2018 Mini S E Countryman ALL 4 Review - A Business Case Gone Wrong

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2017 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4

1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder with electric motor (221 system horsepower; 284 system lb-ft)
Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
27 combined, 65 MPGe (EPA Rating, MPG)
TBA (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$36,800 (U.S) / $43,490 (Canada)
As Tested
$40,000 (U.S.) / $52,661.09 (Canada)
Prices include $850 destination charge in the United States and $2,345 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2018 mini s e countryman all 4 review a business case gone wrong

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]

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2 of 36 comments
  • Lichtronamo Lichtronamo on Dec 29, 2017

    I just drove a JCW Countryman for a couple days while my Cooper was in for service. Impressively solid vehicle, nice driving, comfortable, and high quality materials. Expensive even as it was fully loaded, but I see the appeal of owning one.

  • GrayGhost GrayGhost on Dec 29, 2017

    Another Noob here, but I do believe Mini-Surf made valid points. PHEVs are usually niche animals. My lady drives an Audi A3 E-tron, very similar to the Mini reviewed here. Hoot to drive, 6.5 0-60, typical Audi handling. I think Audi claims the range is 25 or 30 in EV, but she gets less. BUT she gets enough to drive to work, lunch, client visit, back to office and home without ever burning an oz. of gasoline. Yeah, folks in the east bay or others with long commutes won't find this particularly useful, nor worth the cost, but in her application it is sweet. She will go over a month without filling the gas tank and she drives every day. She is also very outdoorsy, runs crazy marathons in remote locations and stuff like that and can actually sleep in the E-tron with the seats folded down. I'm 6 1 and can't. It is lazy to dismiss a PHEV for having a 20 mile EV range without understanding the vehicle is designed for specific applications and excels in same. Most drivers won't have a reason to pay the $ penalty, but my gal loves it. Except when it discharges overnight because she doesn't realize the vehicle is "on" when she exits. Yes, it has happened twice. I'd love a 300 mile EV range and I know that is coming. But I lost confidence in Elon to deliver my Model 3 by the end of next year so I bailed and got my deposit back in a week. So I still drive a larger ICE Audi, but I hope it is my last ICE car. Different cars suit different folks. Might explain the PT Cruiser...

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.