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Reviews SUV Review: 2018 Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4

16:36  28 december  2017
16:36  28 december  2017 Source:   driving.ca

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a car covered in snow© Provided by Driving.ca

Mini has experimented in the past with an all-electric derivative of its three-door Cooper, and will launch a new electric drive model in 2019. But before it arrives comes the first plug-in hybrid from the brand, in the form of the Countryman. It’s all Mini, with little in the way of compromise and much better fuel efficiency.

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The heart and soul of the hybrid is a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder gas engine, an electric motor and a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. The latter can be charged in 2.5 hours using a 220-volt outlet and it delivers an electric-only driving range of up to 40 kilometres.

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The gas engine generates 134 horsepower and 162 lb.-ft. of torque at a suitably low 1,250 rpm, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual modes. The electric motor powers the rear wheels and chips in with another 87 horsepower and 122 lb.-ft. the instant the electric motor begins to turn. With both power sources working, the Countryman Cooper S E All4 has a combined output of 221 horsepower and 284 lb.-ft. of torque.

The plus is, as both the engine and electric motor produce peak torque at such low rpm, the hybrid delivers the perky performance expected of a Cooper S with the fuel economy demanded of a hybrid. The numbers tell the story — the test generated an average fuel economy of 7.8 L/100 kilometres. A big part of the efficiency is that the electric motor did the lion’s share of the work on a city drive, meaning virtually no gasoline usage. The flip side is the plug-in hybrid scoots from rest to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds. That’s like having your cake and eating it, too.

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The hybrid’s powertrain layout brings all-wheel-drive traction. Unlike Mini’s mechanical ALL4 system, this one coordinates the two power sources to get the power down on a slippery, snow-covered road with surprisingly efficiency. Yes, when in dynamic traction control mode it allows both ends to slide when this driver wanted, but it proved to be a remarkably proficient system.

As is to be expected, there are multiple driving modes. The electric side has EV, Auto, eDrive and Save. The latter allows the driver to preserve and charge the battery for use at another time. The engine has the usual Eco, Mid and Sport modes. If fuel economy is your bag, pick Auto eDrive and Eco — but the downside is the somewhat lethargic feel because of the quest for outright efficiency. Auto eDrive and Mid mode is best for everyday use, as everything feels sharper without giving up on the quest for economy.

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When it’s time to have fun, put the Countryman hybrid in eDrive and Sport modes. Now, the two power sources focus on delivering peak performance, making it remarkably snappy for a hybrid. Sure, it does impinge on the fuel economy, but it’s worth burning a little more fossil fuel for the fun factor.

What the hybrid does not sacrifice is the impish road manners expected of a Mini. In spite of its size, the Countryman hunkers down and whips through a corner with the very best of them. There was little body roll and the steering was crisp with good feedback. On that note, the brake pedal, unlike so many hybrids, had a realistic feel and so it was easily modulated. The impressive part is the dynamics hide the hybrid’s extra mass nicely — it is 126 kilograms heavier than the Countryman Cooper S.

The cabin is all Mini — toggle switches galore, the speedometer sits atop the steering column and the infotainment system, with its touchscreen display, rides high in the centre stack. It also featured the all-encompassing Mini Connected XL package; the neat part is the ability to setup and number of different trips by punching in starting and end points with the date and time of the trip. It supports Google and Apple maps, and can be transferred to the onboard navigation system using Wi-Fi, which cuts down on needless data consumption. When on a given trip, it updates the estimated time of arrival by factoring in real-time traffic information. During the last kilometre of the drive, it highlights the available parking in the area. Once parked, it allows the driver to find the Mini on a smart phone using the app’s map. There are too many functions to go into in detail, but it is a welcome addition.

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The driver’s environment is classy with comfortable sport seats  and a good driving position. Sadly, heated seats are bundled up in the Essentials package; surely that package name indicates it should be mandatory, not a $1,450 option? Visibility is so-so — while the backup camera and sonic sensors eases the parking chore, the scene through the rearview mirror is hampered by the headrests and there’s no blind spot monitoring — frankly, unforgivable on a car pushing $50,000.

Slide rearward and there is ample space for two adults and decent cargo space. The only real compromise is the taller rear seat; it sits over the battery, so cargo capacity drops by 45 litres with the seats up and by 115 (to 1,275 litres) with the 40/20/40 split seats folded. The sacrifice, given the upsides, is not worth fretting about.

The hybrid Countryman brings the benefits of the space and pace, but with much fuel economy. There are some nits to pick, but as a package, the Countryman Cooper S E plug-in hybrid gets it done without being a dullard to drive.

Luxury and Panache in a Small Package .
<p>Look at a MINI today and you see a sophisticated, luxury package with great dollops of style and panache.</p>But it wasn’t always called a MINI and it was anything but lavish.

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