There8217;s no question that the Mini is a motoring icon. Some might argue that this Mini 8211; the BMW Mini 8211; doesn8217;t fall into that category, but we8217;d beg to differ. It8217;s a quality small car, hugely popular, that drives well and offers plenty of comforts.
It8217;s also one of the few icons that8217;s been converted to electric. The VW e-Golf was perhaps the only notable other, while the majority of electric cars hitting the road are new 8211; with new designs, new looks, for a new generation.
The Mini Electric is the Mini Hatch. There are some telltale yellow details in places 8211; as well as that enclosed grille 8211; that highlight this is the electric version of the car, but otherwise it8217;s very much the same as the petrol version from an exterior point of view.
That means you have the same overall look as the Mini Hatch, even down to the characteristic scoop on the bonnet that you8217;d find on a petrol Cooper S. There are several different versions of the Mini Electric 8211; called Level 1, Level 2 and, wait for it, Level 3 8211; stepping up through the options as they go.
Most of those differences are on the interior, but as you step up there are more colours for paint selections, for example, and wheel options. The Mini Electric hangs onto some of its customisation options too, like the different coloured roof or wing mirror caps, which can add some personality.
There8217;s not a huge amount to say on the exterior design 8211; if you like the regular Mini, you8217;ll like the Electric. Of course, the significant advantage is size: with so many cars getting bigger, this is a compact model, so much so that8217;s it really a driver8217;s car, as the two rear seats are a bit of a squeeze, even for children.
We love driving the Mini 8211; and that doesn8217;t change with the Electric. The partial-leather seats of our Level 2 test model were firm and supportive, leading themselves to the spritely go-kart-style driving that the Mini is known for. None of that changes for the all-electric model.
Neither does the boot. It8217;s still small (at 211 litres), but large enough for a couples8217; weekend away bags or shopping, but it8217;s a bit of a squeeze if you want to add children into the mix. As a three-door hatch getting access to the rear seats is a squeeze 8211; but that8217;s no different to the normal Hatch either.
Much of the interior is a reflection of the exterior 8211; exactly what you8217;d expect to find, with retro-style switches and a layout of controls that8217;s closely related to BMW 8211; the apple doesn8217;t fall far from the tree 8211; although that doesn8217;t immediately apply to the interior displays.
The big change is to the driver8217;s display, switching in a compact digital arrangement that displays important information neatly enough. Rather than the quirky dials that have evolved over recent years, it8217;s just one flat pill-shaped display, giving you power and charge details at the edges, while information such as speed and range sit in the centre.
As an evolution of the Mini8217;s dials it8217;s really good and it wouldn8217;t be a surprise to see this in other Minis 8211; as it8217;s just a bit more modern 8211; although it8217;s not hugely customisable. It just shows you the essentials, with other information on the central display.
That brings us to the thing that hasn8217;t changed which really needs to: the central display. Hanging onto the big round central design, this harks back to the new Mini8217;s original retro design. It8217;s now all been digitised, but so much of it is design over function. The display is relatively small and not hugely user-friendly in the modern sense, hanging only BMW8217;s tiered user interface (in fancy colours) that dates back over a decade.
While that8217;s not the end of the world, it8217;s more difficult to get around than some modern systems 8211; and this is a thoroughly modern car. There8217;s support for Apple CarPlay, while Android Auto is coming in summer 20202 to improve things 8211; but neither of those systems are currently very good for EVs specifically.
The Mini Electric makes some allowances for its electric status, such as being able to find a charger in the points of interest in the map (you can even fine-tune the list to only show you charging solutions to which you subscribe, for example), but it all feels a little too distant. We8217;d rather the EV-specific options were front and centre, because that8217;s often what you want access to as an EV driver.
Sure, that8217;s not always the case if you8217;re charging at home and commuting to work within easy range, but as soon as you drive/step-off the beaten track in the Mini Electric, that becomes more important 8211; especially as this is a car with limited range.
Other changes come via the retro switches. There8217;s the option to change driving modes (as indeed there is on the petrol model), but for an EV driver 8220;green8221; is often more important because that8217;s where you8217;ll get more range 8211; and more range equates to greater peace of mind.
But importantly there8217;s also a switch the change the level of regeneration. This is the process that puts charge back into the battery when you lift off the power or press the brake. It8217;s conveniently placed and in this instance, much better than those cars that might want to hide the regen options in a menu.
There8217;s a 32.6kWh battery in the Mini, which the company says is good for 145 miles per charge. To get anywhere near that figure you8217;ll have to drive economically. The averages that we got from the Mini came in at 15.6kWh per 100km, which we figure as about 4 miles per kWh, when driving sensibly. That would bring the range in at about 130 achievable miles, but this range will depend very much on how and where you drive the car, how loaded it is, and so on.
A lot of the time, the car was reporting a range of under 100 miles 8211; saying 85 miles with 92 per cent battery, for example 8211; in the driver8217;s display. Again, this is calculated from recent averages, but isn8217;t always a very true figure of what you8217;ll get. The longer you own and drive the car, the better you8217;ll get to grips with these figures.
Urban driving gives you more regeneration, motorway driving sees the battery drain a lot faster. It8217;s a little irritating that Mini gives the consumption figures in kWh per 100km in the car (which doesn8217;t really mean anything to anybody) but lists miles per kWh on its website. A little consistency to help people figure out what they8217;re getting would help.
There8217;s also no escaping that the Mini Cooper SE has a small battery and the dividend you get for that is lower charging time (naturally), lower weight and lower cost. It8217;s here the trade-off really sits, because the Mini Cooper SE Level 1 comes in at £24,900; which is around £10k cheaper than something like the Kia e-Niro 8211; which has double the battery capacity and close to 300 miles range.
Charging the Mini makes use of the CCS connector on the rear quarter, accepting up to 50kW, which will see the car charged to 80 per cent in 36 minutes. It8217;s not the fastest charging rate out there (150kW charging is now available in the UK), but that doesn8217;t really matter because of the capacity of the battery.
What does this mean in real terms? It would take about 12 hours to charge the Mini Electric on a standard wall socket. Get yourself a wallbox installed and you8217;re looking at under 4 hours 8211; so it8217;s an easy overnight charge, even if you8217;re just using a standard plug.
We said before that this is a driver8217;s car, mostly because of the size, but also because of the way that Minis drive. These cars have always been about being responsive, rapid to accelerate and manoeuvrable 8211; and that8217;s the case for the Mini Electric too, which feels very much like other Cooper S models.
It8217;s heavier, but the 135kW motor will give you 184hp, taking you from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. It8217;s not blisteringly fast, but it8217;s rapid from 0-30 which is the important end of that scale, especially for urban drivers.
The Mini Electric is a firm ride, but with a low centre of gravity, it handles very nicely. It8217;s great car on B roads, taking those corners at speed with little roll in either the body of the car or the body of the driver thanks to those seats.
Sporty can mean it8217;s a little hard on the bumps and that8217;s true here 8211; you won8217;t be floating this over suburban speed bumps at speed. But that8217;s Mini8217;s angle: it wants you to think about a sporty drive, a position that8217;s served the company well in recent years. From that perspective, the Mini Electric doesn8217;t let the side down.