MINI's transition to being a full-electric car maker must of course include larger models and this is the first of them, the Countryman Electric. This characterful lower-mid-sized SUV aims to bring a bit of visual and dynamic joie de vivre to its rather sensible segment. You might just end up thinking that it does.
The very first electrified production MINI of any kind was a Countryman, the PHEV version launched back in 2017, just before we saw the full-battery MINI Electric hatch in 2019. These were the early signs of the company's intention to transition into being a full-electric brand, underlined by the introduction in late 2023 of the second generation MINI Hatch Electric; and of this car, the marque's first large EV, the MINI Countryman Electric. This full-battery Countryman doesn't share its lithium-ion cell pack with the smaller EV Hatch because it's a bigger and heavier thing that also needs more power and the option of the company's All4 four-wheel drive system. But the cabin design is largely common between the two cars, as are the new infotainment and media connectivity systems. Let's take a closer look.
All-electric Qashqai-class lower-mid-sized SUVs usually sprint forward with the slightest dab on the throttle, but by and large, they offer precious little else to reward the enthusiastic driver, especially when it comes to the twisty stuff. The Countryman Electric does its best to be different. No of course it won't be quite like a MINI Hatch Electric to throw around the corners - the extra weight has to show somewhere - but you can expect quite a few more smiles per mile than you'd get from the vanilla class norm. Especially if you select the most vibrant of the provided 'MINI Experience' drive modes - 'Go-kart'. There are two Countryman full-EV variants, both using a 64.7kWh battery. Things kick off with the single motor Countryman Electric E, which offers 201hp, 62mph in 8.6s and a range of 287 miles. The alternative is the Countryman Electric SE, which adds an extra electric motor on the rear axle, creating a nominal four-wheel drive system. This boosts total output to 308hp with 494Nm of torque and the 62mph sprint time drops to just 5.6s. But range drops too - to 269 miles. Different chassis settings are available depending on the model you choose, including an adaptive suspension option that lowers ride height by 15mm. You can select between seven 'MINI Experience' modes - 'Core', 'Green', 'Go-kart', 'Personal', 'Vibrant', Timeless' and 'Balance' - each with a corresponding soundtrack.
Apart from the badging and the lack of an exhaust pipe, there are no obvious visual differences between this full-EV Countryman and its combustion counterparts. This third generation design is significantly bigger than its predecessors. It measures way past 4.4-metres in length and is 13cm longer and 6cm taller than the second generation design introduced in 2016. Some will find the swollen stance visually challenging and there are some curious touches, like the heavily stylised C-pillar with its contrast-coloured panel. Black plastic wheel arch surrounds and roof rails supply the crossover vibe, big wheels (17 to 20-inches) suit the current trend and there's much the same octagonal grille and range of lighting signatures as you'd get from the latest MINI Hatch, though here, the LED headlights are of a lozenge shape. The minimalist interior is a big departure from what went before and in design is carried over almost completely from the cabin created for that new-era MINI Hatch - though the extended dimensions here allow for an enlarged centre console. There's no instrument binnacle. Instead, dominating everything is the brand's latest 9.4-inch LED 'MINI Interaction Unit' round central screen, which you'll have to get used to looking at for speed unless you specify the optional Head-up display. You can flick between different settings for this very thin 240mm-diameter display, with sporty or retro typefaces, and it incorporates a new ambient lighting system which sees projectors flash a light show across the new textile dashboard at night. Virtually all the previous buttons and switches have been removed from the fascia and centre console (including unfortunately, the old rotary infotainment controller). A small panel with a few short-cut buttons is all that remains, along with the drive selector and a start/stop switch designed like an ignition key attached to the dash. In the back, the new platform has freed up an extra 130mm of leg room and the backrests can now individually adjust through six positions by up to 12-degrees. As before, the seat base slides - by up to 13cms. Boot space is improved to 460-litres - or 1,450-litres with the backrest folded. And there's space beneath the boot floor - enough to store the set of charging leads needed by the EV versions.
Prices start at £41,500 for the Countryman Electric E, while the Countryman Electric SE All4 model starts from £46,600. By means of a comparison, the petrol Countryman C is priced from £28,500. There are three available trim levels - 'Classic', 'Exclusive' and 'Sport' - and all are well equipped. The 'Classic' trim presents the brand's logo in a new colour ('Vibrant Silver'), and there's a range of three external paint finishes ('Melting Silver', 'Midnight Black' and 'Nanuq White'), plus two roof colour options and three wheel options. The 'Exclusive' trim adds additional exterior design elements, such as the option for a Multitone Roof with a combination of six different colours, as well as offering the front grille in 'Vibrant Silver' to match the MINI logo. Finally, the 'Sport' trim offers a distinctive front and rear design including a redesign for the front bumper, rear bumper, side skirt and spoiler, while using high-gloss black as the frame for the front grille and logo colour. You can combine that with a contrasting Chili Red roof and optional red/black bonnet stripes. MINI boasts that this is its most connected SUV ever, courtesy of a revised 'My MINI' app; and a "Hey MINI" personal assistant voice control system, via which owners can choose digital depiction of a British bulldog named Spike as their screen avatar of choice.
We gave you the range figures for the Countryman Electric models in our 'Driving' section - 287 miles for the E and 269 miles for the SE. The 64.7kWh battery that both variants use can be rapid-charged rates of up to 130kW and so connected, can be replenished from 10 to 80% in half an hour. The 'My MINI' app provides a convenient overview of the vehicle status and charging process, including current battery status, charging-optimised route plan and charging history. As expected, there's the normal three year unlimited mileage warranty. And the battery has its own 8 year or 100,000 mile warranty. Most customers here will want to buy into the provided MINI Electric Pay Monthly Service Plan to manage maintenance costs. Residuals should be strong. And MINI itself offers fully comprehensive insurance but you might find that your own broker can improve on the premiums your dealer can offer.
All-electric versions of the MINI Hatch have been around in one form or another for over a decade, but the concept of a large MINI with full-electric power is quite new. And difficult to pull off. It was hard enough for the brand to try and replicate trademark darty MINI handling with earlier generation combustion-powered Countryman models, whose extra weight over their little Hatch counterparts was immediately obvious to MINI loyalists. Add in the prodigious weight this time round of a huge lithium-ion battery pack and you've the recipe for a potential compromise in brand values. Yet rather against the odds, this Countryman Electric seems to get pretty close to pulling off its difficult development remit. And it does so while moving the game on substantially in terms of cabin design and media connectivity. There's actually nothing quite like it in the segment, which is in itself refreshing and different: as every MINI should be.