First Drive: Mini Cooper S E Countryman

The Mini Cooper S E Countryman has arrived in all its electric-hybrid splendor.

With high mpg figures mixed with traditional Mini capabilities, we take a look at this economy-focused hatchback.

What is it?

Diesel cars have been featured heavily in the news recently, but for all the wrong reasons. It's therefore understandable why manufacturers are bringing more alternatively fuelled options to market.

Here we have Mini's offering - the Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Under the bonnet lies a three-cylinder petrol engine coupled to an electric motor. It is capable of a claimed 134.5mpg and can run on all-electric power for 25 miles at speeds of up to 78mph. It's a car for those who want to keep running costs down, then, and all for a smidge under £30,000.

What's under the bonnet?

The Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4's three-cylinder petrol engine - coupled to an electric motor mounted underneath the boot floor - works alongside a large lithium-ion battery. This produces 220bhp and 385Nm of torque.

The power from the petrol motor is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, while drive from the electric unit goes to the rear wheels via a two-stage single-speed transmission. Together, they can send the Countryman to 60mph in just 6.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 123mph.

What's the spec like?

The Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is priced at £31,585. However, it qualifies for the government's plug-in grant of £2,500, giving a sizeable incentive to those who are thinking of buying it. As standard it comes with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control. Also, because the Mini emits just 52g/km CO2, taxation costs are much more affordable than some of its rivals.

As always, there's a sizeable optional extras list on the Countryman, with highlights such as wireless telephone charging and a larger satellite navigation screen improving the car's overall feel, but adding considerably to its price.

First Drive: Mini Cooper S E Countryman

First Drive: Mini Cooper S E Countryman

Any rivals?

The BMW i3 is probably the Mini's closest rival, but it can cost up to £10,000 more. Another rival is the Nissan Leaf, but it is fully electric and as such can only travel 84 miles on a single charge.

What's it like to drive?

The car will set off using electric power only and can carry on doing so for around 25 miles. This means that zero-emissions driving isn't just restricted to urban areas. There are also three separate driving modes that help you choose how and when you'd like that electric power to come in.

By selecting 'Auto eDrive' the car allows for all-electric driving up to speeds of 50mph. The petrol is used in this mode only when it's needed, such as under heavy acceleration or when the battery's charge drops too low. In 'Max eDrive' mode, all-electric driving is available up to 78mph, and the combustion engine is used, again, when accelerating hard. Finally, 'save battery' mode uses the petrol engine alone.

The steering has a good amount of weight to it, but lacks any feel. It is accurate enough however. And despite similar performance figures as the petrol-powered Cooper S, the E feels more sluggish under full acceleration.

Mini claims that it'll take two and a half hours to charge the car. When charging through a conventional domestic socket, this time rises to three hours and fifteen minutes.

AOL Cars Verdict

The Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is great choice for those who want the looks, charm and solid build quality that is associated with a Mini, but with excellent fuel efficiency.