As you may have guessed from the ‘E’ in its name, the Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 is a partially electrified version of this small SUV. A battery pack now lives under the rear seats and boot floor and a powerful electric motor drives the rear wheels.
That battery can be charged from the mains and gives an electric-only range of up to 26 miles. For longer journeys, there’s a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine from the regular Countryman Cooper. Combined, these power sources are good for an official fuel economy figure of 134.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 49g/km.
Just to tempt you even further, you’ll be able to buy one of these in June for less than £30,000 after a £2500 government grant. Given the huge tax savings for business users and potential fuel savings for private buyers, we have to take a closer look.
What's the 2017 Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 like to drive?
With a full charge in its belly, the Countryman certainly appeals when driven in the city. In pure electric mode, it pulls away briskly yet quietly and proves more than capable of keeping pace with traffic. There's some regenerative braking when you come off the throttle to help charge the batteries, the result being that you use the foot brake less than you would in a conventional car.
A light right foot and a smooth driving style are key to getting the best out of the battery, though. Repeated hard acceleration soon has the range dropping like a stone, forcing the petrol motor to kick in, although at least the engine starts smoothly and transmits little to no vibration through the controls. Only some hesitation in all but Sport mode when you call on full power disappoints.
With the hybrid system adding around 130kg to the weight of the Countryman, acceleration is blunted at higher speeds, but the car is certainly quick enough up to around 50mph.
The added flab also has an effect on the car's handling. Although the PHEV is more balanced than the regular Countryman and less likely to run wide at the front, the downside is that you feel that additional weight every time you try to change direction quickly.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make the ride any better than the standard car. Even on smooth roads, the Countryman picks up surface imperfections and never fully settles down. At least the steering feels slightly less nervous than that of other Countryman models we’ve driven.
What's the 2017 Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 like inside?
Inside, there are new displays in the infotainment system to show what the hybrid system is up to and a few yellow trim highlights. More importantly, the battery pack has forced the rear seat base up by a couple of centimetres and means it can’t slide backwards and forwards. The boot floor is higher, too, reducing carrying capacity by 45 litres.
Even so, there’s a decent amount of rear head room, plenty of rear leg room and enough luggage space for a family’s weekly shop. Fold the seats down and there's enough space for you to cart a fair amount of flatpack furniture.
Like other Minis, interior quality impresses with plenty of soft-touch plastics, attractive trims and metal toggle switches in front of the gearlever. Cheaper materials are well hidden and the design leaves you in no doubt as to what make of car you're driving.
Should I buy one?
As with all plug-in hybrids, you have to fit a very specific set of parameters for the Countryman E to make sense. If you do lots of short journeys and can charge it regularly, you could run it in electric mode most of the time, saving money. It will also be kind to the pockets of business users, thanks to the tiny tax burden it carries.
If, however, you do lots of longer journeys, a diesel Countryman makes more sense. Once out of electric range, the fuel consumption increases to a point that the PHEV is less efficient than any regular Countryman. Even ignoring this, there are cheaper, better equipped and more spacious small SUVs out there you should consider first.
Article & Pictures By What Car
Engine size 1.5 turbo petrol, with electric motor
Price £31,585 (before £2500 government grant)
Torque 284lb ft
Top speed 123mph
Gov't economy 134.5mpg
CO2/tax band 49g/km/9%
Insurance group 26
On sale June