MINI Countryman Hybrid Review 2021

Mini Countryman. This SUV is by far the biggest car in the Mini stable, and it aims to provide all that stuff that people love about Minis bold style, retro character, young-at-heart driving manners but in a package that s more family friendly than most Minis. The question is, does it hit the spot? Before we find out, here s a quick reminder to subscribe to the CarGurus UK YouTube channel, not forgetting to turn on notifications by hitting the bell icon. That way, whenever a new video goes live, you ll always be the first to know. This is the second-generation Countryman, and it s been with us since 2017, but the car did receive a mild facelift around the middle of 2020. And when we say mild we really mean it. LED lights were made standard, but otherwise, we re talking the odd nip and tuck, rather than anything substantial. Some accuse the looks of being too bulbous to be a true Mini, while many others really like the way that Mini s trademark design features have been worked into a bulkier body. You ll make up your own mind which camp you fall into. Whatever your view on the looks, you ll need your Countryman to deliver on practicality, because it is after all a family car. Open up the boot and you ll find a very decent space, with a low loading lip and a nice square shape. But there is one thing to bear in mind here. The Countryman we have here is the plug-in hybrid version, and the electric motor that drives the rear wheels sits underneath the boot floor. That means you lose about 45 litres of boot space compared with a non-hybrid Countryman, but at 405 litres, there s still plenty to be getting on with, and you also have a bit of under-floor storage for your charging cables. You also get rear seats that fold down in a 40-20-40 split, which makes them a lot more versatile than the 60-40 split you ll find in most rivals, even if the back rests do lie at a slight angle. Compared with other Countryman models, the hybrid has a slight disadvantage here, too. Rear legroom is absolutely fine, but the batteries for the hybrid system are stashed away under your seat. That means you have to sit higher up, and that robs you of quite a bit of headroom. So does this optional panoramic sunroof, and the combined effect means that if you re anything approaching six foot tall, you ll find your hairdo pressing into the headlining. It s pretty good in other ways, though. The cabin is wide enough that you can seat three people across the rear bench without too much squeezing up, and all the rear seats recline for when you fancy a snooze. Find yourself promoted to driving duties, and you ll find a decent amount of reach and rake adjustment for your steering wheel, and a driver s seat that cranks up and down. Adjusting the angle of your backrest isn t so easy, though. You have to pull a catch and shift your weight, and that s neither as easy nor as precise as a more conventional wheel controller. of wheel controllers, there s one down here between the front seats that allows you to scroll though the menus of the infotainment system. It s much more precise and less distracting than a touchscreen, and because the system is based on the iDrive interface of parent company BMW, all the menus are logical and the graphics are pin-sharp. In terms of ease-of-use, it s pretty much the best in the business. Most of the functionality you d expect is provided, too, including navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth and Apple Carplay. Android users might feel a bit hard-done-by, though, because Android Auto is not supported. In another triumph for user-friendliness, you have physical dials and buttons to control the air-con system, which means you don t need to go foraging around in infotainment menus. Visibility is fab, too. The slim window pillars mean you get a great view out in all directions, and the bulbous lines of the bonnet means you can see where the extremities of the car are, making parking manoeuvres easier. Importantly, the Countryman also impresses when it comes to quality. This feels like one very posh car. The infotainment screen and digital instrument panel help make things feel high-tech, while all the materials and finishes on display are thoughtfully chosen and beautifully finished. For many potential buyers, though, the burning question will be, does the Countryman drive like a proper Mini? Let s kick off with that plug-in hybrid powertrain we ve been banging on about. So we ve got a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels, and an electric motor driving the back wheels, all through a six-speed automatic gearbox. The combined power output is 217 horsepower, which sounds very healthy, and it combines that prodigious power with claimed official fuel economy of up to 166mpg. You might get somewhere close if you keep it charged up and roll around for as much time as possible on electric-only power, which you can do for a maximum of around 30 miles on a full charge. However, as soon as the petrol engine gets called into action, you ll see your economy plummet. The car feels very sprightly in electric-only mode, too. The motor only makes 94 horsepower, but its instantaneous responses make the car feel alert and eager at low speeds. On the occasions where the petrol engine is called upon to help out, it cuts in and out very quietly and unobtrusively. It can sound a bit thrashy if you really bury the accelerator and unleash the full force of both power sources, delivering impressively brisk acceleration that allows you to cover the 0-62mph dash in just 6.8 seconds, but that s not something you ll do very often. The engine noise settles down impressively well once you reach motorway cruising speeds, too, but unfortunately, it s replaced by wind noise that whistles around the door mirrors, and an overabundance of road noise that can get pretty annoying after a while. Whatever your speed, the Countryman has quite a firm ride. Not as firm in other Mini models perhaps, but enough that you ll be a little too aware of the state of the road beneath you. It stops short of feeling uncomfortable and most families won t complain too much, but be aware that there are plenty of other family SUVs that ll make you feel more settled and sophisticated. The payoff for the firmness is a car that resists body roll impressively well in corners and, thanks partly to the hybrid s four-wheel drive, there s bags of grip and traction to call upon as well. So far, so Mini. However, the Countryman doesn t really deliver than go kart feel that Minis are famous for, especially this hybrid version. It feels heavy, both when changing direction and on the brakes, and the steering doesn t deliver quite enough in the way of either responsiveness or feedback. There s a lot to recommend the Countryman, not least it s desirability, its impressive interior quality and one of the best infotainment systems in the business. It s perhaps a little bit below-par on practicality, refinement and driving manners, especially in the plug-in hybrid form we have here, but for fans of its styling, these will be shortcomings worth putting up with. Do bear in mind, however, that like most Minis, the Countryman isn t a cheap car, and it ll cost you considerably more than most similarly sized rivals. But, if you re prepared to pay that premium, then you ll most likely love it.

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