Everything you need to know about the MINI Countryman PHEV
This week Chris tests a MINI Countryman, a plug-in hybrid. Chris talks us through his experiences and addresses common concerns of those considering purchasing or running a hybrid vehicle as their next car.
Introducing the Countryman
The MINI Countryman Cooper S E All4 is the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the MINI Countryman, offering performance, efficiency, desirability, and practicality. Recently updated to feature the latest infotainment, styling and efficient technology, the Countryman PHEV is a capable car. The PHEV looks almost identical to the regular Countryman, the only differences being an extra opening for charging and yellow EV badges.
The Countryman PHEV combines a 1.5 litre petrol engine and an electric motor which combined produce 217bhp. The power available and four-wheel drive system allow the Countryman to accelerate from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds whilst also being able to drive up to 26 miles on electric and achieve up to 166mpg. The Countryman combines hot hatch performance with efficiency and practicality.
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Living with a Countryman
The Countryman looks like no other SUV and manages to incorporate many MINI design elements. Elements such as the adaptive LED lighting, large alloy wheels, chrome details, roof rails and honeycomb grille all contribute to a unique look which MINI fans will love. It is also highly customisable with a choice of paints, contrasting mirrors and roof colours, stripes and wheel choices to ensure you can be unique in a crowd of SUVs.
The interior of the Countryman feels premium and the BMW roots benefit here, with quality materials, styling elements and metal accents. This premium, grown up feel is mixed with fun MINI touches such as the central touchscreen surrounded by a circular bezel which changes colour, chrome toggle switches and animations.
Highlights include the 5” digital dashboard, central touchscreen, ambient lighting, chrome toggle switches and a range of connectivity features.
The trim selected gives the interior a different feel, but all are premium. Classic features carbon black cloth seats, ambient lighting, infotainment with navigation and Apple CarPlay. Sport adds JCW trims, leather steering wheel and sports seats. Whilst Exclusive adds stylish and exquisite details throughout such as MINI Yours Leather trim, illuminated trims and nappa leather steering wheel.
The car we tested was in Exclusive trim and it completes the Countryman experience. Other options the test car featured included the panoramic sunroof, Chester leather and Harman/Kardon Sound System which combined added an element of theatre to the car. Having the ability to open the sunroof on a summer’s day added even more fun to the package.
Walking up to the Countryman is a great feeling as you unlock the car the LED lighting illuminates, and the mirrors fold out. The Countryman has unique SUV styling which stays true to the MINI brand. With chrome highlights, Union Flag rear light details, flared wheel arches and sporty front and rear apron, as well as the almost unlimited opportunity to customise to your individual taste.
As you open the driver’s door you are greeted with a luxurious interior full of character. Upon pushing the pulsating, yellow accented start/toggle switch the Countryman starts in EV mode and will stay in this mode until the battery charge reduces to a determined level or more power is required. This provides a refined driving experience whilst also being a dynamic one with instant torque available and the electric motor powering the rear wheels. Moreover, being an electric car you do not need to wait for the engine to warm up for the heating to warm, as the climate control instantly changes to the desired temperature.
The Countryman retains the classic MINI driving DNA which ensures a fun experience. It feels sporty and agile which makes it one of the most fun PHEVs to drive, especially under £40,000. The ride is firm to give this sporty experience but adaptive dampers are available which allows the drive to configure the driving experience.
The process of charging at home is very similar to charging in public but the charging speed is much slower. It is also not recommended to use this method as your sole method of charging and treat it as a last resort because of the strain it places on the circuit for long periods of time.
Instead ordering a wallbox is a simple process for homeowners and this will greatly increase the charge rate and safety of charging your car at home – this is especially important for fully electric cars with much larger batteries which take much longer to charge. There are often incentives available to discount the installation cost of a wallbox.
There are a range of apps which can locate the nearest public charging point for you and can filter for price and connection type. I used a Pod-Point charger at Tesco whilst completing our food shop, this seems the most intuitive and convenient way an electric or hybrid car can fit into your life – charging it whilst its parked and you’re getting on with your life plus the charge was free for Tesco customers.
All I had to was plug the car in by pushing the MINI supplied cable into the car and the charger and use the app to confirm the charge, it took less than a minute. The MINI Connected App will also let you know the status of the car, how much it has charged and when charging will be complete.
