MINI has come out with its own version of an electric compact SUV with the new SE Countryman. After our week with the spry little guy, it was hard to decide if it really was worth plugging it in each night. The electric part of the Countryman allows it to get up to 24 miles range on electricity with a top electric speed of 77 mph.
This may not seem like a huge amount of range but when we stopped to really think about it, how many days do we really drive more than 24 miles? Our true answer was not that many when we are just having a normal week without a test ride like the MINI!
This new MINI runs somewhat like sister company’s BMW’s i8 sports coupe, in that it will plug in and run on electricity only, yet it also can combine and run on gasoline and electricity, or just straight gas. Oh and they both have a three-cylinder MINI Cooper gas engine.
Although the MINI really looks nothing like the i8, it is still a ton of fun to motor around in with a combined horsepower rating of 221 ponies that will propel it to 60 mph in under six seconds. Not sports car territory exactly, however we found it very exhilarating and invigorating to keep pushing the pedal to the floor and getting to 60 as quickly as possible.
On the electric-only side, the MINI will travel up to 77 mph before starting the gas engine, with an 87 horsepower hybrid synchronous motor that also brings 122 ft.-lbs. of torque to the equation. Combine that with the twin-turbo three-cylinder 1.5-liter gas engine producing 134 horsepower and 165 ft.-lbs. of torque, it all spins up at 1,250 rpms producing a combined torque number of 287 ft.-lbs.
All this magical electric mojo allowed us to choose just how we wanted to the MINI to perform for the drive. As we said, it can be set to run all electric for up the 24 miles, it can be set to run in combination with the electric and gas motors to manage mpg. The third most intriguing solution we found was “Save Battery” mode that when engaged will save the battery at 90% and actually work to recharge it to that point through regenerative braking and use of the starter generator.
Another interesting feature we discovered was when the navigation was used and a route put into the system, the MINI would anticipate what type of engine use would be the most appropriate for the route. It would engage the electric only, gas only or combined to get the absolute maximum efficiency from the electric side depending on where we were on the route.
Of course with the dual motors each attached to different wheels and drive trains, the MINI actually becomes a very good four-wheel drive vehicle when needed. Through the traction control feature, the computer will send power to which ever wheel needs it.
This new version of the MINI Cooper is now the most spacious MINI to date, having grown both in length and width slightly in the All4 version. It now comes with more headroom, more cargo room and more rear seat leg room, all of which should play well with the American motoring public.
The rear seats were designed with cargo in mind instead of the usual 40-60 split; those in the MINI would split 40-20-40 making it easier to take longer items up the middle if needed and still seat two folks in the rear.
All the ambient lights throughout the interior were programmable to give off different colors through a customer set-up menu in the center circle console where the touchscreen is located. The circle around this screen would also change to all kinds of different colors depending on what was being adjusted, a nice orange for volume as it was increased on the left and would change to a red on the right that would dance to the beat of the music.
The center ring would produce a different color during hard acceleration keeping track of the engine engagement. All in all it truly defined the experience in driving the MINI. Then when we would get home and exit the vehicle, the puddle lamp on the driver’s side projected the MINI logo onto our driveway, how cool is that?
The front seats were heated, of course, which we actually got to use for the week of our drive as morning temperatures even in late May were still very chilly. The dual zone climate control was also nice keeping us both happy no matter what the weather was doing outside.
We always expect something different from a company like MINI Cooper and that is exactly what we encountered in the layout of the dashboard. The signature round circle in the center of the dash is still there but now houses a 8.8-inch touchscreen. It’s something new from designers as before it was totally controlled form a wheel located between the seats. The wheel is still there and can control everything but the touchscreen is sometimes easier to work with.
That put the speedometer and tachometer in front of the driver instead of center of the dash, a design we preferred, still encased in circles there is no mistaking the MINI look. We liked the addition of a $1,700 navigation package as it made finding some home locations in the valley easier. This also added a wireless charger for our phones and Apple CarPlay to the vehicle.
The other option we liked was the parking assist information given by the car whenever we were getting close to an object large or small, even in a vehicle of this size it is nice to have that kind of advantage when parking.
Our week with the SE Countryman was a complete joy as we each found ourselves wanting to take the MINI to work, and use it for the day. See the new version of MINI technology at MINI of Murray, 4767 State St. in Murray, 801-262-9475.
Base price: $36,900
Price as Driven: $45,750