Spy pictures of a Mini Cooper suggest that the model might bring in a plug-in hybrid variant to rival the VW Golf GTE.
Fresh from launching its landmark first EV, Mini looks to be expanding its electrified line-up with a potential plug-in variant of its Cooper S five-door hatchback.
The hatch is due for a substantial facelift before 2023 – having only been subtly updated once in its seven-year lifespan – to bring it into line with newer rivals including the Audi A1, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio. A prototype spotted by our photographers looks to be hiding only small styling tweaks beneath its front and rear camouflage wrap, but more interesting are clues that this is a plug-in hybrid.
The ‘E-FZG’ sticker in the front windscreen means the mule’s powertrain is composed of both combustion and electric elements, and given Mini has yet to introduce hybrid or mild-hybrid options to its line-up, it’s likely to be a variation of the larger Countryman Cooper S E All4’s plug-in powerplant. No charging socket is visible, but the Countryman’s is on the opposite side of the car to the fuel filler cap.
Such a move would make sense, given the company’s gradual transition to a maker of pure EVs, and would secure Mini an early spot in the burgeoning plug-in family hatchback market, occupied by models including the VW Golf GTE, Hyundai Ioniq PHEV and Mercedes-Benz A250e.
It’s not yet known whether the Cooper S would be offered solely as a hybrid.
The model is set to move from its UKL1 underpinnings – new in 2014 – to a new platform, likely BMW’s front-driven FAAR architecture or an entirely new platform developed in partnership with Chinese auto giant Great Wall. The FAAR architecture already underpins a plug-in variant of BMW’s X1 SUV, but Mini’s Countryman PHEV sits atop a four-wheel-drive platform.
If it does follow in the footsteps of its larger sibling, the Cooper S PHEV can be expected to take its power from a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine delivering 100kW and 220Nm at a low 1250rpm, with a brushless electric motor serving up 65kW and 165Nm. It’s likely to improve on the Countryman’s 42km electric-only range, but will weigh substantially more than the current car, so performance figures will likely be affected.
Elsewhere, expect updates to be in line with those of the recently refreshed Countryman. Design tweaks will be minimal, but the hatch is likely to receive the Mini Electric’s digital instrument display, an optional 8.8-inch touchscreen and a raft of new personalisation options.