As you may have guessed from the ‘E’ in its name, the Mini Countryman S E Cooper All4 is a partially electrified version of Mini's small SUV. It has a battery pack under its rear seats and boot floor and a powerful electric motor that drives the rear wheels.
That battery can be charged from the mains and gives an official electric-only range of up to 26 miles. For longer journeys, there’s the turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine from the regular Countryman Cooper. Combined, these power sources are good for an official fuel economy figure of 134.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 49g/km.
Just to tempt you even further, you can buy one of these for less than £30,000 after a £2500 government grant. Given the huge tax savings for company car drivers and potential fuel savings for private buyers, there's real promise here.
What's the 2017 Mini Countryman S E Cooper All4 like to drive?
When fully charged, the Countryman certainly appeals for driving in the city. In pure electric mode, it pulls away briskly yet quietly and proves more than capable of keeping pace with traffic. There's some regenerative braking when you come off the throttle to help charge the batteries, the result being that you use the foot brake less than you would in a conventionally powered car.
A light right foot and a smooth driving style are key to getting the best out of the battery. Repeated hard acceleration soon has the car's range dropping like a stone, forcing the petrol motor to kick in, although at least the engine starts smoothly and transmits little to no vibration through the controls. Only some hesitation in all but Sport mode when you call on full power disappoints.
With the hybrid system adding around 130kg to the weight of the Countryman, acceleration is blunted at higher speeds, but the car is certainly quick enough up to around 50mph.
The added flab also has an effect on the car's handling. Although the PHEV is more balanced than the regular Countryman and less likely to run wide at the front, the downside is that you feel that additional weight every time you try to change direction quickly, and you particularly notice the heavy steering at slow speeds around town.
Unfortunately, the added weight of the hybrid model doesn’t make the ride any better than the standard car. Even on seemingly smooth roads the Countryman picks up surface imperfections and never fully settles down. On rougher roads of the type we're used to in the UK, the firm suspension struggles even more, with a particularly unforgiving ride over harsher bumps. At least the steering feels slightly less nervous than that of other Countryman models we’ve driven.
What's the 2017 Mini Countryman S E Cooper All4 like inside?
Inside, there are new displays in the infotainment system to show what the hybrid system is up to and a few yellow trim highlights. More importantly, the battery pack has forced the rear seat base up by a couple of centimetres and means it can’t slide backwards and forwards. The boot floor is higher, too, reducing carrying capacity by 45 litres.
Even so, there’s a decent amount of rear head room, plenty of rear leg room and enough luggage space for a family’s weekly shop - but capacity is 25 litres less than you get in the Nissan Qashqai. Fold the seats down and there's enough space for you to cart a fair amount of flatpack furniture, but again it trails the Qashqai and other small SUV rivals by some way.
Like other Minis, interior quality impresses with plenty of soft-touch plastics, attractive trims and metal toggle switches in front of the gearlever. Cheaper materials are well hidden and the design leaves you in no doubt as to what make of car you're driving.
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