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Review: The Cooper PHEV is MINI's first ever plug-in hybrid - so is it worth it?

We took it for a test drive.

Image: Max Earey

THE MINI COOPER S E ALL4 Countryman PHEV is the plug-in hybrid version of the MINI Countryman. ALL4 is MINI speak for four-wheel drive.

This PHEV model costs €42,500 which is actually €300 less than the comparative manual Cooper S ALL4 Countryman (€42,800), but you can actually get behind the wheel of a Countryman from €32,979.99.

However, being a plug-in hybrid, you can get an SEAI grant and, up until the end of 2018, you can get VRT relief which brings the price of the Cooper S E ALL4 Countryman PHEV down to €35,000.

I have already tested and reviewed the standard model and concluded that the MINI Countryman is far more than just a fashion statement (read that review here) but is the PHEV better than the standard model? Let’s see.

Source: Max Earey

What’s different?

Due to the positioning of the battery pack underneath the rear seats the seats are raised 26mm compared to the standard model. This does cut into rear headroom but as the Countryman is fairly roomy this should really only impact those over six feet tall.

The boot decreases in capacity from 450 litres to 405 litres but this does swell to 1,275 litres with the rear seats folded. As a comparison the Audi Q2 can hold 405 litres, the Kia Niro can hold 427 litres and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV can hold 463 litres.

However, the rear seats do fold individually in a 40/20/40 formation and slide forwards and backwards giving added flexibility in the back. There’s also a false boot floor for extra storage.

So all in all, being a plug-in hybrid only slightly impinges on the practicality of the cabin.

Source: Max Earey

But what about how it handles?

Well, even with the extra 130kg of weight that the plug-in hybrid system adds, the Countryman, with its 46:54 front-to-rear weight bias, is still fun to drive, much like the standard model. The steering is well weighted and the car is quick to respond and the added weight actually helps with the car’s stability and body-roll and lean. The car feels agile and easy to manoeuvre. The ALL4 four-wheel drive system also helps with keeping the car planted and glued to the corners even in muddy conditions.

Source: Max Earey

What about its green credentials?

The Countryman is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine combined with synchronous electric motor. It has a combined power output of 224hp and 385Nm of torque. A 7.6kWh battery pack provides an all-electric range of up to 42km (26 miles), which should be enough to cover the daily commute of many drivers.

The battery is quick to charge too. It takes around 2.5 hours thanks to its 3.6kW charging rate. In theory a lot of people could drive to and from work without ever needing to use a drop of petrol.

Source: Max Earey

There are three drive modes to choose from. You can drive in pure electric mode at speeds of up to 125km/h. If you want to go faster or accelerate harder the petrol engine switches on automatically and seamlessly. You can let the on-board systems decide what best suits the current driving conditions and it will switch between the electric and petrol motor.

You can also choose to save the battery charge when the battery is running low. In this mode, the petrol engine charges the battery or keeps the charging status at 90 per cent. When you’re driving in Save Battery mode, the petrol engine is doing all the work, so you can switch back to electric driving in urban areas. It really is a very flexible drivetrain.

Source: Max Earey

Thanks to the PHEV system, Co2 emissions are just 49g/km (Band A, €170 per annum)  and the combined fuel economy figure is 2.1 litres/100km (134.5mpg) making the PHEV the cheapest Countryman to run.

The next cheapest to tax and most economical model in the range is the Cooper D Countryman (€35,540) which has Co2 of 118g/km (€200 a year) and fuel economy of 4.5 litres/100km.

As mentioned above, you can get a grant and VRT relief which brings the price of the PHEV down to €35,000. This makes for a very compelling proposition especially when you consider that the PHEV model is not only the cheapest to run and tax but one of the fastest and powerful models in the range. And when you compare it to its competitors, it is the most fun to drive plug-in hybrid crossover on the market.

Well, to be fair, there aren’t main hybrid crossovers out there. Its main competition is the more expensive Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the forthcoming Kia Niro PHEV and Volvo XC40 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid.

Source: Max Earey

So, if you want a trendy family crossover with low running costs and plenty of green credentials the MINI Cooper S E All4 Countryman PHEV should be the top of your list.

After driving both the standard model and plug-in hybrid model I would have to recommend the PHEV as I feel you are getting a better deal for the price when you factor in the grants and you are future proofing your car by getting a plug-in hybrid.

READ: What is eCall – We explain the automated emergency call in-car technology >

READ: The Kia Stinger GT is beautiful and brilliant and a blast to drive >

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About the author:

Melanie May  / http://www.melaniemay.com

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