Using this charger, it takes less than two hours to charge. The whole process is simple and the cable locks to the car so it cannot be removed until the car is unlocked again.
The MINI Countryman PHEV has three EV specific modes as well as the usual Sport and MID modes alongside this. These are:
• Auto EDRIVE Mode: which automatically uses the best combination of petrol and electric to provide performance and efficiency.
• Max EDRIVE Mode: which allows fully electric driving and up to 26 miles range.
• Save: preserves the battery charge level and uses the petrol engine to propel the car and charge the battery.
Timeless MINI design for the modern world.
With Classic you can choose from a range of alloy wheels, stylish seats and classic interior styling. It may be the entry level specification but its no less premium with Carbon Black trim seats, alloy wheels and Hazy Grey interior trims.
View the latest MINI Countryman offers.
Inspired by the track, Ready for the road.
Sport adds further dynamic touches to the Countryman such as alloy wheels, sports seats, sports steering wheel and sports trims.
View the latest MINI Countryman offers.
Unrivalled refinement, style and luxury.
The Exclusive is the top of the range Countryman with a range of special and luxurious materials. Such as large alloy wheels, leather seats, chrome trims and the most advanced technology.
View the latest MINI Countryman offers.
MINI Countryman PHEV In Detail
No you don’t, in fact the quickest charging happens between 20 and 80%, so frequent top ups within this range can be more convenient and preserve battery health.
Fully charging the battery will however give you the maximum range and therefore benefits of the electric motor in a PHEV. The battery is designed to last the lifetime of the car even with frequent charges outside of the 20-80% range.
To charge the Countryman you simply open the charging port which looks like a fuel cap but is on the passenger side, at the front of the car and either use the charging cable supplied with the car or the charging cable attached to the charging station. Then insert the cable into the car. Follow the instructions on the charging station such as payment instructions and confirmation, then check the car is charging. The status light around the charging port should illuminate green and the dashboard will give a prediction of when the battery will be fully charged.
Lock the car and leave it to charge. When returning simply unlock the car and use the unlock button next to the charging port to remove the cable. If the cable belongs to the car return to the boot.
From 20% to 80% charging is most rapid, outside of these charging is slower to protect the battery. Other factors also affect the charging rate such as – temperature (colder temperatures slow charging rate), the charging rate and the size of the battery.
Officially though between 20% to 80% these are the times:
• At home with a 3-pin plug, four hours.
• Home wallbox,, two hours.
• 7kW Public charger, 2 hours.
The Countryman’s maximum charging capacity is 3.7kW per hour so even though there are faster public chargers the car is unable to charge any quicker.
At home to work out how much it will cost to charge your car, check the battery’s capacity and your electricity rate. For the Countryman this is 10kWh and for myself 11p per kwh. 0.11x10 = £1.10 for a range of up to 26 miles. This means for me a full charge costs £1.10 and when driving on electric in optimal conditions each mile costs 4p. Whilst everyone’s individual situation will influence the cost. This is still a large cost saving compared to a regular petrol car.
At a public charger the costs can vary. Some are free for customers such as Pod-Points at Tesco. Whereas others can cost money, using apps such as Pod-Point and Zap-Map you can see nearby chargers, if they are available and how much they cost. Quite a common cost for public chargers was 30p per kWh or a flat rate connection fee often around £1 then free after. The rapid chargers I found at service stations also cost around 30p per kWh which whilst costing more than at home is much quicker to charge and still costs less than running a combustion engine car.
It may not be possible to have a home charger installed at home due to reasons such as not having off-road parking, renting or having parking not close enough to your home.
In these situations it is still possible to run an electric car, especially a PHEV like the Countryman. It is most convenient to charge an electric car where it is parked (which is almost 95% of the time for a car), using chargepoints at these locations. For most people this is at home but other frequent destinations may also have chargepoints such as work, shopping centres and leisure centres. Then less frequent longer journeys can benefit from on-route rapid chargers found at service stations.
Workplace charging and charging as part of a commute such as at a train station car park, in more normal times in particular serves as a good opportunity for people who cannot charge at home. As people often spend over 8 hours at work which is plenty of time to fully charge the car and most people’s commutes are less than 30 miles. I know that with my commute of 8 miles and using the charger at work, I could commute everyday of the week in an Countryman and not use the petrol engine once.
