Skip advert
Advertisement

MINI Countryman review: ‘maxi’ on fun, ‘mini’ on range

The first electric MINI Countryman is good to drive and has a superb tech offering, though some rivals offer more range

MINI Countryman verdict

The MINI Countryman may have grown up as a result of its transition to electric power, but it still fizzes with the same youthful joy that emanates from other models in the brand’s range. Despite weighing roughly two-tonnes, the Countryman feels as zippy as ever to drive, while also maintaining refined and comfortable road manners. Some may call them a gimmick, but our inner seven-year old cannot help but adore the Countryman’s configurable ‘Experience Modes’, which ultimately make other so-called ‘family’ SUVs feel boring in comparison. We wish it had just a bit more range and there are more spacious options out there, but few models can excite several family generations in such varying ways quite like the electric Countryman.

Details, specs and alternatives

The MINI Countryman has gone electric; the previous-generation model was offered in both petrol and plug-in hybrid form, and while this latest version is still available with a combustion engine, it’s the zero-emissions model we’ll be focusing on here.

Advertisement - Article continues below

A fact that has long aggravated the Mini purists is that the Countryman has never been a particularly small car. Well, it has grown again on its evolution to electric power, although only slightly. It’s now based on the same underpinnings as the BMW iX1, and thus faces competition from the likes of the Audi Q4 e-tron, Genesis GV60, Volkswagen ID.4 and Tesla Model Y in the mid-size electric SUV class.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Unfortunately for the MINI, using the iX1’s powertrain leaves it a tad outgunned from the offset; base MINI Countryman E models get a single 201bhp electric motor to power the front wheels, while Countryman SE examples get a twin-motor setup for four-wheel drive with as much as 308bhp. Both powertrains should provide more than enough poke for most, but aren’t really the core issue.

That comes in the form of the Countryman (and the iX1’s) standard-fit 64.8kWh battery, which only provides a range of up to 286 miles – more on why this is a problem, later. Thankfully, MINI says all electric Countryman models can be charged from 10-80% in under half an hour at a public chargepoint, which should make longer journeys easier to stomach.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Like the smaller MINI Cooper Electric, both E and SE versions of the zero-emissions MINI Countryman will be offered in three trim levels: Classic, Exclusive and Sport. In truth, even the base MINI Countryman Classic model comes equipped with all the necessities, with LED exterior lighting, alloy wheels, a circular OLED screen, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring and a reversing camera all standard fare.

The changes if you choose to step up to either the Exclusive or Sport models are largely cosmetic, with Exclusive cars getting bronze exterior accents, Vescin vegan leather upholstery and a snazzy houndstooth fabric dashboard. Sport cars get a John Cooper Works-inspired bodykit, red accents, black and red sports seats and upgraded brakes.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

One thing worth noting is that MINI offers the Countryman with a trio of option packs, each successive one with an increased level of equipment. We recommend upgrading to the Level 1 package (£1,700) as this brings a pop-up head-up display – handy, given the Countryman doesn’t get a dedicated gauge cluster – adaptive LED headlights, power-folding mirrors, a wireless phone charger and heated front seats.

Advertisement - Article continues below

There’s also the Level 2 and Level 3 packs, which bring things like adaptive cruise control, a panoramic glass sunroof, tinted rear windows, electric front seats, an upgraded Harman Kardon sound system and a 360-degree camera setup. We’d save the money and stick to the Level 1, though, unless you plan to do lots of motorway stints and would like the adaptive cruise control, brought about by the Level 2 pack.

