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

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

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
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.

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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. 

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