Electricity is a funny old thing. Alternating and Direct, (AC/DC), High and low voltage, Big and small amp’s, clean and dirty (in terms of resource)… One thing is for sure, in my humble opinion; it’s lazy – always looking for the path of least resistance and jumping (or arcing) to ground whenever it’s given the chance – also known as a short circuit. In simple terms, a short circuit takes the electricity off on an unintended path and has a tendency to make sparks fly and often pops fuses.
Like it or not, it’s plain to see that we are virtually handcuffed to some source of power. Used wisely, electricity is friendly, easy enough to harness and control and in turn offers seemingly limitless possibilities, from lifesaving apparatus and knowledge sharing to entertainment, fun, and transport – which brings me onto the Plug-in Hybrid Mini.
Ok so Mini’s aren’t that ‘short’ anymore and even the nameplate on this particular model that I reviewed was a bit of a mouthful – The MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 Plug-in Hybrid, mind you, in saying that – this Mini had a lot to talk about.
Strip away the plug-in/battery part and you have all the fun and driveability of the Cooper S. Layer on top, the size, and practicality of the of the Countryman, then give it 4WD handling with Mini ALL4, slot in all the electrics and you get a taste of what this ‘Mini’ has to offer. But it doesn’t stop there, let me talk you around the rest of the car.
Keeping it in touch with the ground are some very trendy 19” MINI ‘Yours’ Masterpiece Spoke Spectre Grey alloy wheels. It had black skirting that shrouded the undercarriage and flowed around the wheel arches too. Halogen headlights, racy bonnet stripes (that contrast well against the light white metallic paint), chrome highlights inside and out, MINI ‘Yours’ interior style in piano black and carbon black leather lounge (to match the themed Alloys), a large panorama glass sunroof framed with black roof rails, sun protection glazing, active cruise control, the automatic tailgate opened wide to around 450L of luggage space and a picnic seat, MINI head up display, and Wired and Chili packages. It’s also quite spacious inside, 4 adults can travel in comfort – although, with the amount of spec, I’m surprised it had room for passengers at all!
Under the bonnet of the Cooper S E ALL4 Plug-in Hybrid, you’ll find BMW’s (increasingly utilised) Turbo 3-cylinder 1,499cc, engine and this, when connected to the eDrive electric-synchronous motor and 6-speed automatic transmission, produces 165 kW/385Nm, a 0-100kph time of 6.8s and a reported combined fuel efficiency of 2.3l/100km – quick and frugal, do I have your attention now?
The driving experience of this Mini is a bit of a rollercoaster. Switch on (via the funky toggle switch centre dash) is the usual silent EV let down, thankfully it does pop up an image of the car on the infotainment screen to tell you it’s ready to go. But pull back on the gearstick and stamp down hard on the accelerator, and it’s all Mini baby! Nimble, fast and well connected to the ground below.
You get the ‘normal’ driving options via a ring near the gear lever plus you can even choose (via another toggle switch) to conserve battery life for use when YOU want to. I did find myself mostly selecting ‘Sports’ mode though and drove it like its unelectrified sibling – old habits I guess. But I also feel that this is the point. The Plug-in Mini does drive like a ‘normal’ car, and because of its low down weight, maybe even better?
The Cooper S, (hybrid or not) makes very light work of corners and feels solid to drive. But the plug-in version specifically, has the ability to get a little rawkus (in engine note) when it needs to and yet can be a quiet EV workhorse/daily driver when left ‘unpunished’.
So what’s the difference? I guess it’s what you put in and what you get out. The petrol-only version of the Countryman turns your fossil fuel into 141kW of power, CO2 gasses at a rate of 159g/km and efficiency numbers of around 6.8L/100km, vs the plug-in that gives you 165kW, CO2 emissions 52 g/km (combined), Fuel consumption 2.3 l/100km (combined)
I have to admit to only plugging the Mini in once. My home is currently not setup for this electricity/battery movement, so the thought of plugging a car into a live mains cable outdoors in the rain offers very little appeal. However, the fully charged Mini did take me all the way from home to the city (office) on pure electricity – just not back though, I live a little too far away. Overall, I’d see the appeal if I would do as the wife asks (aka constantly nags) and clean out the garage to make room for a car – pfft, as if.
When all’s said and done, the difference between the hybrid and non-hybrid Mini all boils down to the numbers and your lifestyle setup. There’s little doubt that the Plug-in version emits two-thirds less CO2 and is two-thirds more efficient, so there is a planet-saving (and wallet saving) story to be had. The rest is down to the logistics, distance to destination and access to power – you’re smart people, you’ll work it out. Either way, driving a Cooper S Mini in Sports mode will always get your heart to race and get sparks to fly.
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