2018 Mini Cooper Countryman All4 Hybrid: Retro charm with modern sensibility

Posted by Wheels On Edge about 10 months ago
The original Mini Copper is an icon of motoring history. It was an ideal blend of clever engineering, affordability and surprising practicality during a time when Britain was in the midst economic turmoil. Since its inception, the little Mini worked its way into the hearts and minds of the public in Britain and around the world. These days, the Mini Cooper is a far cry from its utilitarian ancestor. Its now owned by BMW, and has since grown larger, more luxurious, more powerful and more technologically advanced – as is the case with this Cooper Countryman PHEV (Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle). Like your favourite pair of retro-styled shoes, this new Mini hopes to capitalize on the image of the icon it came from without feeling like it was made with outdated technology. So, does it? We put Mini’s first ever PHEV to the test.

The guts of the Countryman PHEV consists of a 1.5L 3-cylinder engine paired to a 7.6 kWh electric motor, powered by lithium ion batteries. Mini claims a range of 19 kilometres on electricity alone, but bear in mind, this is under the most ideal driving conditions. A heavy foot on the throttle, highway driving and use of comfort features like heating and air sap away charge from any electric vehicle. Together, the gas and electric motors give the Countryman PHEV a punchy 221 horsepower, propelling it to 100 in just under 7 seconds. Despite its added weight from the electric motor and batteries, it’s actually faster than a standard gasoline Countryman.
Mini calls the Countryman an SUV. It looks and feels more car-like than an SUV, but it certainly is practical, especially with the rear seats folded down and the Mini’s boxy body. The trunk boasts an impressive capacity of up to 1,275L. Up front, the Countryman features supportive bolstered leather seating with multiple adjustments. Despite its apparent SUV status, you won’t have to climb up to get inside. It’s comfortable and level enough to just slide in. The quirky dashboards of past Minis remain, but has become much more accessible. The characteristic centre mounted speedo is now placed a more ‘normal’ position. The centre console is now an infotainment centre, giving you access to media controls, heating and air, vehicle settings and various eco readouts to track your efficiency, consumption and charge.

The Countryman PHEV isn’t a light car, but it feels surprisingly nimble, despite the added weight of its electric system. The AWD gained from its gas/electric combination keeps the Mini mostly planted during cornering. There is some degree of body roll, but this isn’t a stiff performance car. It’s an everyday driver. Mini say you’ll get fuel economy figures of about 7.1 L/100km. Expect that figure to suffer in colder weather, like a Canadian winter. In more frigid temperatures, the electric motor may not run at all until its warm enough, forcing the engine to work on its own, using more fuel. Not to mention the use of heated seats and air too. 
With such a relatively small all-electric range, the Countryman PHEV thrives in urban stop and go traffic where its regenerative braking is constantly in use. The smaller range also means faster charging. On a standard 120v plug, the Countryman recharged in about 7 hours in our testing. Easy enough to do overnight. That process gets cut down to around 3 hours on a 240v charger, but those are – for the time being - not terribly commonplace around Canada. 
This large and green Mini is full of the latest hybrid technology BMW has to offer in such a compact package. The company is ramping up its electric and hybrid productions and sales targets with stars like the 5-series PHEV, i3 and the supercar i8 and they’re not stopping there. The Countryman PHEV is a good car, no doubt, but in its current stage, we’d rather wait a little longer for BMW to bring out a production version of the all-electric Mini they showed off at the Canadian International Auto Show. Either that, or a bigger battery pack. The Mini Cooper Countryman All4 Hybrid’s name certainly is a mouthful. It’s the greenest Mini yet. Though it evokes the iconic tiny car it draws its name from, it’s nothing like its ancestor. But Shakespeare once wrote a rose by any other name is just as sweet. Or, a Mini by another name, in this case.

Written by Shane Kalicharan

2018 Mini Cooper Countryman All4 Hybrid, Electric, Hybrid

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