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Mini Countryman PHEV Review

Introduction

The modern MINI probably needs little introduction, but to condense half a century of history into a couple of sentences: the ‘60s iconic small car was reimagined in the early 2000s and was a huge hit. But while it had grown in size, it was still rather small, so MINI introduced new, larger models for those that wanted the look, but with extra space.

This is the Countryman, a small SUV that takes the MINI style and fun behind the wheel, and adds big dollops of practicality. More than that, this plug-in hybrid model adds an electric motor alongside the 1.5-litre petrol engine, and a battery that you can recharge from the mains. This means you can run for up to 30 miles on electric power alone, cutting your emissions and potentially saving a fortune on fuel.

Review Sections

  • At a Glance
  • Key Features
  • Range & Batteries
  • Performance & Drive
  • Charging
  • Running Costs & Emissions
  • Interior & Technology
  • Practicality & Boot Space
  • Safety
  • Options
  • Rival Cars
  • Verdict & Next Steps
  • Select's rating score* - 3.3 / 5

    At a Glance

    When you want style and fun, but also practicality, then there are several choices of zippy family SUVs. But if you also want a plug-in hybrid, then your choices are more limited. The MINI Countryman PHEV is a very solid option. To give it its full name, the MINI Countryman Cooper S E ALL4 mixes the retro, quirky looks that MINI is famous for with space for five, plus luggage. It’s engaging to drive, and with its plug-in hybrid powertrain it lets you do shorter journeys without using any fuel at all. This can have a big impact on your fuel bills, and will be far cheaper in tax for company car drivers than a petrol or diesel model. It’s also available with plenty of comfort, information and entertainment features, as well as personalisation options.

    Key Features

    The MINI Countryman PHEV was first introduced in 2017, but received a facelift in 2020 to bring it up to date. The car you can lease today features a zippy 220hp power unit, combining a petrol engine and san electric motor, and promises nearly 30 miles of zero-emission, electric-only driving. But aside from that, it’s got quirky looks both inside and out, and some stylish and useful tech inside. There’s a very solid amount of space for passengers both front and back, and the boot is reasonable too. Crucial to its appeal is the trademark MINI driving experience, which is nippy and fun, but has been designed to be comfortable for the family during longer trips. For those that may need to venture a short way off the beaten track (or who live in areas with dodgy weather), all models of Countryman PHEV have four-wheel drive; the petrol engine drives the front wheels, and the electric motor drives the wheels.

    Range & Batteries

    The Countryman uses a 10kWh lithium ion battery, which on its own makes 95hp. MINI says that when it’s fully charged you’ll get up to 29.8 miles on electric-only power, depending on model. That’s not bad, and will cover plenty of everyday journeys, although battery technology is improving all the time; there are rivals that will get further, and the newest PHEVs on the market are now pushing 40 miles. It’s also worth noting that the Countryman PHEV has a smaller fuel tank than the normal car, so if you end up relying on petrol power, you’ll need more regular visits to the filling station.

    Performance & Drive

    A zippy, exhilarating and fun drive is one of the MINI brand’s USPs, whichever model you go for. That’s based on the experience of the MINI hatch, and means more of a challenge for engineers when trying to replicate that in a larger, heavier SUV. And that challenge intensifies when you add heavy electrical components; you need to support the extra weight without making the suspension so stiff that the ride comfort is affected.

    Thankfully, the Countryman PHEV has been very well judged. Yes, it’s not quite as athletic as the non-PHEV Countryman, but it’s not far off. In electric mode you’ve got 95hp to play with, which isn’t much for a fairly large car, but the instant kick of electric motors means around town it still feels fairly quick to respond. You can stay in electric-only mode up to 78mph if you want, but if you want some extra acceleration – for example, when joining a motorway – the petrol engine will kick in seamlessly to give you a combined 220hp.


    You can change the various settings on the car to prioritise electric or combined power, and even ask the petrol engine to recharge the battery if you run out of charge, in case you want some electric power for the end of your journey, for example. Once the battery is empty, it essentially operates as a regular ‘full’ hybrid.

    You can also set the car up in different modes depending on how you want to drive; Sport mode sharpens everything up and makes it feel nippier, while Green will ensure the car does all it can to save fuel, at the cost of performance.

    Ride quality is on the firm side of comfortable; if you’ve spent time in a more compliant rival it’ll feel quite bumpy, but you’d have to be pretty picky to have a major issue with it. It’s fine for general family use.

    Charging


    You can plug the Countryman PHEV in to charge using a home 3.7kW wallbox, which will refill the battery in 2hrs 24 minutes. You could use a public charger too, but it’ll still only manage 3.7kW; fast charging isn’t possible. If you want to use a regular three-pin socket then you can do so; it’ll charge the car at 2.3kW and take 3hrs 48 minutes. A three-pin cable and a Type 2 charging cable are included.