The Countryman uses a Type 2 Connector, this can be used at home, work or any public charging station. The maximum AC the car can charge at is 3.7kW.
Hybrid cars just require the same checks and maintenance as a combustion engine car, such as checking the oil and tyres. The electric drivetrain is designed to be efficient and reliable and due to its limited moving parts requires little maintenance. In fact some components such as brad pads and discs will need replacement less often as they don’t receive the same wear and tear as they would in a regular petrol car. Therefore, a Countryman PHEV should cost the same if not less than a regular Countryman to service.
The service costs of the Countryman can be paid upfront with the TLC package which for a one-off fee covers all the car's servicing for three years. This provides additional reassurance that the costs of running a Countryman PHEV are covered.
The MINI Countryman PHEV drives like any other sporty MINI with plenty of power available and fun overall driving experience which puts a smile on your face. In electric mode the Countryman is silent, this combined with the instant torque available provides a extra dimension to the Countryman's driving experience. The 1.5 litre petrol engine is powerful on its own and used in a lot of fun MINI models, but combined with the electric motor provides hot hatch levels of performance.
The real differences in driving experience compared to a regular MINI Countryman are the range of driving modes and regen braking. However, both of these features you get used to quickly and do benefit the driving experience and overall efficiency. Its also worth noting the regen brakes are predictable and un-obtrusive compared to some manufacturer's systems.
The Countryman looks and overall drives like any other MINI product, which is a real benefit of the model and stays true to the brand.
The MINI Countryman PHEV is able to achieve over 100mpg in the real world if the car is regularly charged and covering small distances.
Over longer distances with less frequent charging the Countryman should still be able to achieve over 40mpg due to its economical petrol engine and ability to recover otherwise lost energy from braking.
Purchase, Tax and Grants
The Countryman PHEV benefits from £0 VED Road Tax in its first year and then £145 for the next four years if the original price was below £40,000. The PHEV is also London Congestion Zone Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone exempt, further saving money on running costs.
The low emissions of the Countryman PHEV which are 46g/km of CO2 also benefits company car drivers with lower BIK rates.
During the 2021 tax year, the BIK rate on the Countryman PHEV will be 11% which gives a annual BIK rate of £4,113. Whereas, a Cooper S Countryman would have BIK rate of 37%, so the PHEV offers a large saving for company car drivers.
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The Driving Assistant Package uses a front mounted camera to aid the driver and increase overall safety. It includes:
- High beam assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Pedestrian and Approach Control Warning
- Braking function
- Lane departure warning
- Adaptive cruise control
Featuring an 8.8" central touchscreen, the MINI Countryman is showcase of connectivity. With navigation and a range of media options, and smartphone integration including Apple CarPlay.
MINI Connected allows you to check the status of your MINI using an app on your phone and access functions such as charging, climate control, lighting and unlock/lock your car.
The recently updated LED headlights add a design touch and usability to the Countryman. They provide optimal lighting in poor conditions, illuminate around corners and can automatically adjust to other road users via the matrix high beam which illuminates as much as the road as possible without dazzling other drivers.
At the rear the LED lights feature a distinctive Union Jack design.
Inside the LED theme continues with configurable ambient lighting which illuminates the central console, door handles and door pockets.
The MINI Countryman PHEV is just as spacious and practical in the front as a regular Countryman. In the rear the seats are slightly higher to accommodate the batteries and they cannot slide like they can in a regular Countryman, but there is still plenty of headroom for adults.
There are storage compartments and cupholders all over the car.
The boot has 405 litres capacity and with the rear seats folded down there is 1,390 litres of capacity. The rear seats fold 40:20:40 so its easier to configure the car for load or carrying people which further adds to the practicality.
Mini Countryman PHEV Summary
The MINI Countryman PHEV is impressive as it manages to retain traditional MINI DNA in the fun driving experience it provides and level of customization available. It always feels special. Yet at the same time it also offers practicality and efficiency with up to 166mpg achievable.
The MINI Countryman PHEV is one of the most fun and dynamic PHEVs available, especially under £40,000.
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