From £31,5757

Can this plug-in hybrid successfully meld capability, frugality and performance?

Find Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
New car deals
From £31,575
Nearly-new car deals
From £29,266
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

Mini’s famously youthful, urban-dwelling customer base would lap up the chance to buy an electric car, you’d imagine – and before too long, they’ll be able to do just that.

The firm has been experimenting with an electric-only model since it introduced a fleet of 600 prototype Mini E superminis onto European roads in 2009. We drove one from Brighton to Glasgow in 2010, just to prove it could be done (although it took fully 96 hours, in the days before motorway fast chargers existed).

The green S badge on the grille is the only way you’ll differentiate the car from the front. A standard Cooper S has a red S

In 2019, Mini will launch its first all-electric series-production model – a car the firm’s management is already describing as its ‘fifth superhero’ after the standard three and five-door Mini hatch supermini, the Mini Convertible, the Mini Clubman and the Mini Mini Countryman. Time will tell how great its superpowers will be – but the word is that they’ll be delivered by breakthrough battery technology.

And for now, Mini is getting its owners, dealers and devotee fans used to the idea of an electrified option with the subject of this road test: the Countryman Cooper S E All4 plug-in hybrid.

A medium-sized five-door hatchback ready to compete with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Audi A3 e-tron Sportback, Toyota Prius Plug-in and Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in, the Countryman Cooper S E All4 differs from its key rivals by having a slightly raised crossover-style ride height and seating position, and also by backing that up with the extra capability of four driven wheels.

Back to top

The Mini’s appeal plainly attempts to be broader than that of many of the fledgling affordable plug-in-hybrids (also known as PHEVs).

Mini claims three-figure fuel efficiency at one corner; sub-7.0sec-to-62mph performance zest at the other; a smattering of traditional 4x4 capability; and the company’s fashion-brand desirability to attract your attention.

Such a challenging brief won’t have been easy to fulfil, of course, and may have made it impossible for the Countryman to excel in any one area. We’ll see.

It’s certainly true that this car differs from the mechanical template of those predominantly front-wheel-drive competitors in ways that we’ll go on to explain and that have influences on its performance and handling both to praise and lament. 



Mini bonnet badge

Like the related BMW 225xe Active Tourer plug-in hybrid, the Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 differs from most of its direct plug-in rivals by having an electric rear axle.

A VW Golf GTE sandwiches its electric drive motor immediately between its internal combustion engine and transmission, driving exclusively through the front wheels, and the Toyota Prius Plug-in does something not too dissimilar.

We prefer charging ports on the rear because they allow you to reverse into bays. The Mini’s is on the nearside front wing, so expect to have to park nose-in to charge

The Mini, though, adds a rear-mounted 87bhp, 122lb ft electric motor and a nearby 7.6kWh lithium ion drive battery to the mechanical make-up of a front-driven, automatic-equipped 1.5-litre Countryman Cooper.

The hybrid motor and transmission in question are supplied by GKN Driveline, with whom BMW worked with for the i8 hybrid supercar, and with whom Mitsubishi partners for the Outlander PHEV and Volvo for the V60, XC60 and XC90 PHEVs (all of those Volvos have separate electric rear eAxles, too).

The technical solution gives this Mini four-wheel drive and because the electric motor drives the rear wheels through a single transmission ratio, you can simply add up the electric oomph supplied by that synchronous motor and the 134bhp and 162lb ft of the combustion engine to arrive at the total system outputs of the car: 221bhp and 284lb ft.

A hefty wad of that torque is available from stationary. On paper, that’s almost as much power and quite a bit more torque than even the more expensive Countryman JCW has.

But the drawback of a separate electric rear axle is weight. Although its generous and accessible torque might well cover it up at times, this Mini is almost 200kg heavier than a Golf GTE.

On Millbrook’s scales it weighed in at 1753kg, a figure worn by any Mini about as comfortably as steel-toecapped safety boots on a jump jockey.

Three 850cc Morris Mini Minors would weigh less.

Combine the notion of that kerb weight with the higher-than-average centre of gravity of the Countryman and you wonder, before you’ve driven the car, if any compact hatchback from a brand like Mini could recover from such a dynamic handicap and deliver against expectations. 


Mini Countryman S E All4 interior

We are now well into the maturing adolescence of the plug-in hybrid.

The days when it might have been acceptable to find significant compromise to passenger or cargo space in return for a partly electrified powertrain – when these cars were built on older, adapted platforms rather than new, purpose-built ones – are now gone.

Pity Mini didn’t copy the VW Golf GTE and offer shift paddles that double as a way to adjust regenerative braking in EV mode

The Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 asks for only a few small and quite palatable sacrifices on the altar of technological complexity.

So while the ‘regular’ Mini Countryman makes a practical and quite unusual alternative to a normal family five-door, this one does, too.

