The 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Phew, that was a mouthful. As time’s gone on, the once-humble Mini certainly has grown. Not just in name either. The Mini Countryman and its mini-wagon cousin, the Clubman, ask prospective buyers to stretch their imagination (and their wallets) on what “Mini” should represent. Originally designed in 1959 as the Morris Mini Minor and no longer than a millennial’s attention span, BMW’s four-door Mini interpretations are nearly five feet longer than Alec Issigonis’ design.
In 2000, BMW re-imagined the diminutive hatchback for the 21st century. Now, in 2018, the tides of history have again swept up the Mini Countryman. How, you ask? From this year, you’ll be able to buy the Mini Countryman as a plug-in hybrid.
TFLcar reviewed the 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 (say that ten times fast) in sunny California. We gave it some praise in that it’s the most powerful Countryman variant. It also works well as an everyday hybrid, with seamless transitions between full-electric and gasoline-motivated power. From that perspective, it’s a sensible option.
Performance: Does the Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 live up to its brand name?
However, that’s not what I’m interested in today. Rather, let’s take a look at the Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 as a Mini. Does it match the classic Mini Hardtop’s reputation as a zippy, nimble hatchback? In short, no. But that’s to be expected since this is technically a subcompact crossover, rather than a traditional hatchback. However, in my testing, I still found the hybrid Countryman a hoot to toss around on canyon roads.
On paper, this Mini looks promising. It uses the same 1.5-liter, 134 horsepower engine in the Cooper and Cooper ALL4 to drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. In the back, a 65kW (87 horsepower) electric motor acts a wingman to drive the rear wheels. Together, the duo make a combined output of 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque.
Despite the Mini’s extra weight, the electric motor does help make up the lack of grunt we feel a mile above sea level. When you floor it, a light comes on at the top of the tachometer, demonstrating the “E-Boost” feature. It takes a second to kick in, but when it does the Countryman hybrid feels like it’s launching off the line. Plus shouting “E-Boooost!” when I took off from the lights provided endless amusement.
If you’re not childish like me, you can use the electric motors (dubbed “eDrive”) to shuffle around town on pure electric power. There are three modes in total. Auto eDrive allows the car to move on its electric motors up to 55 MPH, and will tag in the engine when you exceed that speed or the battery drops below 7 percent. Max eDrive lets you drive up to 77 MPH, and will bring in the gas motor under hard acceleration. Finally, there’s Save mode, which keeps the battery above 90 percent for later use.
Styling: The Car Never Looks Happy, but At Least It’s Different
I’m sorry, but the Mini Countryman, in any guise, has one of the grumpiest faces I’ve seen on a car. The chrome accent in the grille coupled with its big eyes just make the car look like it’s pouting all the time. “Contentious” is a word I’d normally use to describe this kind of styling. It’s not offensively ugly, but the first look I had at a Countryman was head-on, and that grille put me off. I suspect I’m not alone.
Move beyond the front end, and things get better for the Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4’s styling. It retains the silhouette of an ordinary Mini, just with two extra doors and a larger greenhouse area. The “Countryman” badge is picked out in individual letters to give an upmarket feel. If you want your hybrid to fly under the radar, though, you may not like the yellow “E” badges that festoon this car. The green “S” badges also give the game away (normal Cooper S badges are red). Still, you can’t say the Mini Countryman doesn’t have character. Kudos to the design team for making an effort.
Features: I Love the Mini’s Funky Interior, Despite What’s Missing
People who typically buy into the Mini brand do so in part, I believe, on its quirkiness. And I’m with them. The circular infotainment screen with colored LED surround lighting and the chrome toggle switches set the Countryman apart. I also found the Drive mode “ring” around the gear lever base a unique touch. It controls three drive modes: Sport, Mid, and Green.
The only complaints I have lie within the infotainment system. The menus are fairly complicated and can be difficult to work out using the command wheel behind the gear lever. Speaking of the command wheel, it’s not exactly natural to use (at least for me). To move down through the menus, you turn the wheel to the left, while turning it right moves up. It’s a bit counter-intuitive. The plethora of buttons around the wheel take some getting used to as well. I couldn’t out where all the buttons were without taking my eyes of the road.
The Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 sports many of the other features you’d come to expect. Optional equipment on this car includes Parking Assist for $500, a Head-Up Display for $740, and the Melting Silver metallic paint for $500. Weirdly, Blind Spot Monitoring is not available on this Countryman.
Final Take: It’s Still a Mini, if Not As Thrilling
The Mini Cooper S E Countryman’s hybrid nature compromises its ability to live up to the spry, light-footed nature its hatchback brother enjoys. It’s obviously not as dynamically sharp as the other Minis, but it’s still good fun to drive. Its interior and exterior have both improved over the previous Countryman, and its every bit as funky as other Minis in the range. It also offers decent, if not great, utility. Not that people buy Minis for their practicality. No, most people buy them for their customization and their character.
Pay for that customization and character you will, though. This Mini, including destination charges, rings in at $39,700. Yep, nearly forty grand. For a Mini. The 7.6-kWh battery pack only offers up 12 miles of range, blunting the added value a bit. However, because it’s a plug-in hybrid vehicle, it is eligible for up to $4,000 in federal tax credits.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4
|Price as Tested:||$39,700 (including destination charges)|
|Engine:||1.5-liter, turbocharged inline-3 and 65 kW electric motor|
|Drivetrain (Layout):||Front-engine, all-wheel drive (engine powers front wheels, electric motor powers rear wheels)|
|Horsepower:||Engine: 134 hp @ 4,400 RPM
Electric Motor: 87 hp (65 kW)
Total System Output: 221 hp
|Torque:||Engine: 162 lb-ft @ 1,250 RPM
Electric Motor: 122 lb-ft
Total System Output: 284 lb-ft
|0-60 Acceleration:||6.7 seconds|
|Top Speed:||120 MPH (77 MPH in EV mode)|
|Suspension:||Front: MacPherson strut w/ aluminum swivel bearing and anti-dive controlRear: Multi-link w/ weight-optimized trailing arms|
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front)|
|Tires:||Goodyear Eagle Sport 225/50 R18 runflat all-seasons|
|Fuel capacity:||9.5 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||27 Combined MPG; 65 MPGe Combined
32.0 MPG observed
|Cargo capacity:||47.4 cubic feet (w/ seats folded)|
|Turning Circle:||37.4 feet|
|Curb Weight:||3,948 pounds|