2020 MINI Electric review

The new Mini Electric aims to bring emotion to electric vehicles. Does the battery-powered variant remain true to its nameplate’s heritage?

For six decades, the Mini has remained the little car that could. Born as an economical solution during the Suez Oil Crisis and an antidote to the microcars of greater Europe, it etched itself into pop culture, put the transverse engine on the map and dethroned motorsport kings. Mini has even survived a modern-day reimagining without much purist backlash –a brag few legacy marques can make.

BMW has been flirting with electric Mini prototypes since 2008. The original Mini E was one of the first Project i concepts and helped develop the i3. As the i3’s lineage ends without a successor, the Mini Electric Cooper SE steps in as regent.

Produced in the brand’s historic Oxford plant, the SE borrows its synchronous 135kW/270NM-producing motor from the i3. However, rather than the 2019 i3’s long-range 42.2 kWh battery, the Mini is powered by an older-gen, modified 32.6kWh pack, fitted in a T-shape beneath the floor. This minimised impact on space within the cabin and helped with the 50/50 weight distribution. The compromise leaves the Mini with a modest WLTP-tested range of 233kms, but fast charge abilities. Reaching 80 per cent takes just 35 minutes on a 50kW DC supercharger. At home, an 11kW wallbox will do it in 2.5hours, leaving the common 22kW public chargers somewhere in the middle.  Much of this is also because the SE is a mid-life variant, a sort of conversion car –electrification was not part of the plan when the current F56 Mini Cooper debuted in 2013. The payoff is it’s almost indistinguishable from its siblings, bar some reduced padding in the rear seats, a new digital instrument cluster, grille and neon badging.

So does the newborn do its ancestors proud? In short, yes. It has all the Mini accoutrements: low centre of gravity (30mm lower, in fact), a spritely 0-100km/h acceleration time of 7.3 seconds (0.4 seconds behind the Cooper S and PHEV Countryman), superb power delivery and stacks of charm. The steering does feel cumbersome at times – particularly, and ironically, in the weightier Sport mode (one of four; Sport, Mid, Green, Green+). But it’s not a write-off and for ICE-like performance, the regenerative braking can be altered separately. No doubt it will feel at home on Australian roads when it arrives in August– even if the ride is on the harder side. Not that that’s anything modern Mini owners aren’t used to.

At $59,990, the Cooper SE sits a bold $3k above the 3-door JCW variant, far from the mid-range position BMW claimed it would sit in globally –them’s the breaks in Australia when it comes to EVs. “The pricing of the MINI electric hatch reflects the premium positioning of the car and brand in line with the broader EV market in Australia,” Brett Waudby, Mini Australia’s General Manager explained to Automotive Daily’s partner evo Australia.

The SE prefaces a new chapter for Mini, once again proving the icon can adapt. The next generation of platform architecture will likely see Mini explore all the possibilities the instant torque and power delivery of electrification can bring. A J For now, the Cooper SE is a cracker of an urban EV and the hype is justified. It may have its downsides, but in a category yet to find soul, something that brings emotion, familiarity and a fun factor to electrification is worth celebrating.

Noelle Faulkner

Engine: Single hybrid synchronous electric motor with integrated charging unit Battery: 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery, 233km range (WTLP) Power: 135kW @7000rpm Torque: 270Nm @ 100-1000rpm Kerb Weight: 1365kg 0-100km/h: 7.3sec Top Speed: 150km/h

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