Mini has officially acknowledged its second-generation Countryman will offer a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain alongside other more conventional three- and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines when it goes on sale in the UK next year.
The new petrol-electric SUV represents Mini’s first foray into the hybrid ranks, offering a glimpse at plans by the British car maker to further diversify its line-up to include other alternative drive models, including a full electric version of the Cooper hatchback due out in 2019.
Set to form part of the launch models, the Countryman hybrid is twinned with the BMW 225xe Plug-in Hybrid, alongside which it has been conceived and developed. As well as sharing the same basic platform structure, the two cars also receive a common driveline based around BMW’s turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor.
The fundamentals of the system were first unveiled on the BMW i8, although they’ve been turned 180-degrees, with the combustion engine mounted transversely up front and the electric motor mounted within the axle assembly at the rear.
In the 225xe, the combustion engine delivers 134bhp and 162lb ft, with the electric motor providing an additional 87bhp and 122lb ft. Together, they provide the BMW with a combined system output of 221bhp and 284lb ft of torque. While Mini is yet to reveal the official power and torque figures for the Countryman Hybrid, engineering sources at parent company BMW suggest they will not vary too much from those of the 225xe.
As with the 225xe, Mini has engineered the Countryman hybrid to provide pure electric drive for distances of over 25 miles. By combining a front mounted petrol engine and rear mounted electric motor, it offers four-wheel drive in hybrid mode and rear-wheel drive in pure electric mode.
Drive is channeled through a standard six-speed automatic gearbox.
The hybrid system provides three driving modes: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery. Making most of the strong torque qualities and silent operation of the electric motor, the Countryman hybrid is programmed to start in electric mode provided there is sufficient electric charge within its battery.
Talking up the dynamic qualities of its first hybrid model, Mini suggests the Countryman Hybrid is not solely focused on efficiency, but driving fun. “With this model we want to convince Mini customers of the benefits of hybrid drive,” says Peter Wolf, head of Mini brand management. “As far as the chassis and suspension are concerned, nothing changes from the conventionally driven variant [of the new Countryman].”
In the 1735kg 225xe, the petrol electric driveline provides 0-62mph acceleration in 6.7sec – some 0.8sec inside the official time quoted for the outgoing first-generation Countryman Cooper S, whose turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine develops 187bhp and 177lb ft of torque.
Mini confirms the lithium ion battery used by the Countryman Hybrid presides underneath the rear seat in a position that hints the standard fuel tank for the combustion engine will make for a smaller reservoir on the production version of the new SUV. The 7.6kWh battery is programmed to provide full electric drive up to 50mph in Auto eDrive mode and up to 78mph in Max eDrive mode.
Commenting on the decision to allow pure electric drive capability beyond speeds of rival hybrids, MacKensen says: “In a hybrid Mini, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience. This means that entirely electric driving is not limited to speeds of 30 or 40km/h (19 or 25mph), but to speeds well beyond city traffic pace.”