MINI Countryman hybrid review
The MINI Countryman plug-in hybrid is not only pretty cheap to run – particularly for business drivers – it’s desirable and good to drive, too
- Fun to drive
- Useful electric range
- 11% company-car tax
- Expensive options
- Firmer ride than some rivals
- Infotainment showing its age
The plug-in hybrid MINI Countryman – previously known as the Countryman Cooper S E ALL4 – was one of the first plug-in family SUVs. And thanks to a refresh in the last couple of years, it's still a competitive option for those looking for a family car with low tax costs and the potential for running on electric power alone. A recent update changed the styling a bit, added some more standard kit, improved efficiency and upgraded the in-car tech.
The Countryman has a long list of rivals at this point, such as the plug-in hybrid versions of the Cupra Formentor, Ford Kuga, Kia Niro and Renault Captur. Not to mention plenty of premium offerings like the BMW X1 (which it’s closely related to) as well as the Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3. The Toyota C-HR is another interesting option, as despite not being a plug-in, it does have an electric motor and could be great for those who can't plug in easily.
The performance on offer here means that MINI has added the Cooper S name, and four-wheel drive means it gets the ALL4 branding too. It's pretty quick off the mark: 0-62mph takes just 6.8 seconds, thanks to the combined efforts of its 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor. The power figure dropped from 224 to 217bhp as part of the 2020 update, most likely for emissions regulations reasons.
The four-wheel drive system works by using the engine to drive the front wheels and the electric motor to drive the rear ones. It's hardly an off-roader but the extra traction in poor conditions could be useful. CO2 emissions are as low as 40g/km depending on specification, making the MINI attractive to company-car users thanks to a 14% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate.
Thanks to some improvements to the Countryman PHEV’s powertrain over the pre-facelift version, the plug-in SUV can now return up to 166mpg, versus the old car’s claimed 157mpg. In reality, you'll need to keep the battery charged and be careful with your right foot to get anywhere close to the headline figure. But, fully recharging the relatively small 8.8kWh battery from a 3.7kW home wallbox only takes around two-and-a-half hours. Do so, and you’ll be able to cover 30 miles on electric power alone.
The Countryman is a practical car for families, even if there have been some sacrifices compared to its petrol and diesel-powered siblings 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 per cent 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 pounds. Still, with prices for the Classic trim level starting far lower than that, most buyers should be able to keep it within that threshold. The top-spec Untamed edition (new for 2022) is around £41,000 before any options, at which point it’s starting to tread on the toes of some very good fully electric SUVs.
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...
In This Review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe MINI Countryman plug-in hybrid is not only pretty cheap to run – particularly for business drivers – it’s desirable and good to drive, too
- 2MPG & CO2 emissionsA useful 30-mile range and low CO2 emissions make the Countryman competitive; real-world fuel efficiency will vary
- 3Running costs & insuranceThe MINI Countryman hybrid will be cheap to run, especially for company-car users, but comparable rivals are a bit cheaper
- 4Performance, engine & driveThe Countryman remains one of the best plug-in hybrid SUVs to drive, although the ride is on the firmer side
- 5Interior, dashboard & comfortWell designed and with good infotainment, the Countryman's interior is comfortable and solidly built; although the infotainment is beginning to show its age
- 6Boot space, seating & practicalityThe MINI Countryman hybrid is one of the more practical plug-ins and should be big enough for small families
- 7Reliability & safety ratingGood crash-test results and low fault rates bode well, but you'll have to pay extra for extra safety systems