From £31,5757

Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

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).

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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.