Following the sneak preview offered by MINI’s top brass, for the first time, a MINI is available with a plug-in hybrid system. The new MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL 4 draws on expertise developed by the BMW Group to offer the new Countryman with the three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol turbo unit derived from the mighty BMW i8. In MINI guise, the engine is detuned and more akin to BMW’s own 225xe that provides similar performance and economy.
The petrol engine produces 136 hp and 220 Nm of torque and is used to power the front wheels of the Cooper S E Countryman. This engine is combined with a six-speed Steptronic transmission, while the rear wheels are powered by a synchronous electric motor housed under the floor of the luggage compartment. This motor offers 88 hp and 165 Nm of torque. The motor’s output is sent to the rear axle via a two-stage single-speed transmission making electric driving in the new MINI a real possibility.
Providing the power to the electric motor is a lithium-ion battery positioned directly in front of the electric motor, underneath the rear seating. It is made up of five modules, each comprising 16 battery cells. Like the electric motor, the battery is produced at the Dingolfing plant, the BMW Group’s competence centre for eDrive technology.
With a capacity of 7.6kWh, EV travel won’t be possible for much more than 20-miles of travel and the official figure of 25-miles alludes to this. However, this is – as we keep banging on about – more miles than the average journey travelled, so trips to the shops, school run and other assorted short-distance journeys will be well catered for.
Charging the battery is a typical affair of no rapid charge option and the provision of a 3.6kW wallbox that can charge the battery in 2:15 hours. A regular three-pin plug will take a bit longer at around 3:15 hours. Either way, if you’re plugging in at home during the night, the MINI will be fully charged and ready for the next day.
Interestingly for a plug-in hybrid, MINI says they’ve tried their best to keep it a fun car instead of the tempting opportunity to turn it into an eco-warrior. According to the company, “… the interplay between the combustion engine and the electric motor is optimised for both driving fun and efficiency in all situations.”
A total system output of 224 hp and a combined torque of 385 Nm is available, enabling 0-62 mph in a rapid 6.9 seconds. Fuel consumption and C02 emissions are very low, with 134.5 mpg and 49 g/km respectively.
As is now the ‘norm’, the eDrive toggle switch can change the driving mode of the car from Auto, Max and Save battery. Auto serves as the default hybrid setting and allows EV driving up to 50mph. Max eDrive mode ensures an electric-only drive (battery permitting) of speeds up to 78mph. Save mode can be used to charge or store the battery’s energy, by using the petrol engine to recharge it to at least 90%, however, this should be avoided as fuel consumption will take a dive and it is better (and cheaper) to simply plug into the grid when possible.
Cleverly, the plug-in MINI uses an advanced satnav that aims to anticipate energy management based on a route, if it is being used. For example, if you’re travelling from A to B and some of the journey is motorway while the rest is in town, the car will aim to drive the motorway section using petrol power reserving electric power for in-town driving. This should help reduce localised pollution in urban areas.
The high-voltage battery is housed underneath the slightly raised rear seat, as is the 35-litre fuel tank. When all seats are in use, the luggage compartment volume in the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is only marginally less than in the conventionally powered models. The connection for the charging cable is under a flap in the area of the left-hand side scuttle.
If you want everyone to know that you drive a plug-in car, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Aside from a few very subtle model-specific “e” badges on the side scuttles and a yellow “S” in the model inscription on the rear as well as on the radiator grille and doorsill finishers, there’s precious little to identify this MINI as a plug-in hybrid. At the rear, a JCW aerodynamic rear bumper features a single exhaust outlet. Inside, the cockpit includes a yellow start/stop unit at the centre of the toggle switch panel and a performance display in the instrument cluster on the steering column and that’s it. Everything else is good ol’ MINI.
The MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 comes as standard with the MINI Visual Boost Radio featuring a 6.5-inch colour screen in the central instrument. In addition to the MINI Country Timer, this also displays information such as the charge state of the high-voltage battery and operating mode of the hybrid drive selected by eDrive toggle switch. In conjunction with the optional Media package including MINI navigation system XL, operation is via an 8.8-inch screen with a new graphic design and touchscreen function as well as via the Touch Controller in the centre console.
MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4: 3-cylinder petrol engine, capacity: 1 499 cc, output: 100 kW/136 hp, synchronous electric motor, output: 65 kW/88 hp, system output: 165 kW/224 hp, system torque: 385 Nm.
Price and availability for the new MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 will be announced in due course, but sources at MINI suggest a release date around mid 2017.