Distinctive style. Larger than previous model. Fun performance.
Short EV-only range. Less room and utility than most crossovers.
- Bottom Line
The 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is the brand's sole hybrid vehicle, but it offers only moderate gains in fuel efficiency at a hefty premium.
The 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is the brand's first alternative-fuel car: a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that can run on electric-only power from an onboard battery. Like its gas-only sibling, it benefits from being larger than the previous model, giving it more interior room. Despite the added size and extra curb weight due to the battery pack and electric motor, it maintains the brand's appealing go-kart-like performance. But its limited electric-only range and small improvement in fuel economy come at a premium price. And while Mini's iconic styling sets it apart from cookie-cutter crossovers, the Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 doesn't offer the utility and room of more conventional AWD CUVs.
Pricing and Design
The 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 comes in only one trim level, and the model we tested starts at $36,800. It's equipped with a 154-horsepower 1.5-liter twin-turbo 3-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels, while an 87-horsepower electric motor drives the rear wheels via a two-speed gearbox. It's larger than the previous model, to the tune of 8 inches longer, 1 inch wider, and with 3 extra inches of wheelbase.
A 7.6-kWh battery pack feeds the electric motor and is recharged by plugging the car into a 110-volt outlet using a supplied cable. A full recharge with a Level 2 220-volt power supply takes two to three hours, and much longer with the 110-volt cord that comes with the car. The battery is also incrementally charged by the gasoline engine when it's running and via regenerative braking. With a fully charged battery, the Countryman PHEV can go up to 12 electric-only miles before the gasoline engine kicks in—the lowest of any plug-in vehicle currently sold in the US.
Standard exterior features include 18-inch black alloy wheels with run-flat tires, roof rails, automatic and adaptive LED headlights, LED fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, a locking charge port on the driver's side front fender, a Mini logo puddle lamp (pictured below), special E badging, and a black roof and mirror "caps."
Interior and comfort features include leatherette upholstery, a leather sport steering wheel, Cooper S sports seats, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, split-folding rear seats, keyless entry and ignition, ambient lighting, rear parking sensors, and a backup camera.
The car comes with such standard tech features as the Mini Connected infotainment system with an 8.8-inch center dash display with adjustable LED ring, the Mini Connected apps feature, navigation with real-time traffic, Bluetooth for phone and audio streaming, and a six-speaker audio system with AM/FM HD radio and USB and aux-in ports.
Options for our test car included $500 for Melting Silver metallic paint, $500 for front parking sensors, $750 for a heads-up display, and $300 for one year of SiriusXM radio. With a $850 destination charge, the final sticker price came to $39,700.
Part of the appeal of Minis is their exterior styling, and the 2018 Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 Tech stands out even more due to its unique exterior badges. Because the 2018 model is larger than its predecessor, there's more interior space, although it can't compete with comparable crossovers that offer more passenger and cargo room.
Infotainment and Tech
The Mini Connect infotainment system has a large touch screen coupled with a center console controller that makes it easy to use, although connectivity options are limited. Read our full review of Mini Connect here.
Mini strives for cute when it comes to other tech amenities, and whether you like it is a matter of personal preference. For example, the LED lighting that surrounds the center dash screen can be set to change color and intensity for different functions and at different intervals to indicate engine speed, audio volume, climate control setting, and other features. It requires learning all the different modes and colors, but you can also turn it off if it isn't for you.
The Mini Country Timer feature leaves us scratching our heads since it doesn't really appear to serve any function other than to gamify driving. Embedded software monitors when the car is driven over terrain described as "sloping, uneven, unsurfaced and snow-covered roads and tracks" and for how long, and the your personal level is shown in the center dash touch screen and ranges from Street Cruiser to Cliff Champ.
While the HUD is helpful and displays a variety of info in the driver's line of sight, it consists of a plastic panel that rises out of the dash when in use and seems overpriced as a $750 option.
The engine and e-motor's 221 total horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque give the 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 plenty of zip, even with the battery pack and electric motor adding an additional 128 pounds. Sporty handling is a Mini hallmark, and while the extra weight can be felt around turns, it doesn't detract from the Countryman's surefootedness.
To modulate performance and manage fuel economy, the Cooper S E Countryman has a trio of eDrive modes. The default Auto eDrive balances battery and gasoline engine usage for the best possible fuel economy. Save Battery maintains a preset battery level so you can decide when to cruise in electric-only mode, such as on the highway. Max eDrive switches to battery-only power until it's depleted, which turns the Cooper S E Countryman into the only rear-wheel drive Mini available.
The car also has Sport, Mid, and Green driving modes that modify acceleration and, in Sport, steering response. In Mid or Sport, the PHEV Countryman retains the Mini spirited driving dynamics, while in Green mode performance is dramatically dulled. Green mode can also be configured to issue speed warnings at a preset mph and dial back the climate control to save fuel. Sport mode has its own display to show horsepower and rpms.
During 12 miles of EV driving, the Countryman PHEV achieves an EPA-estimated 65 mpge, after which fuel economy is reduced to 27mpg combined until the battery recharges. That's just 1mpg above the gas-powered Cooper S Countryman ALL4, but at a $3,100 premium.
We drove for several days doing only short trips, plugged in at home, and never saw the gas gauge drop below full. Only when we took longer trips—and had fun on favorite back roads—did we see the gauge start to drop.
The 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 remains distinctively styled and a joy to drive, but at a $3,000-plus premium over the gas model, it offers just a nominal improvement in fuel efficiency. Of course, if you want the option of driving electric, it's your only choice. But unless you plan to take lots of short trips and plug in regularly, you can save a decent amount on the gas model. And if you aren't sold on Mini's whimsical styling, you'll get more room and utility from a crossover like the Toyota RAV4.
About the Author
Doug Newcomb Columnist
Doug Newcomb is a recognized expert on the subject of car technology within the auto industry and among the automotive and general media, and a frequent speaker at automotive and consumer electronics industry events. Doug began his career in 1988 at the car stereo trade publication Mobile Electronics, before serving as editor of the leading consume… See Full Bio
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