Range, battery size & charging

Model

Range

Wallbox charge time

Rapid charge

E

286 miles

6.5hrs (0-100%, 11kW)

29mins (10-80%, 130kW)

SE

266 miles

6.5hrs (0-100%, 11kW)

29mins (10-80%, 130kW)

As mentioned, the only battery option available to MINI Countryman Electric buyers is a 64.8kWh unit that’s shared with the BMW iX1 and provides a range of up to 286 miles, depending on specification. Don’t get us wrong, this should be more than enough for daily driving, but nearly all of the MINI’s rivals can cover over 300 miles on a single charge – even including the much-cheaper Hyundai Kona Electric.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Of course, these official range figures are almost always a best-case scenario; we’ll provide our own real-world test figures when we get to drive the MINI Countryman for a little longer back home on UK soil.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Both the MINI Countryman E and SE get a maximum DC rapid charging speed of 130kW which, according to the British-German brand, is sufficient for a 10-80% top-up in under half-an-hour, provided you find a suitable public charger. Cars with the Level 3 option pack also get 22kW AC charging (other Countryman models max out at 11kW), however, most UK homes don’t have the three-phase electrics to make use of this.

Running costs & insurance

The MINI Countryman occupies a relatively odd position in the electric family SUV market as it’s somewhat less premium than its sibling, the BMW iX1, but it’s certainly more desirable than something like a Kia Niro EV; it’s more in-line with cars like the Volkswagen ID.4 and Tesla Model Y, in this regard and is priced accordingly.

Insurance groups have yet to be announced but the iX1 isn’t overly eye-watering to insure – especially in single-motor guise and when compared to the aforementioned Tesla – so unless you’re a high-risk driver or one without any no-claims bonus, we doubt your quoted insurance premium will be any more shocking than if you were to opt for anything else.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The real savings, however, will come to those planning to run the Countryman as a company car; given its zero-emissions status, the MINI occupies the lowest 2% Benefit-in-Kind company car tax bracket. It’s zero-rated for VED (road tax) until next year, too, and charging the Countryman at home via a wallbox should be much cheaper than filling up the petrol equivalent with fossil fuels.

Performance, motor & drive

Model

0-62mph

Top speed

Driven wheels

Power

E

8.6s

TBC

Front

201bhp

SE

5.6s

112mph

Four

308bhp

The old petrol and plug-in hybrid MINI Countryman was one of the most enjoyable cars to drive in its class, so has the new electric continued this trend? Well, we’re pleased to say that this is mostly the case; the Countryman electric boasts quick – if not quite as darty as smaller MINI models – steering, as well as tight body control which makes it as much of a delight to drive on a twisty road as nipping in-between traffic in-and-around town.

Of course, this is ultimately a car that weighs-in at around two tonnes, so the engineers at MINI have had to make some compromises. The ride is somewhat firm – especially on larger wheels – however, we actually find it to be a lot more compliant and composed than on the supposedly more-premium BMW iX1. There is a little more wind noise than we’d like, though, which is no-doubt generated by the Countryman’s thick A-pillars.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Thus far we’ve only driven the dual-motor MINI Countryman SE, which offers brisk performance and plenty of grip from the four-wheel drive system. However, while we are yet to try the front-driven Countryman E, we reckon this will represent the sweet spot in the line-up. Its 8.6-second 0-62mph time is nothing to be sniffed at and should provide sufficient punch at lower speeds – a characteristic of most EVs. It also benefits from a longer range, too, something that cannot be ignored by the somewhat short legs of this particular model compared with its rivals.

One thing we must mention in this section is the MINI Countryman’s array of ‘Experience Modes’. These are very similar to the traditional drive modes you’ll find in the majority of EVs, but take things one step further by changing things like the ambient lighting, the appearance of the infotainment system and even the sound being projected through the speakers. A particular highlight is the ‘Timeless’ mode which aims to replicate the sound and appearance of a classic Mini, but it’s also worth mentioning that the Countryman gets its own specific ‘Trail Mode’ which emphasises the sat nav, as well as providing compass directions and your current elevation.

Interior, dashboard & infotainment

The MINI Countryman shares its general interior layout with the smaller MINI Cooper hatchback, which in and of itself marks a large departure from the brand’s old interior design philosophy. The name of the game is now ‘minimalism’, with very few buttons, aside from some aeroplane-style small toggle switches on the centre console.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

MINI has long been positioned as a premium brand and the Countryman’s cabin feels suitably upmarket; we love the fabric dashboard which has not only been constructed using sustainable fibres, but looks much better than swathes of hard plastic. The overall aesthetic may not be to the more conservative among us’ tastes, but it suits the fun and modern theme of the MINI brand and has a lot in terms of scope for customisation, thanks to swathes of configurable ambient lighting, as well as the aforementioned Experience Modes.

