THE Countryman SE combines Mini’s iconic design language with a hybrid powertrain and practical family layout.
What is it?
Minis aren’t exactly miniature anymore, are they? Over the years they’ve grown, becoming increasingly swollen in the process.
The new Countryman is the largest vehicle ever produced by the famous British brand – a proper five-seat crossover, if you will.
What we have here is the new plug-in hybrid model, called the Countryman S E.
Combining the strong badge appeal that Mini has come to be known for with a practical layout and (theoretically) low running costs, the big Mini should become stalwart of the school-run set.
The second-generation Mini Countryman was launched late last year, and brought with it revised styling, improved standard equipment and greater levels of practicality.
The change we’re most interested in, though, is our Countryman S E test vehicle’s hybrid powertrain – the first to ever feature on a Mini.
What’s under the bonnet?
In S E guise, the Mini Countryman calls upon a combination of a 1.5-litre three-pot petrol engine, along with a separate electric motor.
Together, these give the not-so-Mini a decent amount of shove – 224bhp and 220Nm of torque to be precise.
This means that despite the car’s size, it can still hit 60mph from a standstill in a commendable 6.6 seconds, before maxing out at 125mph.
Mini claims that with its new electrified powertrain, the Countryman S E will manage a frankly staggering fuel consumption figure of 134mpg on the combined cycle. This is largely down to its ability to travel 26 miles on electric power alone.
However, unless you can reliably charge the Mini’s battery at work and home, it’s unlikely you’ll see consumption figures anywhere this target. During our time with the vehicle, the Mini averaged around the 40mpg mark, and thanks to a rather tiny 36-litre fuel tank trips to the pumps were a bit more frequent than we would’ve liked.
What’s it like to drive?
Mini has always been a champion of producing cars with go-kart-like handling characteristics, and while the Countryman S E may do a good job of disguising its weight through the bends, it’s by no means a nippy little supermini.
The steering is light and rather lacking in feel, but it does allow you point the front of the car into a bend with confidence.
Body roll isn’t too bad either, despite the Countryman’s higher centre of gravity.
The only real rate-limiting step here is its skinny little tyres, which will struggle for front-end grip when cornering with even a small amount of enthusiasm – particularly in cold, damp conditions.
The electrified powertrain also provides the Mini with a fair amount of poke.
The instant torque from the electric motor combines with the petrol power plant for some impressive acceleration at lower speeds, and makes the Countryman rather entertaining on a winding back road.
How does it look?
Unfortunately, the stylish looks of the regular Mini hatch don’t really translate all that well onto the larger Countryman – at least to our eyes. We couldn’t help but think the Mini looked a bit too swollen and bulbous, and the standard-fit 17-inch alloys did look lost in those large wheel arches. It would seem that Mini’s design language can only go so far.
What’s it like inside?
The Countryman’s interior is a traditional Mini affair, although space has obviously been increased owing to the car’s larger proportions.
There’s a large circular central instrument binnacle in the middle of the dash that houses the car’s infotainment system, while the heating and ventilation controls are positioned further below. Chrome toggle switches are a nice touch, too.
Cabin space is certainly much improved compared with that offered by other Mini products, and two average-sized adults should be able to ride in the rear seats with relative comfort over long journeys.
Boot space is decent, too, with 405 litres of luggage capacity on offer.
What’s the spec like?
As standard, a Mini Countryman S E will set you back £31,585 – but that’s before you specify any options.
Standard equipment includes satellite navigation, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity to name but a few.
Our test car came with a total purchase price of £39,340, which included options such as an automatic tailgate, LED headlights and a driving assistant pack.
We couldn’t help but be a wee bit disappointed with the Mini Countryman S E. Sure, it may be more fun down a windy road than, say, a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, but it’s surprisingly thirsty when it comes to fuel consumption, it doesn’t look that great (to our eyes) and it’s not what you’d call cheap.
That said, if you have reliable access to a charging point – something we didn’t during our time with the car – the Countryman would make a lot more sense for buyers after a practical family runabout.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Mini Countryman S E ALL4
Price as tested:£39,340
Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol with electric motor
Power (bhp): 224
Torque (Nm): 220
Max speed (mph): 125
0-60mph: 6.6 seconds
Emissions (g/km): 51g/km