I’ve always thought that driving a Mini is kind of like driving a go-kart: zippy and fun, with excellent maneuverability. I don’t know why I thought the largest iteration from this automaker would be any different, but it wasn’t.
The 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman ALL4 PHEV was a blast to drive, which was a surprise considering it has a decent amount of functionality as well as the ability to drive in all-electric mode.
One of the best things about all Mini vehicles is they have a very distinct DNA. The Clubman looks like a stretched 4-door Cooper Hardtop, and the Countryman looks like someone zapped the Hardtop with an enlarger.
In fact, looking at photos without someone standing next to the vehicle or some other kind of size reference, you might easily think the Countryman was a Cooper Hardtop.
Because the test vehicle was a plug-in electric, it was also peppered with soft yellow accents, which is a Mini signifier of electrified vehicles. From the badging to the side mirrors to the ignition switch, I loved the reminder that I was driving something special.
The interior design is also reminiscent of every other Mini I’ve ever been in. I liked the retro switches for the various drive functions, and I absolutely appreciated hard buttons and dials for HVAC and audio controls.
With the addition of the Navigation Package ($1,700), the center media display houses the navigation screen.
The test vehicle also included the John Cooper Works Appearance Package ($2,000), which added the 18-inch JCW thrill spoke wheels, JCW leather steering wheel, rear spoiler, John Cooper Works aero kit and an anthracite headliner.
Ride & Handling
The Countryman PHEV is equipped with a 1.5-liter TwinPower 3-cylinder turbocharged engine as well as an electric motor, with a combined output of 221 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque.
While you might think a 3-cylinder engine is powered by gerbils, the electric motor gives a nice torque boost for instantaneous acceleration, and the overall effect is that this vehicle is downright peppy.
The vehicle has a McPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension. The effect on the Countryman is the ride is a bit stiff and unyielding – which is also like any other Mini I’ve driven. This is great on well-paved roads, but not so fun on anything with grooves or potholes.
EPA estimates that the all-electric range is about 12 miles, and if you use both electricity and gasoline your MPGe should be about 65. If you are driving with gasoline only, you’ll average about 27 MPG in combined driving.
During my test period, I drove about 75 mostly city miles. My fuel economy stats at the end of the test were 30.3 mpg and 35.5 miles/kWh.
Since this is an electric car, we should also note that Mini estimates you should be able to charge its 7.6 kWh battery in 3.5 hours using a 240-volt plug/charger – which is what most people who purchase an electric vehicle would install in their homes. I used a regular 120-volt plug in my garage, and it took me about 10 hours to charge.
After a full charge, the vehicle indicated I had 16 miles of all-electric range, and I got about 13 miles in mostly highway driving.
Tech & gadgets
Probably the coolest technology in the test vehicle centers around the electrified nature of the vehicle. As a plug-in hybrid, you can toggle between three modes, depending on battery life: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery.
Auto eDrive allows for purely electric driving up to 55 mph, and the gasoline engine is in operation at higher speeds, when you need an acceleration boost or when the battery charge falls below 7 percent.
Max eDrive is going to be your most pure electric driving experience and operates up to 78 mph. The gasoline engine will kick in at higher speeds.
Save Battery allows you to either save your battery charge or raise the battery level above 90 percent while driving in gasoline mode.
Other available tech features include Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto), wireless phone charging, navigation, Harman/Kardon premium audio system, ambient lighting and a driver’s side puddle lamp with the Mini logo.
A la BMW, the Mini lineup offers both trim and build customizations. The Countryman alone has six different trims and three build customizations. Since we are focused on the plug-in hybrid, we’re going to skip the trim breakdown and focus on the different builds.
Classic ($37,750): This build comes with three color options (only black, white and gray) a 6.5-inch media display, panorama roof, sport seats, leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Signature ($40,250): This build comes with seven color options, a touch-screen media display, heated seats, passive entry, driving modes, dual-zone climate control, forward collision warning and emergency braking.
Iconic ($45,250): This build comes with eight color options, connected navigation, Apple CarPlay capability, premium leather upholstery, LED headlights and LED taillights.
The test vehicle was a Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, and it added the PHEV Sport Edition, Touchscreen Navigation Package, JCW Appearance Package, Exterior Package and the PHEV Special Edition Package for an as-tested price of $45,750.
The Countryman comes standard with eight air bags – including side curtain and front knee air bags – as well as automatic modes for headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, rearview camera and parking sensors.
The Countryman does have an available front crash prevention system starting with the Signature build.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has not rated the Countryman.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Countryman mostly good ratings, but the headlights received a marginal rating and the child seat anchors received an acceptable rating.
Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.
New for 2019
The Countryman was all-new for 2017, so as it enters the 2019 model year, there aren’t too many new features available on this SUV.
The big change is to how the trims are packaged. The Countryman moves to a more streamlined purchasing experience and in some cases a 2019 model year vehicle will cost less than a 2018 model with the same optional equipment.
A few of my favorite things
I love how a Mini drives, and I was very pleased to see that the Countryman drives small and is packed with go-kart-like fun.
Though I realize this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’m a huge fan of the retro interior styling with the toggle and ignition switches. My husband, however, said that was the one thing he did not like about the Countryman.
What I can leave
I really would have liked more electric range. Sure, in everyday errands, I likely wouldn’t drive more than 16 miles, but if I had any kind of a commute the electric charge would likely only be good one way, perhaps only part of one way. And, while I appreciate the boost you get with the electric power, if you’re looking for electrified efficiency there are other, better options available for you.
The bottom line
I appreciate the compact and retro styling on the Countryman as well as the additional functionality offered by the larger proportions and available all-wheel drive.
In my book, the Mini Cooper S E Countryman manages to combine the best of all worlds. You have a spirited vehicle with fun-to-drive dynamics, the extra cargo space that comes with a small SUV and the ability to get in some all-electric city driving.