Skip advert
Advertisement

New MINI Countryman SE 2024 review: a spacious and refined electric SUV

The new all-electric MINI Countryman SE isn’t cheap, but is the brand’s most convincing SUV in the modern era

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Find your MINI Countryman
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Or are you looking to sell your car?
Customers got an average £1000 more vs part exchange quotes
Advertisement

Verdict

Much like with the JCW, we don’t expect the dual-motor version to be the sweet spot of the new electric MINI Countryman’s line-up. But the signs are promising because while the Cooper SE is eye-wateringly expensive and undoubtedly faster than it needs to be, it does lots of the basics really well – practicality, comfort, agility – while still retaining that sense of fun that appeals to regular MINI customers. It may be the largest MINI ever, but in many ways, this Countryman is also one of the most convincing of the modern era.

Advertisement - Article continues below

MINI’s new-product offensive is really taking off. The all-electric Cooper is due any day now, we’ve just seen the petrol version of the same car, the Aceman small crossover is set to be revealed in the coming months, and then there’s a fresh generation of Countryman – tested here. 

It may be larger than ever and therefore further away from the original MINI rationale, but we were impressed with the new family SUV in petrol-powered JCW spec when we drove that last week. Now it’s time to see how the all-electric version stacks up.

Yes, you read right: whereas the old Countryman was available only with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains, this version of the car makes full use of the BMW Group’s UKL2 platform (also the base for the X1 and X2) to deliver a couple of zero-emission versions. And yes, it is a family SUV – yet another growth spurt means that this Countryman has outgrown the likes of the Nissan Qashqai. It’s actually slightly taller than the Range Rover Evoque, too.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

There are two flavours available. The front-drive Countryman E costs from £42,080, has 201bhp and 250Nm of torque and does 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds. The four-wheel-drive Countryman SE ALL4 that we’re driving here has an extra motor at the rear for a combined output of 308bhp and a whopping 494Nm of torque, so its 0-62mph is within a whisker of the petrol JCW’s, at 5.6 seconds. It’ll do 112mph flat out, if that really matters, and can travel 269 miles between charges – though this does mean you’re losing around 20 miles of range, while paying almost £5k more for the privilege. The car can charge at up to 130kW, taking its 64.7kWh battery (net) from 10 to 80 per cent in just under half an hour.

On the road, the altogether more mature approach has been successfully translated into the Countryman’s dynamic behaviour. Does it feel as agile as a regular three-door MINI? Of course not. But nor does it feel totally out of its depth beyond urban roads and motorways. The cleverest trick is the suspension, which delivers a well-judged blend of body control and composure (notably more rounded, in fact, than on its sister car, the BMW iX2). You can feel that the mass – we’re talking about a big electric car here, after all – but the Countryman does a good job of settling quickly after camber shifts or changes of direction.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

It’s fast, too, with four-wheel-drive and dual-motor punch making it easy to squirt the Countryman between junctions around town, or to blast for longer stretches splitting corners on fast country roads. The steering will feel a little slow for some MINI aficionados, no doubt, but it’s hard to see how they could have made it much quicker in a car this tall and this heavy. It’s accurate and nicely weighted; just don’t expect any great detail in its communication.

Away from the twisty stuff, the Countryman SE is an accomplished cruiser. There’s a bit more wind noise than we’d like – a result of chunky side mirrors and a tall overall profile – but this is only really evident because the rest of the package is so hushed. The electric motors are both supremely refined and while there is a bit of tyre roar, it’s not an unacceptable amount for a car sitting on 20-inch wheels.

If anything, the electric Countryman feels better inside than the already-impressive JCW, with a more tasteful, relaxing use of colours and materials (instead of sporty red and black, our SE ALL4 had a soothing teal fabric finish on the dash). It all feels impeccably screwed together and all of the switches have proper heft to them – as they should in a car costing nearly £50k. It’s definitely a notch above the likes of the Peugeot E-3008 or Nissan Ariya, as well as the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

There’s proper family space onboard too, with plenty of headroom, and a back seat that can move a few centimetres fore and aft to prioritise either rear legroom or a larger boot. At 460 litres, the overall capacity isn’t something to be sniffed at – and you can increase this to 1,450 litres by folding down the second row. The load bay itself isn’t especially clever but the floor is hinged at its innermost point so you can easily hoist it out of the way to load items into the area beneath – charging cables would seem the most obvious candidate.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Up front, the dash is dominated by MINI’s 9.4-inch circular OLED display, the first time such tech has been installed in a car. Regardless of one-upmanship, the central panel has to do all of the heavy lifting, because there are no conventional instrument gauges ahead of the driver. 

But fortunately, it’s an ultra-crisp display, with the sort of deep, rich blacks and high contrast colours that you get with OLED tech (often used in televisions and smartphones) – and while the interface can be a bit busy, there are a number of ‘Experience Modes’ that allow you to flick between different visual treatments. 

You’re likely to find one that appeals and stick with it – unless you allow your children anywhere near the front passenger seat. Do that and the system has staggering scope for customisation, plus access to numerous streaming apps that can feed through audio but also video – handy, MINI believes, for catch-up TV when you’re sitting waiting at a charging station. There are also games to play, although we can’t help feeling that the designers of the rally game missed a trick by opting for Toyota Celica replicas instead of original Monte-winning Minis. 

The whole system is fun, at least – the sound effects, the variety of graphics, the personal assistant ‘Spike’. Like it or loathe it, it’s a reflection of the fact that MINI is now relying on the digital world to deliver some of its brand’s impish charm and sense of humour within a car that is now so grown up, in so many ways.

Model:MINI Countryman SE ALL4
Price:£47,180
Powertrain:64.7kWh battery, 2x e-motors
Power/torque:308bhp/494Nm
Transmission:Single-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:5.6 seconds
Top speed:112mph
Range:269 miles
Max charging:130kW (10-80% in 29min)
Size (L/W/H):4,433/1,843/1,656mm
On sale:Now
Skip advert
Advertisement
Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

New 2024 Vauxhall Frontera is a family-friendly SUV priced to worry rivals
Vauxhall Frontera - front
News

New 2024 Vauxhall Frontera is a family-friendly SUV priced to worry rivals

Vauxhall’s value-focused Frontera SUV will replace the Crossland with ICE and EV powertrains
9 Apr 2024
Car Deal of the Day: stylish Peugeot 2008 is a steal at an incredible £142 a month
Peugeot 2008 facelift - full front
News

Car Deal of the Day: stylish Peugeot 2008 is a steal at an incredible £142 a month

Buyers can snap up the Peugeot 2008 small SUV at a bargain price; it’s our Car Deal of the Day for 10 April at just £142 a month
10 Apr 2024
Alfa Romeo Milano 2024 preview: walkaround, specs and full details
Alfa Romeo Milano - front 3/4 static
News

Alfa Romeo Milano 2024 preview: walkaround, specs and full details

Alfa Romeo re-entered the small SUV sector with the new Milano offered in pure electric and petrol forms
12 Apr 2024