Back and spoiling for an eco-friendly fight.
The largest model in the Mini arsenal, the Countryman, was hardly in need of arefresh, but the British marque's best-seller has received just that ahead of the 2021 model year. But perhaps the biggest news is that along with the update, Mini has revived the plug-in hybrid Cooper SE Countryman after a hiatus in 2020, complete with electric ALL4 all-wheel-drive, updated styling, larger dimensions, and a revised, digital interior.
Occupying the niche within the niche, the Cooper SE Countryman sits between mainstream compact SUVs and premium alternatives like the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, but in plug-in guise sees its price rise to the same level as the latter. Still, for those who place value in style and exclusivity, few options excite in the same way a hybrid Countryman does.
The Countryman range has always been the largest of the Mini family, but with revised styling for 2021, it becomes the first model to measure more than 13 feet in length. The growth aside, even the most hardcore of Mini aficionados will be hard-pressed to spot the difference between the outgoing model and the incoming one.
The front end has been mildly resculpted and features a newly designed radiator grille, flanked on either side by LED headlights and LED foglights. The rear end completes the LED lighting ensemble with Union Jack style taillights to match styling updates made to the rest of the Mini roster. Wheel sizes range from 17-19 inches, with a swathe of new designs for 2021. The SE is further differentiated by a subtle badge on the tailgate and a charging port with a large E logo.
Two new hues have been added to the exterior paint palette in the form of White Silver and Sage Green, both metallic, while depending on specification, the roof and side mirror housings can be body-colored or contrasted in either black, white, or silver. Additionally, a new Piano Black Exterior package swaps out the chrome window surrounds, grille detailing, and headlight surrounds for black, along with the door handles and roof rails.
The Countryman is not only a top-seller because of its crossover styling, but also because it allows buyers to retain the Mini styling without compromising on practicality. This is due to the large body and the practical configuration, with 40:20:40-split read seats that fold and allow the trunk to be increased in capacity from 17.6 to 47.6 cubic feet.
As we've come to expect from the BMW-owned brand, the interior is of high quality, with plenty of soft-touch materials and fancy finishes. 2021 sees two new upholstery options enter the fray in the form of Chesterfield Indigo Blue and Chesterfirled Malt Brown leather, but cloth and other leather alternatives are also available. A sport leather steering wheel is standard across the range.
New for the facelifted variant is a digital instrument cluster available as an option. The five-inch display is complemented by an 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen on all models with integrated Apple CarPlay and available navigation on upper sub-trims.
While lesser tiers of the Countryman family get the option of front-wheel-drive, the Cooper SE Countryman is exclusively equipped with Mini's ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. However, due to the plug-in nature, the system operates in two ways. The 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder gasoline engine under the hood powers the front axle through a six-speed automatic gearbox, while the rear wheels are driven solely by an electric synchronous motor. The pair of powerplants produce a combined power output of 224 horsepower - 35 hp more than the Cooper S Countryman - which enables a 0-60 mph sprint of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 122 mph.
Charge times, battery capacities, and gas mileage estimates are yet to be announced, and at this stage, we still don't know how far the Cooper SE Countryman can travel on electricity alone. However, we expect a substantial increase over the 2019 model's mere 12-mile range and 27 mpg combined cycle estimates.
The 2021 Mini Cooper SE Countryman is only scheduled to arrive in showrooms later in the summer, and until such time as it does, Mini is keeping pricing closely under wraps. However, we expect it to be pricier than the 2019 variant's $36,900 base MSRP considering the increased value and the one-year hiatus which has given the brand time to refine the model further.
When it arrives, competitors will be few and far between, as the Countryman provides a more luxurious alternative to the likes of the Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid, while genuine premium brands aren't yet punting plug-in hybrids powertrains in their smaller SUVs. The Lexus UX Hybrid will be worth cross-shopping however, despite not being a plug-in, and with a base MSRP of around $35,000 and impressive gas mileage figures, it may be the Cooper SE Countryman's toughest rival.