2018 Mini S E Countryman ALL 4 Review - A Business Case Gone Wrong
2017 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
Mini Coopers are one of those cars that easily starts a debate among the TTAC staff in our Slack channels. Are they fun to drive or not? Too “cutesy” or no? Is there a place in the market for them? Are they overpriced?
I’ve long been of the mind that Minis are fun to drive, too expensive, and it’s up to the beholder when it comes to the styling. I also think there is a place in the world for small “city” cars – though I’m biased, as I live in the kind of congested area where small cars thrive.
What I struggle with is why this Mini needs to exist. Other than a cynical attempt at boosting corporate fuel economy numbers, I don’t see a need for an all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid that doesn’t have much EV-only range and doesn’t really need to be plugged in. Of course, if you don’t plug in, you get a shorter fuel range when running on gas than that of its stablemates.
Yes, you still get a Mini, and I disagree with other staffers about the styling – I like the looks, which continue to carry over the retro theme that honors the original.
You also still get Mini chassis tuning, which makes the S E Countryman (ugh, what a mouthful) pleasant to drive. It feels as if the extra weight of all-wheel drive and the PHEV setup takes some of the edge off, but reflexes remain sharp, at least in Sport and Mid driving modes. Flick the switch to Eco, and it becomes a test of patience.
That applies to both handling and acceleration. Sure, PHEVs are all about saving fuel, but I can’t see a reason to use Eco mode unless you’re a hypermiler or on a long, gentle highway cruise. Speaking of long cruises – the Mini is quite stable on the freeway, despite its diminutive size.
The hybrid system combines a turbocharged three-cylinder with 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque with an electric motor (87 horsepower, 122 lb-ft of torque) for a total of 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque. The system pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission.
In the spirit of transparency, I never bothered to plug the car in – accessing an outlet is a bit of a pain, and with 270 miles of gas-powered range available, I figured I could spare myself a little effort. Thing is, the Mini only offers up 12 miles of EV-only range, so what’s the point of plugging in? You end up with a car that loses some gas-only range for an EV-only range that’s well on the short side.
Tech details aside, you still get the Mini interior experience, which features cool-looking toggle switches and the by-now familiar circle-heavy design. It’s relatively spacious for such a small car, with my tall frame having no problems getting situated. Even in back, passenger room is what I’d call “decent.” However, interior storage space is lacking.
I’m one of those folks annoyed by infotainment systems that require too much menu manipulation for basic tasks, and the Countryman is guilty of this. It’s a relatively easy system to use, but diving through menus is time-consuming and distracting.
At least the car is well-equipped, with features such as nav, 18-inch wheels, rearview camera, LED head- and foglights, infotainment, satellite radio, heated front seats, USB, park-assist, and park-distance control.
The Countryman S E ALL4 is not a bad vehicle, but as stated above, I just don’t see the point in it. It has a base price of $36,800 and my tester rang up to an even $40,000 with options. Most of the above-listed features were included, so it was the Metallic Silver paint, the sport seats, park assist, head-up display, and satellite radio, plus $850 for D and D, that brought the price up.
Which makes me wonder – who is paying $40K (before any tax credit – I concede the tax credit may make it worth it for some) for a PHEV that offers less fuel range than a non-PHEV Countryman and just 12 miles of EV-only range? Not to mention that with the exception of John Cooper Works models, all other Countrymans have a lower price of entry. Oh, and the PHEV is heavier and loses a bit of the Mini’s handling prowess.
As far as MPGs go, the PHEV version does offer the highest combined figure of all the Countrymans, but it’s only 1 to 4 mpg better than the rest. Hardly worth the extra investment.
Maybe I’m missing something. But in my book, paying more for less doesn’t make a lot of sense, even if you get a tax credit.
Don’t get me wrong – I like the Mini ethos overall. But if it were me at the dealership, I’d wander away from the plug-in and plunk down my cash on the “regular” Countryman. That seems the better deal.
[Images © 2017 Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]
Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.
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