Mini Countryman Hybrid review: Green machine’s remarkable claim

Mini has launched its new compact Countryman SUV hybrid. The petrol-electric machine delivers some impressive fuel use figures but is it worth the money? Here are five things you need to know about the Mini Countryman Hybrid.

Mini is going green

The compact car brand is ditching diesel and doubling down on electric cars.

Mini hatch customers can now choose a fully electric model priced from $59,990 drive-away, while the bigger Mini Countryman Hybrid blends petrol and electric power for about $63,000 drive-away. That makes the hybrid the best relative value in our opinion, as it’s a larger and more practical proposition for little additional spend.

The plug-in hybrid’s official fuel figure is a remarkable 2.5L/100km, but that doesn’t really translate to the real world. As with all cars of this type, you’ll use almost zero fuel for short trips, but burn fuel at a normal rate once the battery is depleted.

This is a complicated car

Everyone knows what a Mini is, and car-loving folk might know the Countryman is Mini’s solution to the high-riding crossover trend.

So we have a hybrid version of said SUV. Easy enough, right?

This is a plug-in hybrid, one combining a 100kW, 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine driving the front wheels with a 65kW electric motor on the rear axle. That’s a loosely similar arrangement to BMW’s i8 roadster, at a fraction of the cost.

A small (by electric car standards) 7.6kWh battery allows you to plug the Mini into a power outlet and charge the car from the grid.

Doing so gives you about 40 kilometres of electric motoring at speeds up to 125km/h while driving the rear wheels only — unless you floor the throttle and rouse the petrol engine linked to the front wheels to deliver maximum acceleration.

There’s more to it than the engine

Countryman customers get funky retro styling inside and out, along with a good dollop of tech such as LED lights, smart keys, a powered tailgate, dual-zone climate control and a central 8.8-inch touchscreen tucked into a round central display.

The quality of materials used is a step above mainstream brands, and eco-conscious types aren’t likely to be annoyed by faux leather seats. There’s plenty of headroom in the back, but not a lot of legroom, and the hybrid misses out on a sliding rear bench found in other models.

It’s fun to drive

The Countryman is surprisingly spritely in a straight line, helped by clever all-wheel-drive traction that gets the 100km/h dash done in 6.8 seconds. But the hybrid gear adds more than 300 kilos to the standard Cooper Countryman’s weight, which blunts the experience somewhat.

Stiff suspension helps maintain the “go-kart feel” Mini strives for, at the expense of ride comfort at low speeds. Heavy steering contributes to a sense that the Countryman feels planted and solid on the road, where it delivers a far more engaging experience than rival plug-in hybrids such as the Mitsubishi Outlander.

A better one is around the corner

Mini announced running changes to the Countryman earlier this year that included dropping the diesel version and fitting a bigger battery to the hybrid. The 2021 Hybrid Countryman will be good for another 10km or so of electric motoring, which means prospective buyers should either hold out for the updated car or push for a bargain on existing stock.

Mini Hybrid Countryman

Price: About $63,000 drive-away

Engine: 1.5-litre 3-cyl hybrid, 165kW/385Nm

Warranty/Service: 3-year/unlimited km, $1495 for 5 years

Fuel use: 2.5L/100km

Safety: 6 airbags, AEB, active cruise control, pedestrian detection,

Storage: 405 litres

Spare: None

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