MINI Countryman Cooper S E All4 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
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

  • Fun to drive
  • Kerbside kudos
  • Possible personalisation

Cons

  • Misses out on cheapest BIK tax
  • Not the most practical
  • Expensive options

The Countryman Cooper S E All4 is a pioneer, as it’s the first MINI with 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 28 miles from a full charge.

It can be recharged in about three hours from a domestic wall socket, while a dedicated car charger will bring that time down to around two hours. When the 1.5-litre petrol engine kicks 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 is a self-charging hybrid, as well as other plug-in hybrids. These include the larger Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, as well as the Kia Niro and hatchbacks like the Hyundai Ioniq.

What you may already have noticed is that this car has the Cooper S badges that are usually reserved for some of the quickest MINIs. You may raise an eyebrow as a result, but the badge is deserved; this electric MINI 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.

Beyond those attractions, CO2 emissions of 55g/km make the car attractive to company-car users, although it's a shame that the MINI still misses out on the cheapest company car tax band, which most PHEV rivals fall into. However, the MINI continues to qualify for free access to the London Congestion Charge zone.

And, of course, it has all the attractions of just being a 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 with the options, as pushing the list price beyond £40,000 will increase your annual running costs by a few hundred quid.

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, as well as company-car tax that is expensive next to other plug-in hybrids. 

For a more detailed look at the MINI Cooper S E All4, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.