It's tough when a carmaker does something really quite clever and the world's collective reaction is, "What took so long?" Case in point: the belated arrival of a petrol-electric hybrid model from Mini. The car, pictured here in prototype form with Mini's grinning head of brand management Sebastian Mackensen and head of series management Peter Wolf, takes the form of the new, second-generation Countryman mini-SUV. And there is much to admire here, not the least of which is fuel consumption that could top 140mpg.

And yet, for Mini's corporate parent, the BMW Group, frugality was only part of the plan for the British brand's first PHEV model. Driving pleasure — an on-road experience that matches or betters Mini's prized 'go-kart' feel — was a top priorty for the team. “In a hybrid Mini model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience,” says Mackensen.

Like the £104,540 BMW i8, the Mini hybrid will be able to proceed on electric power alone to speeds well beyond typical hybrids' potter-around EV modes — 78mph, to be precise (3mph faster than the i8's electric mode.)

The car shares its underpinnings with BMW's own hybrid-powered 2-series people mover, the 225xe iPerformance Active Tourer. Mini is keeping the hybrid Countryman's mechanical specifications to itself for now, but it seems safe to assume that like the BMW, it will use a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine to put about 100 horsepower to the front wheels, and a small electric motor, fed by a high-voltage battery beneath the rear seats, to deliver an additional 87hp the rears. In the BMW, that powertrain delivers 141.2mpg.

The layout is essentially a flip of the BMW i8 hybrid sports car, which uses petrol power to drive the rear wheels and electricity to motivate the fronts. But like the £104,540 i8, the Mini hybrid will be able to proceed on electric power alone to speeds well beyond typical hybrids' potter-around EV modes — 78mph, to be precise (3mph faster than the i8's electric mode.)

A keen eye will be required to distinguish the Mini Countryman hybrid from its lesser kin, which makes BMW's use of super-secret camo-wrap for the prototype just a bit amusing. Apart from badging, there will be a small charging-port door behind the left front wheel, the tach has given way to a power metre and an engine-start/stop button that instead of red glows yellow (not green?).

No surprise, the company has not revealed pricing for the new model, but it may be worth noting that a comparable BMW 2-series Active Tourer hybrid rolls for £31,155.

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