MINI Countryman hybrid review

The Countryman plug-in is not only cheap to run – particularly for business drivers – it’s desirable and good to drive, too

£31,880 - £33,980
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

  • Fun to drive
  • Kerbside kudos
  • Personalisation potential

Cons

  • Inefficient once battery runs out
  • Not the most practical
  • Expensive options
Car type Electric range MPG CO2
Plug-in hybrid 31 miles 141-157mpg 40-46g/km

The MINI Countryman Cooper S E ALL4 is something of a pioneer, as it’s the first car with a MINI badge to feature plug-in hybrid technology.

As you might expect, that technology comes from parent company BMW, but the Countryman’s battery pack allows an official electric driving range of up just over 30 miles from a full charge. It can be recharged in about five hours at home to achieve that range, and even when the 1.5-litre petrol engine does kick in, you can expect to see around 35mpg in normal, varied driving.

The Countryman is an alternative to the likes of the Toyota C-HR, which its maker refers to as a "self-charging" hybrid – as in, it can't be plugged in – as well as plug-in hybrids like the larger Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Other rivals include the Kia Niro PHEV and hatchbacks like the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In.

What you may have noticed is that this car has Cooper S badges, which are usually reserved for some of the very quickest MINIs. That may raise an eyebrow as a result, but the badge is deserved; this electrified SUV can get from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds, thanks to the combined efforts of its 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor.

In fact, while the petrol engine drives the front wheels, the electric motor works on the rears, giving this version of the Countryman four-wheel drive. Hence the 'ALL4' badge tagged on to the end of its nameplate.

Beyond those attractions, CO2 emissions of around 40g/km depending on spec, make the car attractive to company-car users. For the time being, the MINI continues to qualify for free access to the London Congestion Charge zone.

And, of course, it has all the attractions that come with the standard petrol or diesel Countryman. Brisk and just as fun to drive as other models in the MINI range, the Countryman runs rings around most rivals for driver satisfaction, as well as style and badge appeal. The only possible downside of this fun-to-drive nature is that the ride can be a little firm, which some people may find tiresome.

On the plus side, this is a practical car for families, even if there have been some sacrifices to get the battery pack and electric motor to fit. The rear seats are set slightly higher and no longer slide, while the boot shrinks by 10% to 405 litres – roughly on a par with a normal family hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus.

But there’s still decent room in the back and the bench splits 40:20:40 to expand what space there is. Last, but not least, there are chunky roof rails for carrying roof boxes and cycle carriers.

Of course, as with any MINI, the Countryman offers all manner of opportunities for personalisation. Scan the brochure or price list and you’re bound to see packs and options that are sure to tempt you. You just have to be careful not to go too crazy, as pushing the list price beyond £40,000 will make the car liable for increased road tax, boosting your annual running costs by a few hundred quid. Still, with prices starting far lower than that, most buyers should be able to keep it within that threshold.

Overall, the Countryman is more desirable and fun to drive than just about any obvious rivals, but it's hampered by a patchy standard equipment list and expensive options.

For a more detailed look at the MINI Cooper S E ALL4, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.