By Jeff Fortson of JeffCars.com, NNPA Newswire Contributor
Highlight:This is MINI’s only electrified vehicle.
Test Vehicle’s MSRP:$45,750 (Base Model: $37,750)
Standard Safety Features: airbags; ABS; a stability control system; run flat tires; automatic headlights with rain sensing windshield wipers; review camera; rear parking distance control audible alert system; and a tire pressure monitoring system
Standard Equipment (Base Model): 17-inch tires; a 6-speed manual transmission; electric brakes a remote keyless entry system; a keyless ignition system; manually adjusted front seats; leather-like seats; rear seats with split folding seatback; an automatic a/c system; a manually operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel; roof rails; and heated mirrors with washer jets; a panoramic roof; 6.5-inch infotainment screen; and a rearview camera
Standard Equipment On Plug In: 18-inch wheels; 2.0-liter/221-hp; all-wheel drive; a twin turbo engine paired with an electric motor; LED headlights three driving modes: sport, mid and economy; fog lights; a panoramic roof; heated front seats with additional bolstering for the front seats (AWD model only); a dual zone automatic climate control system; heated mirrors with washer jet; a leather steering wheel; keyless entry front door access; and run flat tires
Options:Sport Edition: power folding mirrors, a power tailgate, a universal garage door opener, a keyless entry system, black roof rails, a panoramic roof, heated from seats, an automatic climate control system, LED exterior lighting, an active driving assistant, a Harmon/Kardon premium audio system and all-season tires Touchscreen Navigation Package: AppleCarPlay Compatibility, wireless charging and a navigation system JCWAppearance Package:18-inch wheels, a leather steering wheel, a rear spoiler, John Cooper Works aero kit and a headliner in anthracite; an exterior package; and a plug-in special edition
Other Trim Level:
Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: a 6-speaker audio system AM/FM/HD
Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes
USB Connectivity: Yes
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Plug-In Powertrain Warranty: 8 years or 80,000 miles
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder/134-hp
Recommended Fuel: Premium
Electric Plug-In Hybrid: Yes
Standard Hybrid Mileage: 65-city/27-combined
What’s New: With the second-generation Countryman plug-in hybrid joining the line up during the 2018 model year, there are no major changes this year.
Why: For those with daily commutes less than 12 miles one way or roundtrip, the alternative fuel Countryman is a godsend, especially if there is a charging station available at the final destination point. One never has to rely on gas or rack-up many miles on their Countryman.
However, realistically, those with longer commutes who need more than the 12 miles of electric driving range can depend on the additional 270 miles from the gasoline engine to kick-in. There is no range anxiety for the driver experience with the gasoline feature kicking in.
Unlike a traditional gasoline engine, the Countryman plug-in sounds like a quiet lawnmower, when idling. Surprisingly, the MINI plug-in is powered by a hearty 221-horsepower engine, which produces 284-feet pounds of torque. There is no compromise in power with this highly evolved vehicle.
And while the styling of MINIs has always being distinctive, the exterior badging, the plug in capability and the green interior lighting strips carefully placed throughout the vehicle readily identify this MINI as being certified green.
Besides this being a hybrid, the Countryman continues to be the roomiest vehicle in the brand’s portfolio. The quirky styled vehicle is almost a whopping 8 inches longer and 3 inches wider than its typical British sibling. The extra length and width allow the vehicle to compete against crossovers, which are car-based utility vehicles. Due to the additional length, the rear door is now larger. So, not only is it easier to enter and exit the rear cabin, there is more legroom too.
The engineering and the design team managed to maintain the style, distinctiveness and driving dynamics that make this vehicle so popular, as the vehicle evolved into a new generation.
In fact, out of all of the MINIS, the well-equipped Countryman offers the most standard equipment of any vehicle in the brand’s portfolio, including everything from a keyless entry system to a backup camera.
Now despite the high level of standard equipment, the Countryman can be outfitted with such optional features as a power sunroof and a technology package.
Lastly, this alternative fuel vehicle qualifies for a federal tax credit, which helps to lower the price by $4,000. One should note there may be additional savings available via one’s local municipality or place of employment, especially if there is a focus on driving green.
But: While this is MINI’S largest vehicle, we’re wondering why the rear seat does not include a standard center armrest. We know it is an optional feature.
Added to that, for consumers seeking the latest driving aids, such as a forward collision braking system, a lane keep assist system or a radar- activated cruise control, they’ll have to look outside of the MINI brand.
Moreover, I was disappointed that this vehicle is only able to run off of 12 miles of electricity, before the gasoline engine kicks in. Not only does it take too long to charge up, what is the consumer benefit. MINI’s engineering team should enhance the driving range for the plug-in.
And the last gripe I had relates to the audio system. In the MINI, satellite radio should be standard on this vehicle. A vehicle with a $45,750 price tag should include this feature in the base price.
Verdict: The iconic vehicle has grown in size significantly, making this the largest MINI ever. Unfortunately, because of the limited battery range and the time it takes to recharge, one needs to justify the cost versus the benefit. One might be better paying less for a gasoline model. With that said, the vehicle still manages to maintain its character and fun-to-drive nature. Yes, there is no mistaken this foreign icon for anything else, but a MINI 2.0.
Competition: None – due to this vehicle being a plug-in hybrid.
Jeff Fortson is the editor of JeffCars.com, a car-buying guide with a new-vehicle pricing configurator. Fortson also hosts SiriusXM’s only multicultural automotive show, Auto Trends with JeffCars.com. The weekly show airs Fridays on SiriusXM Channel 141 at 12 PM ET.