A standard feature on the John Cooper Works models of the 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman are driving modes that allow the driver to choose from Sport, Green or Mid settings for performance. Metro News Service photo

Mini Cooper Countryman All4 like no other subcompact SUV on the road

Electric go-kart is is quirky, different and funky-spunky

Cars – rather, vehicles – should have personality and distinction. There are so many vehicles on the road today and most just blend in, one easily tossed into one segment or another where it can be compared to others that are just like it. Thank goodness my tester this week has personality and doesn’t fit neatly into one segment or another.

But that’s what the Mini brand is kind of all about. The Mini brand is quirky, different and funky-spunky. My tester this week is the Mini Cooper Countryman, which technically is a subcompact SUV. But it really belongs in its own segment and certainly can’t be compared to the ho-hum entries in that segment.

Even its looks are distinctive. There’s not another subcompact SUV that even resembles the Mini Countryman. From the unique striping on the hood, which is so typical of Mini, to the large headlights and smallish grille, this is a vehicle that has an identity. On profile it does look like a short, squatty crossover. The side mirrors matching the color of the striped pattern on the hood, giving it a congruent look. The back side is equally youthful with an unusual spoiler and large, dominating taillights. Inside the taillights is an LED pattern of the UK flag, paying homage to the Mini’s heritage.

My tester had the John Cooper Works (JCW) trim which brought even sportier touches like a blacked-out grille and red trim accents outside and inside.

The Countryman is offered with three engine variants including a 134-horsepower, 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine; a turbocharged, 2.0-liter engine that makes 189 hp; and the ALL4 which is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain that puts together the 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine with an electric motor to combine for 228 hp.

This was what my tester had, and the combination of horsepower and torque was impressive for such a squatty little vehicle. The torque was great for off-the-line fun; the overall performance of the Cooper Countryman ALL4 felt like a go-kart. The six-speed, automatic transmission felt outmatched at times with some hesitation between the gasoline and electric motors. It didn’t seem to handle the torque that was thrown around from the electric assist.

As quirky as the Mini is on the outside, it’s even more unusual inside. The Cooper Countryman has tons of interior character. The red theme from the JCW trim on the outside carries over on the stitching and dashboard inside.

The circular infotainment screen dominates the dashboard. The ambient lighting that glows around it during the night adds a special charm. But that 8-8-inch circular screen is peculiar and part of the Mini’s awkward infotainment system. It’s really the only drawback to the vehicle. There’s a learning curve you will be on but you learn to accept it as part of the “charm” of this vehicle. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto redeem it a little bit.

The back seat fits three people, although really only two adults comfortably. The panoramic sunroof adds to the ambience and youthful feel of the interior. Behind the second row is 17.6 cubic feet of cargo room which is small for this segment. There’s 47.6 cubic feet of overall cargo room with rear seats folded down.

Starting price for the Mini Cooper Countryman ALL4 PHEV is $36,900. My tester had plenty of packages and offerings including the aforementioned JCW trim, along with the Sport Edition which added a special appearance to this PHEV. As tested, this Countryman had a final MSRP of $45,750.

The gasoline-only engine has a fuel economy rating of 27 mpg average. With a fully charged motor (plug-in), the fuel economy can increase to 60-plus mpg. For those who want fewer trips to the gas station, this might be the PHEV for you.

Mini has always gone its way and done its own thing. Now it combines a unique appearance with go-kart performance and hybrid technology. This is a subcompact “SUV” I can get on board.

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