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MINI Electric Review

Written by Allan Noble · 26/04/21

The MINI Electric is based on the iconic MINI Cooper S, but with all-electric power instead of petrol or Diesel. This is a significant car for MINI, and early signs show that it will be very successful.

Summary

Overseen by BMW, the new MINI has been with us for 20 years, since 2001. You probably wouldn't believe that because even the earliest versions still look modern and fresh, and MINI has resisted the urge to alter its winning formula too much as time has passed.

The MINI is proudly built in Britain. As its popularity has grown, the MINI brand has gradually added to its range, with new models such as the Paceman, Clubman and Countryman entering showrooms.

MINI has explored hybrid electric technology and now offers plug-in hybrid versions of some of its models. Still, MINI Electric is a true game-changer, which signals MINI's intentions as governments move towards phasing out internal combustion engines. Aside from its bigger BMW i3 brother, which the Electric shares its motor, this is only the firm's second foray into the electric marketplace.

The MINI Electric was launched in 2019 and has been used as a platform for MINI to show off new technology, including the digital dashboard, which was first introduced on the Electric and is now available across the rest of the range. Elsewhere in the world, it is known as the MINI Cooper SE, so don't get confused if you see it by that name.

While it may officially appear to be a bit of a guinea pig for future development, the MINI Electric hatch feels like a polished, accomplished car and has proved to be a welcome addition to the MINI range. It has just been facelifted for 2021 in line with the rest of the range, so it looks completely fresh.

The trim levels are easy to understand, and the three-door MINI Electric comes well-equipped as standard, stepping up levels and adding features and tech as it goes. The top-spec versions are dripping with kit, which will make even luxury cars jealous.

There are some limitations to the three-door MINI Electric hatch, mainly its range, and its small interior and lack of boot space, which we will look at during this review. However, many discerning customers will buy the MINI because they only want a MINI, so most of them won't be too worried about compromising on some things to get the car they want. While some other electric models offer a better range, they might not provide the personality and character that an electric MINI promises.

MINI's slogan for the Electric is "Looks MINI, Feels Electric." MINI has done everything in its power to keep MINI Electric true to its brand values of being fun and exciting, but also giving buyers the environmental benefits of an electric car.

In this car review, we will give MINI Electric a proper shakedown to see if MINI has kept its promise.

Range, Charging, & Emissions

MINI has very cleverly packed its battery unit into a T-shape down the middle of the car and under the rear seats.

To avoid intruding too much into the already-cosy cabin, MINI has limited the size of the power pack, making it smaller than in some rivals. This is a shame because it determines the distance you could travel. Still, we can understand why it's done that, having carefully balanced range against weight, interior space, and the type of journeys that it expects MINI Electric car drivers to make. Why fill the car with batteries when MINI's research shows that most customers will generally drive short trips?

All this means that the Electric's 32.6kWh battery unit offers a useable battery capacity of 28.9kWh, giving it an official WLTP range of 144 miles. Expect this to be much nearer to 100 miles on a cold winter's day when the conditions are less than optimal, and you're running all the heating systems. The MINI has the smallest battery of its class, and this 144-mile range sounds less than impressive when you pitch it against rivals claiming to offer over 200 miles of range, but most people will still quickly get a few commutes in without having to charge the car.

However, there are benefits to having a smaller battery pack, which are reflected in the charging time and the price of the car, both of which are lower than many of its rivals. Lithium-ion batteries are expensive, after all.

If you can find a 50kW DC fast charger, you can charge the car from 0 to 80% in just 36 minutes, adding another half an hour for a full charge to 100%. A 7kW wall box will take just over 4 hours to charge it to 100% from empty, so it will quickly be ready to hit the road if you leave it plugged in overnight. If you've only got access to a standard plug socket, you'll be waiting around 12 hours for it to charge up to 80%.

Next: Running costs