THE 2019 MINI Countryman SE All4 PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) may have a long name, but one quick spin tells drivers all they need to know about the future of the automobile and the oncoming electric revolution.
Externally, the MINI doesn't look much different from its petrol-powered counterparts other than the yellow MINI electric badges. Inside, it's the same. Drivers will drop into the comfortable and supportive seats after the keyless entry system allows access. At night, the branded puddle lights illuminate the way. High-quality materials and the modern MINI premium touches, like ambient lighting and toggle switches, are spread across every inch of the cabin. A glance at the instrumentation will see that the rev counter has been replaced by E-Instrument, showing the status of the battery in the various drive modes, recovering energy or boosting output.
Fire up, the MINI using the PHEV specific yellow START toggle switch and there's nothing, just a message on the infotainment screen indicating the vehicle is ready to go. The MINI will pull out quietly, partly due to its very refined cockpit, mostly due to the 88bhp 65kW electric motor affixed to the rear wheels. And there lies the secret of the MINI PHEV. The standard Countryman Cooper S would have a 228bhp 2-litre gasoline engine, the MINI PHEV combines the electric power with a 136bhp TwinPower turbocharged internal combustion engine, a wonderful partnership that gives it amazing flexibility and refinement.
From flat, the MINI PHEV can be charged to give up to 40km at a maximum of 125km/h in three hours and 25 minutes using a 230-volt power supply. Flip the car into SAVE mode and the MINI will charge itself while being driven using a variety of strategies, regenerative braking or coasting. On electric power alone, the MINI operates in the rarified air of true eco-friendly motoring. More importantly, it doesn't change the base characteristics of the MINI. It's still fun to drive as the instant torque from the eMotor compliments the go-kart like handling and the tenacious grip from the all-wheel drive system. For those wanting to cruise, the MINI PHEV is a willing partner as the lack of exterior noise adds an extra sense of comfort, allowing full enjoyment of niceties like the full length panoramic sunroof and the excellent Harman/Kardon stereo system. During our testing, the MINI was easily able to regain a near full charge and upwards of 25km of travel distance multiple times, especially when driven in SPORT mode.
When depleted, the switch to gasoline is seamless with just the return of an exhaust note to the ear. The turbo engine is already proven in other MINI products and remains punchy and smooth. However, it does its best when combined with the eMotor. The MINI can be left to delegate which of the power sources function at any time, but using SPORT mode with Max eDrive mode unleashes the full potential of the rated 224bhp. For those just needing the occasional burst of speed, the E-Instrumentation highlights the amount of throttle travel needed to push the vehicle into eBOOST bringing the eMotor into play.
Filled with all the space of a compact sport utility vehicle, premium touches like a rear power lift gate and cool technology such as self-parking, the MINI can be enjoyed in only a manner an electric vehicle can be without the fear of range anxiety. The hybrid motor takes nothing away from the core elements of the vehicle, but instead enhances elements like efficiency and speed.