First drive: 2019 Mini Countryman Plug-In Hybrid launch review
Tim Nicholson plugs in the new 2019 Mini Countryman Plug-In Hybrid.
Mini is charging ahead with plans to electrify its line-up, and the first cab off the rank is the 2019 Countryman Cooper SE Plug-In Hybrid. Based on the regular Countryman small SUV, the electrified version pairs a petrol engine with an electric motor and battery for an electric-only driving range of 40 kilometres. Mini will follow up the Countryman PHEV with the fully electric Mini Cooper SE hatch that will arrive down under in 2020.
What do you get for the price?
The Countryman Plug-In Hybrid is priced from $57,200 before on-road costs which is a $3000 premium over the all-paw SD diesel and $8000 more than a sporty Cooper S, but $2500 cheaper than the performance-focused John Cooper Works (JCW). The only other petrol-electric rival in the premium small SUV class is the Lexus UX, but that isn’t a plug-in.
Standard gear includes an automatic tailgate, dual-zone climate control with second-row ventilation, ambient lighting, wireless Apple CarPlay, 8.8-inch colour display with navigation, digital radio and a six-speaker audio system, but it misses out on things like power-adjustable seats. As with most Minis, buyers can choose from a seemingly endless list of options and option packages to individualise your car. But be careful as the cost can quickly mount.
How safe is it?
The Countryman was given a five-star ANCAP crash rating in 2017, but the score was for the Cooper D variant. It has an adequate list of standard safety gear that includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
What’s it like inside?
The only indication that this Countryman is a plug-in hybrid is a yellow recharging cap just behind the passenger-side wheel arch. Inside it is business as usual, in a very ‘Mini’ way. The brand uses retro design cues to reference the iconic original Mini, such as the huge circular centre stack. It also has old-school hard switches, unlike its competitors. It takes a while to familiarise yourself with some controls and features in a Mini, but there is no doubting the cabin is unlike any other car on the market.
The seats are comfortable and there’s acres of head room throughout. Leg room in the back is adequate and the boot can swallow 405 litres of cargo (1257 litres with the rear seats stowed), down from the 450 litres in non-hybrid variants due to the battery packs under the boot floor.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powering the Mini is a 100kW/220Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, combined with a 65kW/165Nm electric motor and a 7.6kWh lithium-ion battery for a combined system output of 165kW and 385Nm. The hybrid has a six-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels. Its 0-100kmh time of 6.9 seconds matches the regular Cooper S.
Is it efficient?
The Countryman station is very efficient – if you’re diligent about charging it. The danger with plug-in hybrids is that after a while, some owners grow tired of recharging and instead just run the car on petrol power. However, if you charge up at home, work or at a public charging station, you can run the Countryman on electric power alone – if your commute is less than 40 kilometres per day. That is the exact amount of electric charge the Mini will give you. You can buy a Mini Wallbox that can be installed at your home, which charges the battery in 15 minutes. Charging via a regular household plug takes three hours and 15 minutes.
It has various driving modes such as full electric (MAX eDrive) or combined electric and petrol power (AUTO eDrive). There’s a mode to save battery energy and it has regenerative braking that helps top up the battery.
The average combined cycle fuel consumption figure is 2.1 litres per 100 kilometres – slightly more than a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s 1.7L/100km – and it emits 49g/km of CO2.
How does it drive?
Aside from getting used to the lack of noise when it’s being driven on electric power alone, the drive experience of the Countryman Plug-In Hybrid is very similar to a petrol Countryman. It is quick off the mark and overtakes with ease. It retains that trademark Mini ‘go-kart’ handling and the ride is firm – not helped by the run-flat tyres – but never uncomfortable. Like the rest of the Mini range, it is still a very fun car to drive.
Should I buy one?
If your goal is to be environmentally friendly, and it’s in your price range, the Countryman Plug-In Hybrid is a terrific option – just don’t forget to charge it. If being green is less of a concern and you want to buy a fun, sprightly Mini, save yourself $8000 and consider the petrol Countryman Cooper S.