Mini’s trademark agility survives (almost) intact. Useful pace. Battery doesn’t eat into the cabin
It wasn’t that spacious in the first place, and the ride’s tougher than a petrol Cooper S. Only you can decide if 120 miles is sufficient...
What is it?
It’s the Mini Electric, if you’re buying one in Britain, where this car is built. If you’re hailing from anywhere else in the world then, confusingly, this is the Mini Cooper SE. And wherever you buy it, you still get a fluro green-tinted ‘Cooper S’ badge on the boot. What’s underneath, however, remains exactly the same. Welcome to the age of the fully electric Mini. This could be a big one.
A big Mini, you say?
Yes, because Minis are objectively desirable. BMW’s reborn city car consistently sells strongly, offers rock-solid residual values, and drives with a slightly cartoonish but ultimately endearing vim. It’s the sort of car owners give names to. It’s cute and well-put-together enough that the premium prices have never been a barrier to its rampant success. And now, there’s one that you plug in instead of fill up.
How fast is it with electrons for fuel?
Driving the front wheels, there’s a single electric motor, dishing out 182bhp – the same power as a 2.0-litre petrol-powered Cooper S. The Mini Electric is heavier however: 145kg heavier than a Mini Cooper S with the automatic gearbox.
But, the torque is instant, the centre of gravity is lower, and Mini has worked tirelessly (using battery intel harvested from the BMW i3) to package the cells into the three-door hatchback’s shell. So, while it's hardly the most spacious car in its class to start with, Mini can and does proudly claim that the legroom and boot space hasn’t been swallowed in any way by pesky batteries.
Hooray! But is the range still adequate?
Type the words ‘Mini’ and ‘Electric’ into Google and the first predicted search it’ll offer you is ‘Mini Electric range’. So, here’s the news: Mini claims a range of between 124-144 miles. On a direct comparison with a petrol-juiced Cooper S that’ll average low 30s to the gallon and get over 300 miles per tank, it looks catastrophic. But Mini is defiant: choosing this sort of range compromise keeps the battery size, weight and charging time manageable – not to mention the cost – and suits the use Mini predicts folks will use the car for. So, if they’ve got their sums right, this thing will be a phenomenon.
Good news is, the chassis team haven’t simply been down der pub while the marketing bods get to work…
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Mini Electric is a very complete little EV. It preserves pretty much everything we like about a standard Mini Cooper S, but it’s more accelerative where it matters, and has zero local emissions. It proves that the hot hatch will have a future as an EV. And it reinforces something we learned with the VW e-Golf – that an electric car doesn’t have to be wantonly radical to be a success. Stuffing a car we already know and like with batteries can, with the correct execution, be a good tactic.
However, the Mini asks you to understand a few home truths. BMW could have given it more range. But, that would have made it heavier, more expensive, taken longer to charge, and invade cabin space. So, it’s studied a lot of Mini owner data, sussed out the average Cooper S travels 26 miles a day, or around 180 miles a week, and moulded the Mini Electric’s performance to suit that brief, needing only a couple of recharges to slip into the average Mini audience’s life unnoticed.
It feels like a strong addition to the Mini family. We’ve always championed the weight-saving, space-giving packaging of the BMW i3, but it’s not been the sales dead-cert the investment required, so now it’s over to Mini to see if the conventional approach can do the numbers.