MINI is set to electrify its Countryman compact SUV with plug-in hybrid drivetrain technology, thereby entering previously foreign territory in the hybrid market.

With this plug-in Countryman, the brand’s first hybrid, MINI will have skipped the regular non-plug-in hybrid-drive stepping stone most automakers traverse prior to launching a plug-in vehicle.

Unlike many heavy-weight hybrids which are incapable of any significant electric-only driving distances, the plug-in hybrid Countryman will be able to intermittently motor with zero tailpipe emissions while driving up to 125 km/h.

MINI says that its new hybridized Countryman will retain the company’s trademark “go-kart feeling” in keeping with the British brand’s legacy of playful, sporting automobiles.

“With this model we want to convince MINI customers of the benefits of hybrid drive, and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with MINI’s unique go-kart driving feel,” said Sebastian Mackensen, head of MINI brand management.

Whereas most automakers are fixated on efficiency at the cost performance and driving pleasure when building a hybrid vehicle, MINI says that its new plug-in hybrid model “is not solely focused on efficiency,” but also uses its electric motor to add to the vehicle’s performance and fun-factor.

This first MINI hybrid vehicle is said to be quicker-accelerating than any of its combustion-only siblings when combining the output of its electric and gasoline-powered motors, meaning sub-7-second – or possibly even sub-6-second – zero-to-100 km/h acceleration figures are in order.

Thanks to the low, rearward positioning of the battery pack and electric drive components, MINI says its hybrid Countryman will benefit from a lower centre of gravity and a more balanced chassis than its non-hybrid siblings, with roughly equal weight distributed between the front and rear axle.

Better still—MINI has designed the plug-in hybrid Countryman to send power from its electric motor to the rear wheels only, meaning the vehicle will sport de facto all-wheel drive when its combustion and electric motors are operating concurrently.

The vehicle has been fully optimized to take advantage of this rear-traction when being driven in a sporty manner, or when requiring maximum traction on slippery Canadian winter roads.

(MINI)