Mini on an electric path
Mini is progressively stretching its wings, from its stronghold in Britain, where it first debuted in 1959. Now the company has been making changes to adapt to the active emission laws sweeping Europe, by developing the Countryman plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV). This is a vehicle that uses both electric and petrol for power, while carrying batteries that can be charged by using a cable or by the combustion engine.
It’s like the SUV version of the renowned Mini Cooper, as it is bigger in every way, and uses much of the core of the BMW 2 series Active Tourer hybrid.
Love them or hate them, battery-powered vehicles are the way of the future. The major drawback with all these batteries is that it makes the Countryman 150kg/330lb heavier than the petrol-only version. This is thanks to the 80 lithium-ion batteries that are stored under the rear seats. Another compromise when compared to the petrol version is the fact that the fuel tank shrank from 51 to 36 litres.
I had a gripe with this at first, however I remember there are now several charging ports across Jamaica. So my advice to anyone buying this or any other PHEV, is to identify these charging stations, beforehand, along your journey. Once this is done, make sure the environment is safe and you have something to do, within the hour or so that is needed to top up the batteries.
To select the three hybrid driving options, there is a toggle in the centre console. These are Max eDRIVE, Auto eDRIVE and Save Battery Mode. In the Max eDRIVE mode, the vehicle is operating totally on battery, up to 77mph, and is extremely quiet. A great thing about electric vehicles is the fact that they can get from zero to 60mph quite quickly, because there is no drivetrain to convert gas to power. In this case, the Countryman accomplishes this feat in 6.8 seconds, which gives it a very zippy feeling.
As I journeyed to Bog Walk, from Kingston, I decided to switch to petrol mode, as electric mode is ideal for bumper-to-bumper traffic. This is another thing to take into consideration when driving PHEV vehicles – the average driver will have to change some of his driving patterns to use the two driving options effectively. Many persons may not want to bother switching to and fro, and so the option to select Auto eDRIVE is there. In this mode the car’s computer uses the driving style and terrain to determine which source of power is best.
The third hybrid mode is ‘Save Battery’, which allows the engine to charge the battery while the vehicle is being driven. It was also designed for countries with rigorous emission laws that have low-emission zones, where vehicles like these can traverse in electric mode. To identify the battery level, there is a designated gauge on the right-hand side of the gauge cluster. When the needle is in the yellow region, the vehicle is running on electric, and this status changes depending on how fast or aggressive the Countryman is being driven.
An area where the weight of the vehicle does assist is in cornering, as it helps the Countryman to stay planted on the road. This is a remarkable difference from a petrol model I drove several years ago.
In petrol mode the power goes to the front wheel, and there is some engine noise and vibration coming through the cabin. No doubt this is caused by the turbo, which is matted to a precise six-speed steptronic transmission.
Price of tested model: $8.995 mil
Engine: 1.5-litre Turbo 3 cylinder
87hp electric motor
Total horsepower: 224
Drive train: All Wheel Drive
Body type: Crossover SUV
Competition: Audi Q2, BMW X2
Vehicle provided by ATL Automotive Ltd, 1876-754-0013, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, atlautomotive.com