REMEMBER way back when Chrysler had a winning marketing campaign called ‘hey Charger’, and people thought it was funny to make jokes and call it out and make the V for Victory hand sign. That wore thin real quick with Charger owners.
Unfortunately, the MINI Cooper S Countryman suffers the same fate, with just about every second person making jokes, like “it’s not so MINI” or “they should have called it a large”. That wears thin real quick too.
Now, while the 2020 MINI Cooper S Countryman Hybrid ALL4 PHEV (that’s plugin hybrid electric vehicle) might sound like a tonque twister, it’s certainly a great car. Offering all-wheel drive motoring with the convenience of a compact SUV.
Powered by a zippy little 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo at the front wheels, producing 100kW and 220Nm of torque, with a six-speed automatic transmission. Given the size of the car, it was surprising how well it drove on just the petrol motor.
It didn’t feel sluggish at all, and the automatic transmission shifted quite nicely. The rear wheels are powered separately by an electric motor, with a 7.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which produces 65kW of power and 165Nm of torque.
MINI claims a 47km range from the plugin hybrid, which is impressive enough, if we could achieve it. For the hassle it takes to charge the car, we could only manage around 30km on electric power. That makes performance the real focus of the EV side of the vehicle.
In Sport mode, the MINI can travel from 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds, with the combined power of both motors delivering a beefy 165kW. That certainly breaks down the barrier that hybrids are slow and boring. The 2020 MINI Cooper S Countryman Hybrid is neither.
Claimed fuel economy is 2.5-litres/100km, but to achieve that, you’ll need a long trip, with good battery regeneration opportunities to make it happen. The best we could manage was a still impressive 6.0-litres/100km.
The 2020 MINI Cooper S Countryman Hybrid features a very BMW like interior, thanks to its parent brand. This isn’t a complaint, but rather a compliment, as the interior itself is stunning, with our test vehicle decked out in a gorgeous cream leather.
It features coloured interior lighting, topped off with a touchscreen interface running a re-skinned version of BMW’s iDrive system, placed in a retro inspired ring in the middle of the dash. It reminded this author of his dad’s old 1976 Mini.
That being said, BMW’s iDrive system is one of the best on the market, the capabilities of the satellite navigation system and integrated Apple CarPlay make for a satisfying experience, either through the touch screen or a rotary dial next to the gear selector.
There’s also an abundance of real time information on the Countryman’s mechanical status, all the way down to tyre pressure sensors and a power usage metre showing how many kilowatts and how much torque are being used.
Unfortunately, a head-up display is missing from the kit, and after getting used to driving with one you realise just how important these systems are to keep the driver’s eyes focused on the road.
Given the MINI’s status as an SUV, there’s also not a great deal of space in the boot. A lack of electric seat adjustment is also a little disappointing, particularly given the price point at which this vehicle retails.
Admittedly it was the only detail that felt cheap and less high-end luxury in the whole car.
Outside, the MINI Cooper S Countryman exterior is magnificent in British Racing Green, and an enormous improvement on previous offerings.
The proportions are spot on, and while it looks small when parked on its own, we sidled up to a Subaru Forester, only to realise it was almost identical in size.
Despite its relatively large stature, the Cooper S Countryman also maintains the brand’s signature go-kart like feel. Unexpected from an SUV that weights 1640kg, the MINI was agile and felt right at home through the twists and turns of some rugged country roads.
It stopped on the spot and had minimal body roll through the corners. If there’s a downside to driving the Hybrid though, it’s that it goes without some driver aids. Missing is lane keep assist, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.
With its excellent handling and stylish looks, this car could be sitting in anybody’s driveway. Statistics demonstrate our desire and motivation to move to a hybrids isn’t quite there yet, but perhaps test driving one could help the shift.
The 2020 MINI Cooper S Countryman Hybrid ALL4 PHEV falls short in validating its worth at $57,200 plus on-roads. Mainly as it lacks the premium features that should be in every 2020 car, let alone one with a $60k price point.
The shortfalls can be forgiven with its good looks, handling and hybrid power, but the fact non-hybrid models are identical, less expensive, and a few hundred kilos lighter, makes us sway towards petrol cars until MINI can find a way to make hybrids more affordable.
Our test vehicle was provided by MINI Australia. To find out more about the 2020 MINI Cooper S Countryman Hybrid ALL4, contact your local MINI dealer.