Mini Countryman long-term test: report 1

Our senior videographer needs a car that's frugal, practical and fun – does the Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid fit the bill?...

Mini Countryman long-term test car driving

The car Mini Countryman Classic Cooper S E All4 PHEV Run by Kiall Garrett, senior videographer

Why it’s here To see if there's more to a plug-in hybrid small SUV than its short-term fuel economy

Needs to Take life as a high-mileage videographer's workhorse in its stride, with enough practicality to be easy to live with and a plush enough interior to enjoy every journey.

Mileage 1840 List price £33,346 Target price £31,604 Price as tested £40,005 Test economy 44.0 mpg Official economy 156.9 mpg Options fitted Navigation Pack Plus (£1300), Comfort Pack Plus (£1600), Piano Black Exterior Pack (£650), Harmon Kardon stereo (£600), Electric tailgate (£375), Acoustic pedestrian protection (£80)

17 June 2021 – Fantastic PHEV?

It didn’t take me long after starting my job as a videographer at What Car? to realise that my three-door Alfa Romeo Mito wasn't going to cut it on the practicality side of things.

After all, the role means I regularly have to carry around tripods, suitcases, cameras, laptops, cleaning gear, cables and rain covers (lots of them).

Mini Countryman long-term test car and Kiall

I needed a bigger car, then, and what I've gone for is the recently updated Mini Countryman, which is actually anything but mini. However, I didn't want my running costs to rise, so mine is the PHEV plug-in hybrid variant.

This combines a 125bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine with an 87bhp electric motor and a 9.6kWh battery, allowing it to travel up to 30 miles at a time on electric power. And because the engine powers the front wheels and the motor the rears, it's actually four-wheel drive.

Sadly, all this doesn't come cheap. In fact, aside from the performance-focused John Cooper Works version, the PHEV is the most expensive model in the Countryman range. But from behind the wheel, it definitely feels like a premium product, which makes the price easier to swallow.

Kiall charging Mini Countryman PHEV

So, what am I expecting? Well, I’m hoping town driving will be ludicrously efficient. And while topping up the battery could prove challenging from my third floor flat, there are several public chargers located conveniently nearby.

I'm actually fascinated to see how the Countryman performs in different real-world scenarios. The official fuel economy is 156.9mpg. But what will it do with a flat battery? Or over a 100-mile trip, starting with a full battery, but with no stops to top it up again?

When it comes to speccing the Countryman, if you choose the PHEV then a lot of the choices are made for you – it’s only available in Cooper S E trim. But Mini asks you to opt for a “style” which determines how the car looks on the outside, and I went for Classic instead of the more expensive Sport or Exclusive alternatives. The money I saved there meant I could tick a few options instead.

Mini Countryman long-term test car driving interior

The 8.8in infotainment system (including wireless Apple CarPlay) came as standard, but I went for the Navigation Pack Plus (£1300) to get traffic info, sat-nav and the fully digital driver's display. I also added the Comfort Plus Pack (£1600), which provides me with a reversing camera, a front armrest and heated seats among other creature comforts to make the long early-morning drives to glamorous car park shoot locations more relaxing.

It's early days, but so far I’m very much enjoying my time with the Countryman. The boot and rear seats can easily take my gear, the electric mode is great around town, and I absolutely love the interior.

But will this plug-in small SUV continue to prove a versatile enough companion? I’m looking forward to finding out.

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