Mini Countryman long-term test: report 3

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

Kiall charging Mini Countryman PHEV

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 3651 List price £33,500 Target price £31,772 Price as tested £40,005 Test economy 44.0 mpg Official economy 156.9 mpg

22 July 2021 – Who needs a charger?

Plug-in hybrids are notorious for only getting close to their headline-grabbing fuel economy figures on journeys where you can make the best use of electric power. So has my ‘156.9mpg’ Mini Countryman PHEV been more efficient than expected, or have I spent most of my weekends at the petrol station?

Before I delve into the results of my findings so far, I'll address the biggest issue I've had running the Countryman PHEV: charging it up. As you might expect, the charging cable that comes with the car doesn’t reach the three-pin plug sockets in my third-floor flat, so I need to find somewhere else to replenish the car’s 9.6kWh battery.

Fortunately, there are several charging points on a high street nearby that I can take advantage of, but only for an hour at a time because of parking restrictions. My local Asda also has charging points in the car park, which I make use of weekly to boost the car while I fill my trolley.

Mini Countryman PHEV motorway trip computer comparison

Even with those convenient options nearby, though, I rarely end up with a full charge. From the slow 3.6kW public chargers (which is the fastest speed accepted by the Countryman), it would take three hours and 10 minutes to get the battery from 0-100%, which would then get me up to 22 miles of pure electric power.

So, leaving the Countryman on the high street for an hour, or in my local Asda for about 90 minutes, doesn’t make that much difference, especially when on an average What Car? video shoot I travel around 75 miles.

Luckily, the Countryman offers a ‘save’ mode, which lets you keep hold of the battery charge that you have for when it will be of most use, and can even uses the engine to top it up. There’s also a ‘max edrive’ mode which forces the car into using electric power only (if there’s enough charge) and an ‘auto edrive’ mode, which leaves the car to decide when to use electric or petrol power.

I put some of those drive modes to the test to see what the impact on fuel economy was, using ‘auto edrive’ in town, then ‘save’ mode for motorway journeys.

After a stop-start 26min town trip covering five miles, with the car's electric motor taking most of the strain, ‘auto edrive’ helped me achieve an impressive 85.3mpg.

Mini Countryman town trip computer

I then reached a relatively clear (believe it or not) M25 motorway, and rather than watch the battery level tumble to 0% at high speeds, I stuck it in ‘save’. The trip computer showed me an average of 40.8mpg over 69 miles. It also topped up the battery to around 75% from almost flat so I could make use of the electric power in town again.

On another motorway trip, I used ‘auto edrive’ to see how much of an impact on fuel efficiency it can have when you're not using the engine to charge the battery. It wasn’t an ideal comparison because it was a shorter journey, but in similar conditions I achieved 48.4mpg.

What do all those numbers mean? Well, as with most cars, you won't see the fuel economy figure you read in the brochure repeated in real-world conditions. But with a burst of ‘save’ mode, the Countryman delivers decent motorway efficiency, and fantastically good fuel economy around town.

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