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Hybrid Car buying guide

Whether you're looking for more fuel efficiency, an eco-friendly car that won't give you range anxiety, or maybe even the added oomph of a torquey electric motor, hybrid cars have a lot to offer. What started as a way to make economy cars even more economical has become so much more in recent years. While many vehicles are still chasing big mileage numbers, luxury brands have been figuring out how to use hybrid systems to add performance as well. Advances in battery technology also mean that new plug-in hybrids can go for miles on electricity before a gasoline engine is even turned on. There are a lot of hybrid options on the market right now, and many of them have different strengths, so we're going to run down our favorites to help you choose the right hybrid for your needs.

Category: Hybrid Cars | Hybrid SUV | Luxury Hybrid

Whether you're looking for more fuel efficiency, an eco-friendly car that won't give you range anxiety, or maybe even the added oomph of a torquey electric motor, hybrid cars have a lot to offer. What started as a way to make economy cars even more economical has become so much more in recent years. While many vehicles are still chasing big mileage numbers, luxury brands have been figuring out how to use hybrid systems to add performance as well. Advances in battery technology also mean that new plug-in hybrids can go for miles on electricity before a gasoline engine is even turned on. There are a lot of hybrid options on the market right now, and many of them have different strengths, so we're going to run down our favorites to help you choose the right hybrid for your needs.

Category: Hybrid Cars | Hybrid SUV | Luxury Hybrid

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Hybrid Car videos

2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman Plug-In Hybrid Review

Can a Mini still be fun if it's a plug-in hybrid? That's the question Edmunds Senior Writer Mark Takahashi seeks to answer in this video review of the 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman.

Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER: What we have here is the all-new 2018 MINI Countryman SE Hybrid. It's a bit of a mouthful. So let's break it down. MINI-- it's got all the personality. It's got all the style that you expect from MINI. Countryman-- the Countryman is the biggest vehicle they make, and it's still actually a compact SUV. S-- that means it's slightly sportier. It's got a little more power than the base Countryman. And the E hybrid-- well, it's a plug-in hybrid. It has about 12 miles of EV range and goes up to highway speeds. Now, the average commute is about 15 miles, according to the DOT. So if you have a slightly shorter commute than average, you'll hardly ever have to fill it with gas. The question is, is it as fun as a regular MINI? There's only one way to find out. [MUSIC PLAYING] Up front under the hood, we have the base engine, which is a three cylinder that powers only the front wheels. The difference here is in the back is an electric motor that drives the rear wheels. And the battery pack is underneath the rear seats. The combined power output between the internal combustion engine and the electric motor is 221 horsepower. That's only seven horsepower less than the top-of-the-line performance focused John Cooper Works edition. More importantly is this actually has more torque than the John Cooper Works, but it's focused more towards efficiency. I'm in EV mode right now. And if I were to give it a lot more pedal, let's say, to pass slower traffic, it'd kick in with the internal combustion engine. So here we go. And I really didn't feel that engine start up. It just kind of provided this nice shove. Right down here I have a toggle switch with the E Drive logo on it. And what that does is-- well, I can switch between the normal, automatic mode where it automatically switches between electric and gasoline power, or I could switch to EV only mode, which will not activate the gas engine unless you really give it some pedal. And then there's a save mode here, which actually gives more priority to charging the battery. So the auto E Drive is the way to go. One thing that's different about this versus other hybrids, though, is I don't get the big readout or a good indication of what the drivetrain is doing. It's just a picture of the Countryman with an arrow in the front showing that you're moving, and it will light up with the rear wheels if you're using electric only, or if you're using the gas, it will light up with red lights in the front wheels. It's really subtle on the screen. So you have to look fairly closely. Additionally, there's not a whole lot of information on this particular screen as far as how much EV range you have left or how much power you're using. You have to go to a different screen for that in a different part of the menu. I feel like they could have combined those two screens to give you a better indication of what the hybrid system's doing. You do feel a subtle transition from brake region to using the actual brake pads, though. It's almost like it gets a little mushy at the top of the brake pedal stroke, and then as you slow down or as you give it more pedal pressure, there's a little more resistance. That's when you start feeling the pads start to grab. My colleagues have commented that there are more issues at low parking lot speeds where they can be a little grabby, a little abrupt. And on the flip side of that, when you're on the highway and you need to get on the brakes, they can feel somewhat disconcertingly light. And at our test track, this came to a stop from 60 miles an hour in 140 feet. That's actually a long distance nowadays. The typical car will brake under about 120 feet. So that 20 feet could be the difference between stopping in time or tapping the bumper of the car in front of you. In most aspects, the SE hybrid drives like any other MINI Cooper. It's compact. It's got a small footprint, which means it's really easy to maneuver into a tight spot. I am noticing a lot more road noise, but that might just be down to the fact that there's no internal combustion engine running right now to help drown that out. The suspension is a little stiff compared to its competition, and that gives you that connectedness, that sporty feel that kind of instills confidence for handling. And in many ways, it handles just like a regular MINI, which is tuned for more fun than comfort. That said, it is still very comfortable. [MUSIC PLAYING] The interior of the Countryman is exactly what you'd expect from MINI. It's got all the charm, but it has evolved with better, sturdier, and more attractive materials. These sport seats-- they're very, very comfortable and supportive. But the side bolsters, if I was wider, that might be a problem. Everything-- or almost everything falls into place perfectly-- all the switches on the steering wheel, for the window, and, of course, it's got toggle switches instead of buttons and knobs. I like it. It's functional, yet attractive. When I said almost everything falls to hand, the infotainment still serves to be a little bit of an annoyance for me. In order to use it, you have to push this center armrest down to its lowest point. And that means that it's not even with the door arm rest, but it is a good system overall. As big as this center ring is, I feel like they're not making use of all the available real estate here, but at least it's functional and easy to use. Visibility-wise, it's actually really good. I have an incredible view outward, even behind me. Now, if I were to turn around, you're blocked slightly by the thick rear roof pillar, but it's got a standard rearview camera. It takes all the guesswork out. Another thing that helps with visibility is it has a built-in head-up display. It's got this flip-up plastic bit that reflects back into you. And if you don't like them, just hit a switch, and it'll fold right back down into the dash. As far as interior storage, it's a little limiting. Under the center armrest is a very, very small bin that's pretty much made just for smartphones, but it does have a wireless charging bed there. Underneath, a little bit of a pocket, not that useful. The door pockets-- they're a little shallow, but there is a pocket especially made for water bottles. Cup holders, they're on the small side, and there's a small bin there as well. It should do fine for most people. Overall, it's a really nice, attractive cabin to spend time in. From the back seat, there's actually a decent amount of room. That feeling of spaciousness up front translates back here really nicely. I feel like I'm slightly elevated, which gives me a nice view right out the windshield as well. Maybe gets in the way a little bit, but that's a really minor complaint. I do wish that there was an armrest in the center, but nothing folds out of here. I have more than enough room under the seat for my knees. And if I sit all the way back, my hair's maybe brushing the headliner, but not a problem. I'd be fine back here for a road trip. These seats do recline slightly, even though I was just reclined. The more upright position is like this. And even this isn't objectionable, but obviously it's better if you can slide back a little. Normally, with crossovers this size you expect a pretty small and limiting cargo space. Not the case with the Countryman. That's actually a sizable space. One thing, though, this pack full of household charger, adapter cords-- there's no good place to store it. You have underfloor storage, but it doesn't fit there. The thing is you probably don't need it anyway because you have a gasoline engine, and it's a standard charge port anyway. I'd say leave it at home. [MUSIC PLAYING] To answer the question, is it fun, actually yes, it is fun, and not just because it's a hybrid. It has a lot of that personality that you expect from MINI with driver engagement and just enough power to have fun but not enough to get you in trouble. I would actually consider getting one of these for myself. It fits my lifestyle just fine. It compares well against other fun-to-drive SUVs like the Mazda CX3, as well as the BMW X1 and forthcoming X2. If you're looking for something a little more environmentally friendly, though, there are some options that include the Kia Niro as well as the Kia Soul EV. For more information on the Countryman SE hybrid as well as its competition, head over to edmunds.com. To see more videos like this, hit Subscribe. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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