Mini, the British brand acquired by BMW in 2000, now includes a plug-in electric hybrid whose name is nearly as long as the car itself: the 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4.
“Countryman All4” makes me think of Paul Revere, but Countryman is the name of a pre-existing version of the Mini Cooper that’s bigger, roomier and more SUV-like than the others, and All4 is what Mini creatively calls its all-wheel drive system. The S and E indicate higher performance and plug-in capability.
Another indicator of the plug-in capability is the big bright cover on the charging port, located near the front on the driver’s side. There’s another one on the front passenger side, providing symmetry and visual appeal, but it’s cosmetic, not functional.
A three-cylinder gasoline engine in front and an electric motor tucked beneath the rear seat combine to produce a total output of 221 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
In electric-only mode, the plug-in Countryman can travel up to 12 miles before running out of juice. That’s a comfortable distance for downtown dwellers, but not much for those of us who live in the Snohomish County backcountry. No worries, though. The hybrid system would kick in well before the car started rolling to a stop in the middle of I-5.
The hybrid system switches back and forth between electric and gas so smoothly it isn’t even noticeable.
When operating in hybrid mode, the Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 has a combined (city/highway) EPA rating of 27 mpg. For full electric and gas, the EPA rating is 65 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent). Unfortunately, the car’s 9.5-gallon fuel tank means more frequent stops at the gas station, which can give a false impression of reduced fuel economy.
By using the eDrive toggle switch in the plug-in Mini, the driver can select from three different modes: Auto eDrive, which is electric-only up to 55 mph; Max eDrive, purely electric up to 78 mph; and Save Battery, when the combustion engine provides all the power and the battery charge is kept above 90 percent or raised to that level by the starter generator. The electric power can be kept on tap for later use.
I have to disclose an episode that happened on the U.S. 2 trestle during my test week, which was very recent. Do I even have to mention that the road was soaking wet at the time? Traffic was moving at a fast clip when it suddenly started coming to a stop and I had to hit the brake pedal with a vengeance. Let’s just say that the S E Countryman didn’t do the finest of jobs coming to a stop. But I didn’t hurt anything or anyone, and NO, I WASN’T TAILGATING.
Even with the added weight of the hybrid system, the plug-in Countryman’s handling is still fun and kart-like on winding roads. The generous amount of space inside the cabin, along with fold-flat rear seats, makes the car practical, too. It can hold an impressive amount of stuff for such a little thing, and its small size makes it sheer joy in tight parking situations, of course.
The interior is extremely well made and its Mini-trademark assortment of whimsical-looking features, including lots of toggle switches and a big round center display for the infotainment system, are wonderful enough to make a person want to just sit there and play with them for no reason.
2018 MINI COOPER S E COUNTRYMAN ALL4
Base price, including destination charge: $37,650
Price as driven: $39,700
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.