and chrome plastic and come adorned with the E symbol.

Like other plug-in hybrid BMWs, the battery charging port is on the front left side. Charging via a 3.7kW public charge point or domestic wall box can be completed in a little as 2.5 hours. Failing that, even connecting to a household three-pin plug tops up the battery is about 3.25 hours. With a full battery, MINI claims the Countryman is capable of driving up to 26 miles on electric power alone and after that the 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine can take over.

Only minor changes to the interior differentiate this from other Countryman models. As the battery is housed beneath the rear seats, headroom is slightly reduced, though with as is a tall crossover, only the most long-legged of rear passengers should notice. The battery also takes a bite out of the boot space, which decreases from 450- to 405 litres. It is still possible to fold the rear seats down, increasing cargo capacity to 1,275 litres.

How does it drive?

In all, there are three eDrive modes to choose from, and Auto eDrive is the default setting when you start the car. If the battery capacity is anywhere from full down to seven per cent, this will use electric power to propel the car where possible. The on-board systems work to optimise the power delivery, using the petrol engine that drives the front wheels, when needed or when the speed exceeds 50mph in this mode. In most scenarios you won't notice the changeover happening between the different motors, as even the combustion engine is well insulated. As with most EVs, the Countryman feels nippy when driving under battery power thanks to the instantaneous torque. Even though the overall weight is a substantial 1,660kg, it hides it well. With the 88hp electric motor driving the rear wheels and providing all of its 165Nm of torque from rest, the Countryman scythes through traffic with ease.

Out of town and on more challenging roads the MINI turns into a surprisingly fun car to drive. Even with that added weight, it permits you to exploit its all-wheel-drive traction through the bends. With a 46:54 nose-to-tail weight distribution the front isn't overcome when turning into a corner and with that added electrically-assisted shove from the rear axle, the Countryman powers out of corners without ever seeming to deviate from your chosen line. The ride is a touch firmer to compensate for the heavier weight, but it still feels supple over bumps.

The Max eDrive function uses battery power exclusively, and will only revert to the petrol engine when the throttle is firmly pressed. Unlike some EVs, the Countryman feels rock solid over bumps, highlighting the high build quality. Providing you have enough battery capacity you can take the Countryman up to 77mph in Max eDrive mode, although your range won't last too long at that speed.

Should you need to retain the charge, say before entering a zero-emissions area or congestion zone, the Save Battery function puts the petrol motor in charge and employs the starter generator to recharge the battery. It can do so up to 90 per cent of the battery's capacity and will do it in a reasonably short space of time depending on your driving style. This setting is a useful feature, but it will see your fuel economy take a dent, naturally.

Verdict

As PHEVs go, this variant of the MINI Countryman is one of the most entertaining to drive. With a reasonable electric driving range and short charging times, not to mention reduced running costs, this offers bags more appeal than most other plug-in hybrids on the market. MINI has done an impressive job in applying plug-in hybrid technology without interfering with what so many of its cars are known for - driving fun.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 8 May 2017









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2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.

2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.2017 MINI Cooper S E Countryman hybrid. Image by MINI.








 

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