    Running Costs & Emissions

    As with any plug-in hybrid, the fuel economy you get from the Countryman will depend heavily on how you use it. Keep the battery charged and your journeys below 30 miles and a tank of petrol could last months. But once the battery is depleted, you’re relying on the petrol engine to pull largely redundant and very heavy electrical equipment, and your consumption will skyrocket. Officially the Countryman promises up to 166.2mpg, but that doesn’t mean much in the real world. The PHEV’s beauty is that it offers electric power with the safety net of the petrol engine for occasional longer journeys; if you’re mostly doing lengthy trips, you’re better off with a diesel model.

    Official CO2 emissions are between 43 and 49g/km, and the sub-30-mile electric range puts the Countryman PHEV in the 12% bracket for benefit-in-kind company car tax.

    Interior & Technology

    The retro design theme continues inside the Countryman, with a large circular feature in the dash that harks back to the central speedometer of the original ‘60s Mini. Nowadays though, it houses an 8.8-inch infotainment screen, and is surrounded by an LED light that changes colour in different situations. A digital display replaces traditional analogue dials, letting you choose which information you want easily readable.


    The infotainment system includes sat-nav and live traffic information, and also features Apple CarPlay if you want to hook up your smartphone and use its apps through the screen. However, Android Auto isn’t available. The system itself looks smart, although the screen size is small by the standards of the latest rivals. You can control it from buttons on the steering wheel or using a dial-and-buttons unit between the front seats, and it’s all pretty intuitive. Once you’ve learned which button is which, it’s straightforward to use on the move, unlike other units that require blind stabbing at a touchscreen. There are also shortcut toggle switches under the screen that let you quickly jump from feature to feature.

    Build and material quality is very good; it feels like a quality product, and there’s not much outside of proper premium brands that feels better in cars of this size.

    Practicality & Boot Space

    PHEVs always face an issue with interior space, due to the need to find somewhere for bulky batteries, but MINI has done a pretty decent job with the Countryman. The battery in this case is under the rear seats, which means they sit slightly higher than the regular car, and impinge into boot space somewhat. But the effect is relatively minimal; taller passengers might find rear headroom a bit tight, but it’s still pretty spacious overall. You don’t get the sliding rear seats found elsewhere in the range though.

    Boot space is down from 450 litres to 405, which isn’t the largest space among rivals, but still very usable day-to-day. If you need more space, the rear seats fold down in a 40/20/40 split.

    General storage space includes big door pockets both front and back, there’s a good-sized storage space between the front seats, and a pair of cup holders too.

    Safety

    The non-PHEV Countryman was tested by independent safety organisation Euro NCAP in 2017 and scored the maximum five stars. Standard safety kit includes a noise generator to warn pedestrians when in electric mode, automatic emergency calls in the event of an accident, and automatic emergency braking, which will apply the anchors if you don’t respond to an impending crash. There are six airbags (two at the front, two at the side and two curtain airbags for the head) and Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.

    Options

    Like the rest of the Countryman range, there are three trim levels to choose from. The entry-level model is the Classic, which rides on 17-inch alloy wheels and has cloth upholstery with piano black trim inside.

    Upgrade to the Sport and you get a sportier look courtesy of a bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels. Sports Suspension is included, but you can switch that out for adaptive suspension for no extra cost, which might be worth doing if you don’t want too firm a ride. Inside you get sports seats and a different steering wheel.


    At the top of the tree is the Exclusive, which comes with 19-inch alloys and metallic paint outside, with leather upholstery and some fancier finishing inside.

    Options are plentiful; MINI is very keen on letting its customers personalise their cars. Choices include a range of metallic and solid paint colours, and various alloy wheel designs and leather upholstery colours. You can have various contrasting paint colours on the roof, and stripes on the bonnet if you want. On top of that, there are various packs that add upgrades to the infotainment, heated seats, extra storage and adaptive cruise control.

    Rival Cars

    There’s a massive choice of small-to-mid-size SUVs on the market, so we’ll focus particularly on a smaller niche: rivals that offer a plug-in hybrid option. A long-established rival is the Kia Niro PHEV, which offers a longer electric-only range, but doesn’t offer such fun behind the wheel. It’s got more kit as standard though. For something a bit fancier, check out the PHEV versions of the Volvo XC40 and Mercedes GLA. There are also plenty of slightly larger PHEV SUVs that you might consider, including the Ford Kuga, and a range of non-SUV PHEVs to consider. If you’re set on a plug-in small SUV though, expect far more to be released in the near future.

    Verdict & Next Steps

    The MINI Countryman plug-in hybrid is a quality family car that can offer practicality, driving fun and a quirky character while keeping fuel bills very low – as long as you use it correctly. It won't suit everyone, especially those that do lots of long journeys, but if you fit the ideal usage profile then it could be the best of several worlds. There are rivals that do certain things better, and with new models coming out at regular intervals there will be more and more cars that can do longer distances on a single battery charge. But the Countryman’s blend of practicality, frugality and fun can be hard to resist.


    Where to next?

    View latest Mini Countryman PHEV leasing deals - guide price from £285.39 per month inc VAT**

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    *Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Mini Countryman PHEV

    **Correct as of 25/08/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,568.47 - Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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