You lose 10 percent of the boot’s volume (450 litres falls to 405) but the space is still about as large as most medium-sized five-doors have. The back seats are mounted slightly higher than in other Countrymans and the option to make those seats slide fore and aft to trade leg room for boot space is no more.

Here, as with head room, what the Cooper S E All4 leaves you with is still perfectly respectable by class standards.

Ahead of the driver is a fascia that’s little different from any other in the Countryman range. The Cord Carbon part-leather trim of our test car lifted its ambience a little above that of the Cooper D we tested, but it’s not exclusive to the hybrid.

Just as we reported before, the car’s material richness and quality (which is good enough to distinguish a premium supermini well enough) is a bit less impressive than its rivals’ but, on the whole, the driving environment is comfortable, spacious, pleasant and characterful.

Where other plug-in hybrids include special digital instruments as standard, helping you to get the most out of that complex duo of motors, the Mini only swaps the irritatingly small analogue rev counter for an equally irritatingly small power meter that illuminates with a separate gauge to show available electric torque when it’s running in EV mode. If the controls and modes were less intuitive to use, the problem would be much more frustrating.

Mini’s latest Navigation System XL impressed us when we road tested the standard Countryman. It comes as part of the car’s optional £950 Media Pack and increases the size of your colour display from 6.5in to 8.8in.

All Cooper S Es come with navigation and a DAB radio, but paying for the upgrade gets you touchscreen control, 20GB of onboard music storage and Mini’s Connected XL option as well.

The navigation system is a good one, being easy to programme and to follow and clear in its mapping. Our car did without the Harman Kardon hi-fi upgrade, but its audio system still sounded powerful and crisp.

But our main disappointment is with the car’s instrumentation, which has to be lumped into this verdict when so many rivals offer customisable digital dials. The Mini’s conventional dials don’t include a rev counter and have only a rudimentary indication of available electrical torque. Compared with what you can get in a Volkswagen Golf GTE, for example, the dials make the car harder to drive than it need be.


1.5-litre Mini Countryman S E All4 petrol engine

In its own intriguing and conditional way, the Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 is a fast and compelling car to drive.

Your sense of that begins to coalesce the first time you engage Sport mode and use more than half of the accelerator pedal’s travel to urge the car on from low speeds.

A Ford Focus RS does 30mph to 70mph in fourth gear in 7.8sec. A Porsche 718 Boxster in 8.1. This Mini’s quicker than those two. Defensive ammunition: sorted

That directly driven electric rear axle certainly makes the most of the dynamic virtue on which any EV’s or PHEV’s driving experience depends for dramatic appeal: instant and thrusting throttle response.

Unlike some of its rivals, the Mini doesn’t need a fraction of a second to decide if it’s in the right gear, or to overcome the inertia and friction of a conventional driveline, to make a meaningful difference to your rate of progress.

Before your right foot has so much as reached all the way to the floor, the car’s off – and if it’s locked in a higher gear at fairly low revs, it will be accelerating quite a bit more forcefully than you’d think possible. Forcefully, but strangely serenely, at least until the combustion engine’s revs hit a certain level.

That the car hits 60mph from rest in 6.7sec proves that it’s almost as fast over that benchmark as a like-for-like hot hatch and faster than many from 30mph to 70mph in gear (7.5sec, fourth gear).

But the pity is that paints a distorted picture of the Mini’s outright pace in the broadest terms.

Where a similarly priced hot hatchback would still feel quick when accelerating at motorway speeds (as would a Golf GTE, whose electric motor has the benefit of a gearbox to drive through), the Mini’s electric motor has to shut down above 78mph. At that point, at least in accelerative terms, this becomes a heavy and quite slow 134bhp Mini.

In more everyday circumstances, the powertrain operates with polished smoothness. In Auto eDrive mode, it’ll keep the combustion engine shut down unless you ask for more power than you’re likely need amid the flow of urban traffic, up to 50mph.

In Max eDrive mode, it’ll run electrically up to 78mph, unless your foot hits the kickdown switch at the foot of the accelerator pedal or until you deplete the battery charge almost completely. In Max eDrive, the car is powerful enough for everything but demanding motorway use or for A-road overtaking.

There’s a Save mode too, allowing you to store up electrical charge for later; and if you programme a route into the sat-nav and use Auto eDrive mode, the car will even manage the charging and discharging of its drive battery to best suit the sorts of roads on which you’ll be travelling.

As a short-range EV, then, as well as a nicely balanced, very responsive, very drivable and easy-to-use hybrid, the Countryman Cooper S E All4 is accomplished and impressive. As a driver’s car, it’s a decidedly mixed bag.


Mini Countryman S E All4 cornering

The Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 comes with 17in wheels and low-rolling-resistance Bridgestone tyres as standard, and few savvy owners will be minded to upgrade either since doing so will shift its CO2-derived benefit-in-kind tax liability up by four percent (worth £500 a year to a 40 percent company car tax-payer).

