Facelifted Mini could gain plug-in hybrid Cooper S variant

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 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. Earlier this year, Autocar reported that BMW had delayed development of the next-gen Mini Hatch, both for reasons related to the cost of upgrading its Oxford factory, and because of uncertainty surrounding Britain’s relationship with the EU.

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 134bhp and 162lb ft at a low 1250rpm, with a brushless electric motor serving up 87bhp and 122lb ft. It’s likely to improve on the Countryman’s 26-mile 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 8.8in touchscreen and a raft of new personalisation options.