Mini’s new Plug-in Countryman is one tasty treat

I love ye olde English expression “You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too.” What does it mean? I don’t have a clue either. 

Seriously, you can have a slice of cake and devour it on the spot. Which I’ve been known to do on all-too-frequent occasions. Bonefish Grill’s Molten Lava Carrot Cake is to die for.

But if I can hazard a guess, it’s about not having the best of both worlds.  

To illustrate why the expression makes absolutely no sense, may I humbly present the 2021 Mini Cooper SE Countryman eALL4 PHEV plug-in hybrid I’ve just spent a week driving. 

Man, that’s a bigger mouthful than a serving of the aforementioned Bonefish Grill Molten Lava Carrot Cake.

The cake, in this case, is the Mini’s ability to zip around town on tree-hugging, guilt-free, zero-emission electric power. The eating part is having a hybrid Mini that’s quick, zippy, and an absolute blast to drive. 

In other words, it offers the best of both worlds, letting you save the planet and have fun doing so.

Cake. And eating it.

The key to the Mini’s gateau-munching ability is its tasty combo of battery power coupled with a punchy 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo engine. And the ability to plug in and recharge.

With its 87hp electric motor spinning the rear wheels, and that 134hp gas motor up front, you have a combined 221hp and all-wheel drive to deliver all that feisty performance. How feisty? We’re talking 0-to-60mph acceleration in just 6.5 seconds

OK, so the electric-only range is pretty pathetic at just 16 miles. But I found it plenty enough for my daily running around town and zero-emission excursions to the grocery store.

What electric power adds, however, is that rock-out-of-a-catapult acceleration away from the stoplight and fast, safe, confidence-inspiring passing. It’s like adding a can of Red Bull to the fuel tank.

It also boosts the Mini’s fuel economy. The EPA combined gas/electric estimate is an impressive 73 MPGe along with a range of around 300 miles. And when the battery power is used up, the gas motor will take you 29 miles on a gallon. 

Talking of depleted battery power, when you plug back in, charging takes around two and a half hours with a domestic Level 2 240-volt charger. Or six and a half hours through a standard 120-volt wall outlet. 

Whether you want to help save the planet or not, plug-in power makes this new Countryman one of the most fun-to-drive compact SUVs out there. 

I just love the push-you-back-into-the-seat thrust as you accelerate away. Or the confidence of merging with faster traffic on a freeway on-ramp. The zero engine noise when you’re whirring around town is also a joy.

Then there’s the Countryman ALL4 package, which I absolutely adore. At 13 feet nose-to-tail, it’s not so “mini” any more. But it still drives like a go-kart, with laser-precise steering, no-roll cornering and fun, agile handling.

And I never get tired of all those quirky Mini features; the huge, circular, pizza-sized dashboard display, the aircraft-style switches and, new for 2021, the oh-so-British Union Jack motifs on the taillights.

The interior is also a delight with all that quilted leather upholstery — our test car’s trim color was called Chesterfield Malt Brown.

Inside, there’s space for five adults and the flexibility of a high-lifting tailgate, fold-down rear seats and as much as 47.4 cubic feet of luggage space.

Is all this plug-in hybrid tech worth it? That’s the big, burning question. 

While a nicely-equipped Cooper S Countryman ALL4 lists for $33,900, our PHEV plug-in version would set up back $41,500. 

For the same price, I think I might prefer the super-sporty 301hp John Cooper Works Countryman version. But that’s just me.

Think of the Cooper Works as a huge slice of carrot cake, with cream on the top, and eating it. Yum.

Test drive the 2021 Mini Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 PHEV at Ferman Mini of Tampa Bay in Palm Harbor.