2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 review of plug-in hybrid

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The makers of the 2018 Mini Coooper S E Countryman All4, the unwieldy name for its first plug-in hybrid small crossover utility vehicle, aren't going to make any friends among electric-car fans.

That's because the company has included in its marketing the notion that the car's hybrid powertrain should offer some fuel-economy benefits even though you don't have to plug it in if you don't want to.

A car with a plug whose maker suggests owners needn't plug in could be ... ahem ... problematic among EV advocates.

DON'T MISS: New all-electric Mini E to launch in 2019 as halo for brand

The Countryman S E—the "S" means higher performance, the "E" means it has a plug—is the priciest model of the new 2018 Countryman you can buy.

The sticker on ours just topped the $40,000 mark, quite a lot for a subcompact crossover, even if it has a plug and the ineffable Mini mystique.

By the numbers, the plug-in hybrid Mini is rated at just 27 mpg combined when running in hybrid mode, only average for a small crossover and 1 mpg lower than the best version of the conventional Countryman, with the 1.5-liter inline-3 and 6-speed automatic.

2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 plug-in hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, July 2017

2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 plug-in hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, July 2017

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More than that, its all-electric range is rated by the EPA at just 12 miles, the lowest of any plug-in vehicle currently sold in the U.S. now that the 2012-2015 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is no longer in production.

The plug-in Countryman's powertrain combines Mini's 134-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-3 and 6-speed automatic up front with a 65-kilowatt (87-hp) electric motor in the rear, providing all-wheel drive in what's called a "through-the-road hybrid" setup.

That means the two powertrains are combined only through software, with the car predictably starting in electric-only mode, blending the two when higher power is demanded, occasionally dropping back to electric-only under light loads, and sometimes running solely on the gas engine at high speeds when that's most energy-efficient.

The plug-in hybrid is clearly the heaviest of all the Countrymen, given its battery pack and rear electric motor. While it's still decent to toss around, it's hardly in the same league as the basic Mini Cooper hardtop with the same engine.

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