In-depth reviews

MINI Countryman hybrid engines, drive & performance

One of the best plug-in hybrid SUVs to drive, but the ride is on the firmer side

Rating
Engines, drive & performance Rating
0-62mphTop speedDriven wheelsPower
6.8s122mphFour-wheel drive217bhp

The MINI Countryman is a plug-in hybrid that, rather than taking a comfort-first approach, taps into the brand's reputation for building sporty, sharp-handling cars. It's still a comfortable family SUV, but sits on the firmer side of the scale and is always ready to make its driver smile.

While the car's facelift in mid-2020 brought with it some light changes to the powertrain – most notably a reduction in power, a slightly bigger battery and an increase in efficiency – the Countryman remains as good to drive as ever. If you want a plug-in hybrid family SUV that's still fun on a twisty road, this is it.

MINI Countryman hybrid engine, 0-62mph and acceleration

It’s no mistake that MINI has stuck Cooper S badges on its first plug-in hybrid model. Yes, it’s a low-emission car, but it’s also quick. It’ll get from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, which makes the Countryman Cooper S E All4 a much sportier car than rivals like the Toyota C-HR.

The instant boost from the electric motor gives the car a surprising turn of speed, especially around town. That acceleration comes from the combination of a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor, which together produce 217bhp. The electric motor powers the rear wheels and the engine the front wheels: the result is four-wheel drive and a stable feel to the way the car drives. 

In addition, you can choose from a variety of driving modes to suit the conditions. For example ‘Max eDrive’ allows electric driving at speeds of up to 78mph, whereas 'Auto eDrive' prioritises battery power below 50mph, but acts more like a hybrid, with the petrol engine chiming in for bursts of acceleration. There’s also a setting that favours the petrol engine and preserves the charge in the battery – which is handy if you’re doing a long journey that'll finish in a city.

Handling

There’s enough MINI DNA on show to make it pretty agile; this is easily the most fun-to-drive PHEV in the circa-£30,000 price bracket. On the other hand, all the extra gubbins you need for the electric side of the operation – the motor and its battery, especially – add to the car’s weight. And that means it isn’t quite as agile as the other Countryman models, which themselves aren’t quite as agile as the smaller MINI hatchback models.

The ride suffers a little because the heavier hybrid model has to have a stiffer suspension set-up than other versions – the ride is on the firm side of comfortable. It’s something you’ll notice at low speed, but things do smooth out once you're going faster, and the ride is never jarring. You can add adaptive dampers to the Countryman PHEV, but that only marginally softens what is basically a firm ride across the range. In other words, if you want a sportier feel to your PHEV, the Countryman will suit you down to the ground. But there's a price to pay in the ride comfort, and some won’t be happy about that.

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