MINI Countryman hybrid performance, top speed & engine
The Countryman remains one of the best plug-in hybrid SUVs to drive, although the ride is on the firmer side
The MINI Countryman is a plug-in hybrid that, rather than taking a comfort-first approach, taps into the brand's reputation for 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 put a smile on your face.
While the car's facelift in mid-2020 brought 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.
Under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, coupled with an electric motor and 8.8kWh battery for a total power output of 217bhp. The motor powers the rear wheels and the engine the fronts, so you get four-wheel drive, along with all the stability and grip that promises.
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 Kia Niro PHEV or even the Toyota C-HR.
Push the acid-green starter button and while you’re greeted by various illuminations, the car remains silent. Not even selecting D awakens the petrol engine. The instant boost from the electric motor gives the car a surprising turn of speed, especially around town.
The three-cylinder petrol engine has a pleasing thrum to it, and the switch between petrol and electric is handled smoothly, which can't be said for some of this car’s rivals. The six-speed automatic gearbox perhaps isn’t as slick as the latest double-clutch units, but it rarely feels slow or ponderous, even during more spirited driving. It’s a shame MINI didn’t give the car any steering-wheel-mounted gearshift paddles for some extra involvement.
You can choose from a variety of driving modes to suit the conditions. ‘Max eDrive’ allows electric driving at 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 charge in the battery – which is handy if you’re doing a long journey that'll finish in a city.
There’s enough MINI DNA on show to make this tall and boxy family hauler pretty agile; this is easily the most fun-to-drive plug-in hybrid in the lower price brackets. On the other hand, the extra gubbins you need for the electric side of the operation – the motor and battery, especially – add weight. 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.
The ride suffers a little because the heavier hybrid has to have stiffer suspension than other versions, meaning it's on the firm side of comfortable. It’s something you’ll notice at low speeds, but things do smooth out once you're going faster, and the ride is never jarring. Plus, the steering is light, and body lean is almost undetectable – especially when you consider the tall, upright body and the extra weight of the hybrid system. On the downside, there is heightened road noise at motorway speeds.
You can add adaptive dampers to the Countryman hybrid, but that only marginally softens what's basically a firm ride across the range. In other words, if you want a sportier feel to your hybrid SUV, the Countryman will suit you down to the ground. But there's a price to pay in terms of ride comfort, and some won’t be happy about that.
In This Review
- 1VerdictThe 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 & drive - currently readingThe 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