2018 Mini Countryman Hybrid: Monthly Update for December 2018
by Mark Takahashi, Senior Writer
Where Did We Drive It?
It's time to say goodbye to our long-term 2018 Mini Countryman S E Hybrid. Judging by the results and comments, it won't be missed by the staff. It didn't get to the targeted 20,000 miles for the 12 months in the fleet, and for most staffers, the EV range didn't fit their commutes. The Countryman spent a week with Brent Romans in Central California, but that didn't help matters since he is without a home charger. Also not helping much is the fact that the Mini had to go back to the dealer for some maintenance issues.
I have the shortest commute of all and the hybrid Mini most certainly worked for me, but I can see how its limitations soured my colleagues' impression of it. Besides the bonkers hypercars from AMG, McLaren and Porsche, I think the hybrid Countryman if one of the most entertaining hybrids out there.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Since our last update for October, there hasn't been much activity or movement in results. Only 1,347 miles added to the odometer and the average true mpg is unaffected. The average electric range dipped from 12.3 miles to 12, too.
Average true gasoline mpg: 28.1
EPA mpg rating: 27 combined
Average electric range: 12 miles
Best electric range: 23.4 miles
EPA electric range rating: 12 miles
Current odometer: 14,348 miles
"We recently had the Mini in for routine service last month. As of this entry, it was only a few days ago. Now the check engine light (CEL) is on. I wonder why." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, vehicle testing technician
"Took the Mini into service yesterday. The check engine light (CEL) issue has been resolved, and our friendly service person contacted us to let us know the happy news. What was the fault? It seems that the fuel tank vent valve was defective (along with the venturi nozzle). They replaced both parts and performed system checks to make sure that everything was taken care of. With that handled, we can safely be on our way with no CEL bugging us." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres
"Back to the Mini service department we go! The check engine light is back on and I have no idea why. My hunch is it could be related to the last issue: something to do with the fuel filler area. I promptly called up our friendly neighborhood service adviser, and she apologetically had me come in to drop off the car. They know me by face now. It's not their fault. They didn't build the car. Let's see what the problem is. *start rant* I have to say, it's really frustrating. This check engine light has come on three times during our time with this vehicle. I've already viewed this plug-in Countryman as a thing with many compromises but having reliability issues and things like this pop up a couple of times in one month can get really annoying. *rant over* Let's see if my hunch is correct."
"Picked the Mini back up from service today. Was supposed to yesterday but our service adviser called me to tell me that they were going to run more tests on our Mini because of something that came up and drive it for an additional 50 miles to make sure that the check engine light is remedied. I figured if it gets rid of that infernal light, please go ahead.
"After picking up the car, our adviser and I had a good conversation about the vehicle and how I liked it, etc. I told her that aside from the compromise in gas range (sacrificed for the EV battery), lack of EV range (again, there's a gas tank in this vehicle), and the constant check engine light, I liked it just fine. Maybe the vehicle just likes being in the service bay. Who knows? After a couple of minutes casually chatting, we talked about the issue that had our Countryman head back to them.
"Remember when I had a hunch that it was related to the fuel fill area? It seems like that was the case. This time it was a defective shutoff purge valve. For your reference, the shutoff purge valve controls the amount of fuel vapor that is vented/let out. The usual issue is that the valve either partially closes or doesn't close at all. That's when it trips the check engine light. When your vehicle is off, the purge valve should be closed. They replaced the valve, tested the unit, then drove the car to make sure that everything works as it should.
"I thanked her and her service team for doing their due diligence in this matter and then set off into the sunset. So far, so good. No check engine light. I'm crossing my fingers and toes that it doesn't come back soon." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres
"I've discovered that the Countryman S E has a built-in generator capability. I suppose this isn't a big surprise. But what is surprising (at least to me) is the variability of when it activates.
"The gas engine normally stays off until the battery capacity drops to about 6 or 7 percent. It then stays that way if you're driving using the normal Drive mode. But if you switch to the manual gear-shifting mode or the Sport mode, the generator starts charging the battery to a higher level. There are limits, though I'm not entirely sure what they are. It might be around 25 percent capacity for manual shifting mode or more for the Sport mode.
"What this means is you can partially charge up the battery while you're driving. I'm sure it's not a very efficient way to do it compared to using the charging port and an external power plug, though." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
"The lack of all-electric range is a deal-killer for me. In order to make the most of the Mini's plug-in nature, you constantly have to look for opportunities to recharge. It's almost comical how quickly you run out of electric power. It would be great if Mini could figure out a way to give the Countryman S E a bigger battery and 25-30 miles of electric range. As it is, I'd rather own something like a Chevy Volt or a Hyundai Niro Plug-In." — Brent Romans
"Even though I'm not fond of the S E version of the Countryman, it's still evident that the Countryman in general is a pretty enjoyable vehicle. Mostly, I like that it's an antidote to all other bland crossover SUVs out there. It's fun to drive, of course, and there are many ways to customize its styling to make it yours. Heck, Mini even offers a manual transmission. Not even BMW is doing that these days for its similar X2 crossover." — Brent Romans
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that our staff didn't like the Countryman Hybrid. It didn't even rack up 15,000 miles during its yearlong stay with us, and we try to put at least 20,000 miles on our long-term testers. In fact, the Countryman is the first non-EV in the past five years (and possibly longer) to exit a 12-month test with fewer than 17,000 miles on the odometer." — Cameron Rogers, reviews editor