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Review: Mini electrifies the Countryman, with plug-in hybrid drive system

Emma Jayne Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Automotive News

My Mini Countryman ($36,800) was Melting Silver, one of five metallic exterior colors for $500 – Island Blue is the color of the Pacific Ocean, and British Racing Green is an old favorite. Standard Moonwalk Gray is very light. Non-metallic Lapisluxury Blue adds $1,000, and Light White adds $500.

Mirrors and top are available in either body color or black. My tester had black, with charcoal around the vehicle on the ground effects front and rear, wheel arches, and rocker panels (with a matte silver strip), a nice contrast against the silver. Hood strips in black or white are available for $100. Eighteen-inch pin-spoke black wheels with run-flat tires completed the sporty theme.

The design theme of the Mini is circular/rounded, seen in the Mini winged logo, the prominent, multicolor fender emblem/light, the headlight and headlight housing, the fog light and surround, the vertical taillights; interior door handles, steering wheel center/air-bag cover with Mini emblem, headrests, door armrests, overhead controls, shifter surround, instrument panel, air vents, and center-stack display.

The charging port is behind the fender emblem on the driver's side. Lots of "S" badging distinguishes the hybrid from full gasoline models.

A movable ring around the base of the shifter can be moved from side to side for Sport Mode or Green Mode. Sport provided stiffer steering, while Green reduced fuel consumption. A feature included with Connected infotainment provided a game-like screen to help drivers monitor acceleration, braking, and more, giving and taking stars as incentive. A silly fish in a virtual bowl also provided visual encouragement.

My Mini had carbon black leatherette upholstery, with Hazy Gray plastic trim on the door panels and dash. Upholstery is available in a variety of colors, in leatherette, leatherette/cloth, and leather or leather/cloth combinations from $750 to $2,250, with coordinating trim in four color choices from $200 to $400 (Hazy Gray is standard).

The round 3-D instrument cluster was unique, attached to the steering wheel shell (moves up and down with the steering wheel) with the speedometer layered in front of the tachometer and the fuel gauge displayed on the outside as an illuminated graduated backward "C."

The display panel was integrated into the middle of the dash, housed in an extended "tube." An LED ring around the edge could be configured to reflect the driver's mood. Mood lighting, with lots of colors and settings, also accented the doors and foot wells. A projector in the driver's side mirror greeted me with the Mini logo on the ground.

My tester had Navigation System XL with turn-by-turn directions on the vivid, 8.8-inch high-resolution touch screen, included in a $2,250 Technology Package along with Mini Connected 5.0 with App Integration (Apple CarPlay, no Android at this time), Real Time Traffic Updates (avoid jams/delays, navi will recalculate if desired), Wireless Device Charging (a cradle under the center armrest), Head-Up Display (rises from the dash behind the steering wheel, includes speed, navi, and other important info), Parking Assistant (Mini parallel parks itself with speed and braking controlled by the driver – very handy), and Mini FindMate Personal Item Tracking Sensors (two; attach to keys, sunglasses, etc, search/find via smartphone).

Standard Rear Park Distance Control worked with the rearview camera to alert the driver with a beeping sound if they got to close to another vehicle or object while backing, with the sound increasing in frequency as the vehicle moved closer.


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