Speaking of which, these are all accessed via a frankly glorious circular OLED touchscreen. Reminiscent of the old circular Mini speedometers of the past, this display is virtually like nothing else on the market right now, offering bright colours thanks to OLED technology and sharp responses.

It’s absolutely packed with features, too; be that a virtual assistant in the form of a dog called Spike or even video games. We also like how the Apple CarPlay interface seamlessly integrates into the round shape of the display — unfortunately, Android Auto users have to make-do with a squared-off screen with the edges of the display just in black.

Advertisement - Article continues below

One thing worth noting is that the MINI Countryman doesn’t come as standard with a gauge cluster for the driver; your current speed is displayed at the top of the touchscreen — just like in the Tesla Model Y. This is not quite as annoying as you might expect, although we do occasionally find ourselves drifting over/under the speed limit given the relevant information isn’t directly in our line of sight. A pop-up head-up display as part of the Level 1 option package resolves this issue.

Boot space, seating & practicality

Length

Width

Height

Boot space (seats up/down)

4,445mm

1,843mm

1,635mm

460/1,450 litres

Don’t let the MINI name fool you; the Countryman is a practical family SUV with more than enough space for most buyers. The tall roofline means even adults can sit in the back with no issue and we like how the rear seats can slide forward and back to prioritise passenger or boot space.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Speaking of which, the Countryman’s boot measures in at 460 litres, which is smaller than most rivals can manage but should be plenty for the weekly shop or a big suitcase, plus a couple of cabin bags for a week away. Alternatively, you can fold the rear seats down to reveal 1,450 litres of space, plus the boot floor can fold up to reveal somewhere for you to store the car’s charging cables.

Reliability & safety rating

The MINI Countryman is a brand-new car, so we don’t have any long-term reliability, nor any official safety data to go off of. What we can say is that MINI did rather well in our recent Driver Power customer satisfaction survey in terms of reliability; the brand may have only placed 15th overall, but only 12% of buyers reported a fault with their car within the first year of ownership, which is far below average.

The MINI Countryman comes as standard with all the safety kit you’d expect from a family car such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and a multitude of airbags. Blind spot monitoring is also included, which not only looks out for cars in your blind spot, but also indicates whether there’s a pedestrian or cyclist coming whenever you open your door – a handy feature when dropping the kids off at school.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Hello there, I’m Tom Jervis and I have the pleasure of being the Content Editor here at DrivingElectric. Before joining the team in 2023, I spent my time reviewing cars and offering car buying tips and advice on DrivingElectric’s sister site, Carbuyer. I also continue to occasionally contribute to the AutoExpress magazine – another of DrivingElectric’s partner brands. In a past life, I worked for the BBC as a journalist and broadcast assistant for regional services in the east of England – constantly trying to find stories that related to cars!

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Mercedes G 580 with EQ Technology: specs, details and prototype ride of the new EV G-Class
G 580 with EQ Technology roadtrip photo front 3/4 on a hill
News

Mercedes G 580 with EQ Technology: specs, details and prototype ride of the new EV G-Class

The new G 580 will be revealed to the world on the 24th of April, we look at all the details of the forthcoming model and we ride in the prototype
12 Apr 2024
Where can I buy hydrogen and where is my nearest hydrogen filling station?
hydrogen filling station
Your questions answered

Where can I buy hydrogen and where is my nearest hydrogen filling station?

A guide to where you can find hydrogen fuel stations for filling up a hydrogen fuel-cell car in the UK
11 Apr 2024
New Vauxhall Frontera Electric is a budget-friendly small SUV with a rugged look and a family focus
Vauxhall Frontera SUV 2024 - front
News

New Vauxhall Frontera Electric is a budget-friendly small SUV with a rugged look and a family focus

The new Frontera Electric gives the UK market a new affordable small SUV option with features designed for the family
8 Apr 2024