The 2020 Mini Countryman PHEV is – I think – the only plug-in hybrid compact SUV on the market today and certainly the most fun.
The Countryman – heck, the whole Mini range – cops a lot of stick for being too big or too this or too that. Nobody is ever happy. And I bet when the purists discovered that not only was there going to be a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Mini, it was the Countryman.
And – shock horror – it was to be rear-wheel drive. Okay, only some of the time, but a rear-wheel drive Mini is the sort of thing you see in Youtube videos with people wearing backwards baseball caps who start by saying, “What’s up Youtube?”
Naturally, I’m classier than that. Not very much more, but I am.
How much is a 2020 Mini Countryman PHEV and what do I get?
Mini Countryman Cooper S E All 4: $57,200 +ORC
Ah, yes, nearly sixty large for a Mini. You do get some stuff, though.
You get 18-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, sat nav, auto LED headlights with auto high beam, auto wipers, partial leather (ie some fake, some real) trim, auto parking, power tailgate and run-flat tyres.
The Mini media system is basically iDrive (not the latest OS 7.0) and also has DAB+ radio and Apple CarPlay. It also has the stupid armrest-mounted wireless charging pad that doesn’t fit larger phones. That’s really annoying, but seems to be on the way to being fixed in other BMW Group cars.
The Mini Countryman PHEV is available in seven colours – Midnight Black, Island Blue, British Racing Green, Moonwalk Grey, Thunder Grey, Melting Silver and the only freebie, Light White. The rest are another thousand bucks.
Options and Packages
Being a Mini, there are plenty to choose from. You can choose a different 18-inch wheel for no money or 19s for $1200.
Climate Package ($2400): Includes sunroof, tinted windows and heated front seats.
Convenience Package ($2500): adds an alarm (?!), electric front seats with lumbar support, electrochromatic rear-vision mirror, dipping door mirrors for parking. That last thing should be on all cars and not optional. Yes, I will die on this hill.
Media Plus Package ($2000): This one adds a premium 12-speaker stereo and a head-up display. You should get this for reasons I will mention later and the HUD should be standard for those same reasons.
There is a bunch of other stuff like headlining and leather options for hundreds each that are down to taste rather than utility, so go nuts.
Safety – 5 stars (ANCAP, May 2017)
The Mini Countryman D scored the five stars and ANCAP wants you to know that.
The Countryman PHEV ships with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward low-speed AEB with pedestrian avoidance, forward collision warning, speed zone recognition and pedestrian alert for when it’s running in electric mode.
Warranty and Servicing
Like parent company BMW, Mini still only offers 3 years/unlimited km with roadside assist thrown in.
The dealer will try and flog you pre-paid servicing for five years/80,000km and it’s not a bad deal. From what I can tell, the Countryman PHEV costs $1495 for Basic and $4031 for Plus which covers brake discs and pads and clutches (if required).
You can buy servicing for up to ten years or 200,000km, but that’s POA.
Look and Feel
Yeah it’s big for a Mini, but it does have a really big COUNTRYMAN across the back so you don’t have to explain it to people. I don’t mind the Countryman but I’m not sure about it in BRG. I had the great privilege of attending the Countryman launch in the UK a few years back. It looks good in blue.
The PHEV is festooned with those big yellow E badges that look – and in the case of the plug-in cap – feel flimsy, which is a shame. Plastichrome is better than this. Apart from that, it looks good and not too self-consciously rugged if the usual Mini self-conscious retro-ness.
For the biggest Mini, you get plenty of space. From the B-pillar forward it’s the same Mini as any other with a few small tweaks (taller air-con vents) but behind you get good space for rear seat dwellers on comfy-looking seats. The sunroof does steal a bit of headroom, but you won’t be carrying tall people regularly back there. Will you?
The boot is a decent size at 405 litres. You lose a spare, though, as the batteries are under the boot floor, along with a well where the portable charger goes. Push down the rear seats and you get up 1275 litres, which again isn’t bad going.
I also didn’t hate the white leather, which I probably should have.
Drivetrain and Chassis
Being a Countryman, it’s all-wheel drive. And front-wheel drive. And rear-wheel drive. Not all at the same time, of course.
Under the bonnet is BMW’s normally punchy B38 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo serving up 100kW and 220Nm. The engine drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic.
Connected only by clever software, the rear wheels have a 65kW/165Nm electric motor juiced by a 7.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Mini says the combined power figure is 165kW and 385Nm, pushing the 1700kg machine to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds. As quick as a normal Cooper S, then.
There’s nothing cute about the chassis – being a Mini it runs on UKL2. The 18s are shod with Continental Premium Contact 6 SSR tyres measuring 225/50.
Range and charging
Mini says you can drive up to 40km on a single full charge in EV mode. Which, incidentally, is when it’s in rear-wheel drive.
Charging to 80 percent takes three hours on a normal domestic socket, dropping by 40 percent if you go for a wall box. There is no DC charge capability, but really, that would be silly.
The city range isn’t far off but the highway range is nothing like 40km, so stick in Battery Save mode when you’re on the open road.
The ADR fuel figure on the combined cycle is a very silly 2.5L/100km and the NEDC is just as silly. I didn’t really have the car long enough to give you a real world figure (it’s in high demand this thing), so I’ll go with the consensus and say that in mixed mode it will managed somewhere between 5.5 and 7.0L/100km.
Fundamentally, it’s a Countryman. It does retain the basic Mini feel of taut suspension and responsive steering, the extra height does dial back the hot hatch feel.
There is a bit of body roll through the corners – well controlled and not even approaching what you might see in other compact SUVs – but the grip is addictive.
I went in thinking I would really notice the difference in all-wheel drive that’s electric at the back and “trad” at the front, but it was pretty good. In full EV mode, the electric motor is responsive and fun, near-perfect around town. It’s kind of like a fat i3.
Where it isn’t like an i3 is the regenerative braking. It’s nowhere near as aggressive and I couldn’t find anywhere to up the aggro. I think that probably goes back to the fact that the rear brakes probably don’t have that much recovering ability compared to other EVs.
Thing is, though, the brake pedal is really soft at the top as the transition between the limited recovery and actual braking is a bit awkward. You get used to it, but it took a while.
The dash is largely unchanged, which is not great. The speedo is too tightly-packed and a pain to read. Normally that’s easy fixed by cycling through the dash display to get a digital speed reading.
Not in the Countryman, so get yourself the HUD in the Media Plus package.
All Minis are a good laugh. The Countryman PHEV’s biggest problem is the price. While it’s cheaper than the JCW version, it’s really not that from the price of the full EV Kona Electric.
But you might want a quick-ish Mini Countryman and have the ability to run around town on electrons. That’s not as niche as it sounds and absent any real competition, this is the compact SUV PHEV to have.
What’s great about it is that it feels like a Mini Countryman without being a jerk about having electric power.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.