2019 MINI Cooper Countryman S E ALL4 Review

A different flavor that might not please anyone


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Much improved build quality, unique persona, youthful interior, decently quick
Negatives: Feels uncertain in the turns, a bit too quirky for our liking, tacky "plug" design charging port, not very efficient, expensive
Bottom Line: The S E ALL4 is definitely unique in its segment, but we can't even really seem to place where it belongs. It's not a wagon, nor is it really a crossover. Add in the electric aspect, and it's just a bit odd for our liking. For the price, it's not something we'd buy since it's not great at efficiency, driving fun, or space. It's kinda just quirky.
In the answer to a question nobody asked, MINI has delivered a different flavor of its Countryman "SAV" (Sport Activity Vehicle). It's now a plug-in hybrid with a mouthful of a name, the MINI Cooper Countryman S E ALL4. Some will be shocked to read that the Countryman is actually based on the totally different looking BMW X1 compact crossover. But the S E ALL4 marches to a different drum than the X1. Rather than sporty and sophisticated, the S E ALL4 manages its own look and feel that almost seems like overkill. We drove this plug-in hybrid crossover/wagon of sorts for a week to see if we could make sense of it.
 

Driving Experience

6.4

 

The S E ALL4 isn't a bad car to drive. It's just not even close to being as good as the BMW X1 on which its based. The gas version of the Countryman is actually more fun, and you can get it with a 6-speed manual.

Ride Quality: Firm but liveable. It's not bad over bumps, but the low profile tires and the firm suspension lend to a ride that's not exactly cushy.

Acceleration: It'll hit 60 mph from a standstill in just under six seconds, which is pretty quick. It just doesn't feel very fast.

Braking: The poor brake performance and the initial deadness in the pedal are disappointing. It's not an especially heavy car at just under 4,000 pounds, so we don't exactly get it.

Steering: The Mini’s steering is direct, accurate, and reasonably weighted, although we’d ask for more feel through the tiller.

Handling: We didn't feel very secure in spirited turns due to the body roll and understeer. moderate understeer. It just didn't feel very balanced.

Technology

6

 

We'd call MINI's approach to infotainment playful but not especially easy to use. Most of the interior seems designed around the notion of youthful fun.

Infotainment System: The roundish touchscreen is weird. It curves at the outer edges, but it has a straight border at the top and bottom. The round frame actually manages to make the screen look smaller than it is. There's too much color and design in the menus to make it quick to navigate. We didn't like it at all.

Controls: Again, the quest to make the interior look fun results in controls that are hard to find. At least there are physical knobs and buttons for audio, infotainment, and climate. We just wish the whole setup was less decorative and more functional.

Styling

8

 

The JCW treatment certainly makes the S E ALL4 look a bit sinister, but there are some elements we didn't especially like.

Front: The darkened mesh grille and frame look handsome, and there's no overstyling here. The LED surrounds in the headlights look great, as do the round LED foglights. The yellow side mirrors were a bit much, the result of too much customization.

Rear: The thick tailgate looks great, flanked by the simple taillights. Our only dislike was the narrow faux diffuser that looks a little cheesy.

Profile: The attractive profile is ruined by the overdone charging port door that's meant to look like an electric plug. It protrudes like a robotic boil on an otherwise well-styled body.

Cabin: Next to the charging port door, it's our biggest dislike. Not only is it too dark in black/charcoal, there's too much going on. We also really dislike the tall and oddly-shaped shifter that looks like it belongs in a cheaper American car.

Comfort

6.2

 

The comfort levels were not astounding. In fact, every time we got in the S E ALL4, we wondered why a $45K German car was significantly less comfortable than a $25K Mazda3.

Front Seats: They were supportive but seemed a bit hard for our liking. The manual adjustment was really disappointing at this price.

Rear Seats: The back seats are on the flat side, and the middle position is just for kids. Legroom stands at 37.6 inches, which is 0.6 more than the BMW X1 and a an inch and-a-half more than the Lexus NX crossover.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The S E ALL4 feels well built. We didn't notice any errant noises other than minor freeway speed noise from the tires.

Visibility: Visibility is good out the front and sides. The D-pillar is a little on the thick side, but it's not hugely obtrusive.

Climate: The climate system is decent but not great. It didn't emit a lot of airflow from the vertically-mounted vents.

Safety

6

 

Though the heavier electric version of the Countryman hasn't been crash tested, the gas version did decently but didn't win any awards.

IIHS Rating: It scored "good" in crash tests" but only got "marginal" for headlights and "acceptable" for LATCH ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: For this much money, it doesn't have a lot of standard safety features aside from the usual ABS/Traction Control/Stability Control/Airbags. Our tester came with a rear camera and rear Park Distance Control sensors.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

6.5

 

If you're looking to haul a lot of stuff, the Countryman in S E ALL4 trim isn't your bag. It's got a decent amount of cargo space, but storage for loose items in the cabin area needs work. Again, it suffers for that "fun" quotient.

Storage Space: There's a small open bin underneath the short armrest, as well as a tray and twin cupholders in front of the shift knob.

Cargo Room: The S E ALL4 loses about half a cubic foot because of the battery storage. The regular Countryman has 15.9 cubic feet with the second row up and 49 cubic feet with them folded flat.

Fuel Economy

5.8

 

Here's where there's more than just a little disappointment. Though we wouldn't call the S E ALL4 inefficient, it just seems like the plug-in portion of the show doesn't justify the cost and effort. It gets a mere 12 miles of electric-only range from its 7.6-kWh battery pack, and the EPA combined rating is just 27 mpg.

Observed: 24.8 MPGe

Distance Driven: 77 miles.

Audio

7.4

 

The upgraded Harman Kardon system in our tester was part of a $2,900 package. It was good but not astounding. We would say the upgrade isn't worth spending that much, but the package does quite a few non-audio related amenities.



Final Thoughts

For almost $46,000, the S E ALL4 is a stretch. First of all, it's just not that efficient. It get 1 mpg better than the gas version, and the gas tank is a dinky 9.5 gallons. Second, the driving dynamics aren't particularly what MINIs should be known for. Third, the interior is too quirky and not quite comfortable enough for us to be won over. For $10K less, you can load up a Mazda CX-5, have more fun driving it, get better fuel numbers, enjoy a better interior with richer materials and tech, and also not look like a 40-year old guy trying to hold onto his 20s.
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