Driven!: 2019 Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4

  • Jeff Sabatini has written for many publications over his 20 years in automotive journalism, including Car and Driver, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Sports Car Market magazine. His lifetime car churn includes 30 vehicles: eight GM cars, five Ford products, four Toyotas, three BMWs, two Jeeps, two Chrysler minivans, a Miata, a Mercedes, a Porsche, a Saab, a Subaru, and a Volkswagen.

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Mini barely hints at what lies beneath the rear floor of this electrified Countryman SUV. With no “hybrid” in the name, no “plug-in” or “PHEV” suffix, it’s left to that little capital “E” to tell you, this is the one with the battery and electric motor. At first glance, you might be excused for thinking it’s just a typo.

  • The Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 is the plug-in hybrid version of Mini’s best-selling SUV.
  • A gas engine under the hood and an electric motor at the rear give it 224 combined horsepower, which makes for quick but sometimes jerky acceleration.
  • Form over function styling is polarizing, just like other Minis.
  • EPA-rated at 12 miles all-electric range; we beat that, topping 14.
  • Starts at $37,750 before tax credits and local incentives, which can eliminate the hybrid upcharge.
With the Cooper S E Countryman All4, Mini cleverly adds a plug-in hybrid powertrain to its best-selling SUV.
With the Cooper S E Countryman All4, Mini cleverly adds a plug-in hybrid powertrain to its best-selling SUV.

Parsing the Name

Note that this is not an “SE” Countryman—the “S” and “E” are separate. The former stands for sport and the latter, of course, for electric. “All4” denotes all-wheel drive.

The same turbocharged, 1.5-liter 3-cylinder gasoline engine that powers the base Mini Cooper Countryman (no S) sits under the hood of the hybrid. In both models it makes 134 horsepower and drives the front wheels. The hybrid uses a six-speed automatic transmission rather than an eight-speed in the non-hybrid.

But wait, what about that S? While Cooper S Countryman models have bigger, four-cylinder engines, the Cooper S E Countryman gets its sportiness thanks an 87-horsepower electric motor. The added power of the electric motor gives the hybrid a total of 221 horsepower, which is more than the 189 horses of the Cooper S and almost as much as the sportiest, 228-horsepower John Cooper Works model. This also allows the PHEV to have all-wheel drive, with the gas engine turning the front wheels and the electric motor driving the rear ones.

Weighing The Merits Of More Power

The extra power and the instant torque of the electric motor mean the plug-in is a bit quicker than the Cooper S Countryman All4. Mini says the Cooper S E Countryman All4 can accelerate, 0-60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds, which is two-tenths of a second better.

That’s not a lot. The extra 277 pounds that the Cooper S E Countryman All4 carries around makes it less nimble than the non-hybrid model. One of the main selling points of any Mini is that it’s fun to drive, with sharp handling that delivers a go cart-like experience behind the wheel. That feeling is mostly absent in the Cooper S E Countryman All4.

In spirited driving the car can get confused about what it wants to do. The turbocharger takes a split second to spool up and start delivering its power. Similarly, the electric motor’s response can lag behind the driver’s right foot. This is especially true in dynamic situations, such as transitioning from braking to acceleration. Throw in a little cornering that might upset the chassis and the Countryman’s two powertrains can get momentarily deadlocked over which one should take over.

The plug-in Countryman retains Mini's quirky interior design.
The plug-in Countryman retains Mini’s quirky interior design.

Love It Or Leave It

Mini’s cartoon-like styling has always been its main attraction, but also polarizing. There’s little to differentiate the electrified Countryman on the outside, save for the badges and the charging port. On the inside, the brand’s trademark elements all carry over into the PHEV Countryman. This includes the chrome-ringed circular gauges, HVAC controls, and center console instrument panel. The row of toggle switches below it, as well.

While the design is certainly more fun than the dour plastic of some small cars, it’s also a triumph of form over function. This is especially true in the plug-in hybrid, which lacks the sorts of detailed displays of energy consumption and system operation common in other electrified vehicles. Useful information, such as the electric range and battery charge level, is buried in the multifunction display atop the steering wheel.

At least Mini did an equally good job hiding the actual hybrid hardware. Neither the battery nor the electric motor intrudes upon cabin space. This is important given that there’s not an overabundance of it to begin with. The regular Countryman seats five and the hybrid still seats five, although if you wish to put three passengers in the back of either, let’s hope they’re children. An elevated rear seat chops off a little over an inch of headroom and loses its ability to slide forward, but otherwise the passenger compartment in the hybrid is uncompromised. Cargo capacity takes a hit, however, as the subfloor area of the regular Countryman’s luggage hold has vanished, a victim of the packaging of the hybrid system.

Making It Work

Give credit to Mini for managing to convert the Countryman into a plug-in hybrid without sacrificing too much. This is an impressive feat of engineering, especially given the size of the vehicle. Yet it’s that small template that winds up circumscribing the abilities of the Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4.

With a 7.6 kWh battery pack, the EPA only rates the electrified Countryman at 12 miles of all-electric range. That’s surely not enough for most people’s daily commute. However, we managed to get 14.2 miles out of a full charge before the PHEV Countryman switched out of its Max eDrive mode and fired up the gas engine. Plugged into a commercial 240-volt Level 2 station, we were able to recharge the Mini in just about two hours, thanks to its 3.7 kW onboard charging hardware.

While the range number lags other plug-in hybrids, it’s enough to be useful for some. And with the ability to drive in all-electric mode at speeds of up to 78 miles per hour, even freeway commuting in the electrified Countryman is possible without burning hydrocarbons. Once the battery gets depleted, however, the hybrid Mini’s fuel economy is barely better than the non-hybrid Mini Cooper S Countryman All4. The hybrid’s EPA rating is just 27 miles per gallon combined, with premium fuel required. The non-hybrid manages 26 mpg.

Depending on where you live, you may not have to spend any more to drive a hybrid Countryman than a non-hybrid.
Depending on where you live, you may not have to spend any more to drive a hybrid Countryman than a non-hybrid.

Pricing and Incentives

We suspect the average car shopper will find little financial advantage to the plug-in Countryman. Pricing reflects this, as what Mini upcharges for the hybrid can be easily made up with incentives.

Let’s do the math. The Cooper S E Countryman All4 starts at $37,750 for “Classic” trim. An available federal tax credit cuts that by $4,000 for qualifying buyers. Other state and local incentives may apply, as well. For instance, Oregon offers a $1,500 rebate for plug-in hybrids, the Countryman included. A non-hybrid Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 starts at $32,250, which is—you guessed it—exactly $5,500 less than the hybrid.

So if you live somewhere with a local electric vehicle rebate, you might be able to get a Cooper S E Countryman All4 for the same price or even less than its non-hybrid counterpart. And Mini sells this model in all 50 states. Provided you have the ability to charge it often and don’t have to drive too far to work, even this range-challenged plug-in could save you plenty. And that’s not a typo.


About the Author

  • Jeff Sabatini has written for many publications over his 20 years in automotive journalism, including Car and Driver, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Sports Car Market magazine. His lifetime car churn includes 30 vehicles: eight GM cars, five Ford products, four Toyotas, three BMWs, two Jeeps, two Chrysler minivans, a Miata, a Mercedes, a Porsche, a Saab, a Subaru, and a Volkswagen.

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