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Dashboard, infotainment, sat-nav and passenger space

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.

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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.