Our test car was equipped with those standard wheels and tyres and, predictably enough, it was without the outright grip level and the handling precision that a keener driver or a Mini-brand regular might hope for from it.

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system subtly contains power-on understeer as you accelerate away from tighter bends

The car’s dynamic repertoire isn’t all bad news, though. The extra weight in the back works quite well to soften the slightly tetchy, overly firm ride that we’ve reported on with other Countryman models tested previously, while the softer, taller tyre sidewalls of the PHEV’s running chassis make for a quieter, calmer and more absorptive secondary ride than on a run-flat-equipped, bigger-rimmed Countryman.

It’s worth noting, too, that the plug-in hybrid’s weight distribution is unusually well balanced for a compact hatchback.

All that really makes the car do, of course, is to slip with almost equal meekness from both the front and rear ends when you attempt to corner quickly.

The car turns in with Mini-typical directness but rolls harder than you expect it to and takes a long time to settle on its outside rear wheel. It then surrenders to understeer with little provocation.

You have to disengage the stability control system to reach that point, mind – the system masks the chassis’s apparent want for mechanical adhesion very cleverly, keeping the car on line and stopping you from pouring on too much torque when it’s active.

In dry conditions, the handling seems game and direct enough at first, although ultimately underwhelming. It’s very competent and stable, governed cleverly and watchfully by a fast-acting and proactive stability control system.

But the initial bite you get from the steering isn’t ultimately matched to the outright body control and keen adhesion level you’re expecting.

In wet conditions on the Millbrook hill route, roadholding was slightly precarious, although its handling security was ultimately guaranteed with the electronics on. Turn them off and, if you try to drive the car briskly, it can break away quite readily from either axle. It does so progressively, though, and its limits are fairly clearly marked.

Look to the 70-0mph braking figure we recorded for objective evidence of that meek hold on the tarmac. Even though it was in moderately heavy rain, a 61.2m stopping distance is poor.


Mini Countryman S E All4

It’s clearly too soon to expect honesty from the Mini Countryman PHEV’s trip computer – but, in that respect, it’s no better or worse than every other plug-in hybrid.

The Mini indicates running efficiency for both its petrol engine and its electric motor but doesn’t stop counting ‘mpg’ when running on amperes nor ‘miles per kilowatt hour’ when running on unleaded.

Residual values compare favourably with key rivals’ and competitively against conventionally powered alternative

So neither indicator is of practical use if you want to know how much your car may actually be costing you to run.

Here’s the truth, then. On a mixed touring run started with a flat battery, you can expect just short of 50mpg from the petrol half of the powertrain – and on a typical inter-urban commute, about 3.7mpkWh from the electric half (enough for 22 miles of electric-only travel, which is almost twice as far as some rivals).

The car is relatively expensive compared with its PHEV rivals and even more so when you consider what you need to spend on options to get it to a matching kit level – but neither fact has ever stopped a Mini selling before.

For a private buyer, this is an expensive hatchback to buy although it could be a cheap one to run.

But compared with a conventional petrol alternative – say, the slower and less frugal £28,530 Countryman Cooper S All4 auto – the PHEV would be around £130 cheaper per month for a 40 percent tax-paying fleet driver, accounting for a typical contract hire rate.

If you are keen on the hybrid Countryman we would advise adding Mini’s Media Pack, LED headlights and Harman Kardon stereo system, alongside Mini’s TLC extended warranty and servicing, which will all protect its value. If you are a fleet driver we suggest sticking to the smallest wheel and tyre choices on offer. 



3.5 star Mini Countryman S E All4

The Mini Countryman Cooper S E ALL4 will instantly appeal to those looking for a plug-in hybrid that offers more than just the potential to save them money at the petrol pump or on their P11D.

It follows through on the promise of that well enough to satisfy some, but the car’s shortage of true handling dynamism and its conditional brand of sporting pace make it unlikely to maintain the interest of real enthusiasts (and perhaps the Mini-brand faithful) for very long.

Plug-in Mini struggles defiantly but in vain against a difficult brief

The petrol-electric powertrain is polished and well rounded.

You may well judge Mini’s decision to use it to make a disproportionate improvement to pace and drivability at real-world speeds entirely reasonable and intelligent.

Compared with its rivals, the car certainly feels different and interesting to drive and it makes a good short-range EV.

But you won’t fail to notice the point at which you’re no longer getting any electric oomph in hybrid mode. Nor could you mistake this car for a impressive performance machine.

the Is a regular Countryman a notably better driver’s car? Not much – lags behind the but a VW Golf GTE is.

With all this in mind, Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 comes third in our hybrid top five ahead of the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In, Audi A3 e-Tron Sportback, but Volkswagen Golf GTE and the BMW 330e SE.


Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 First drives