Under its familiar styling, the MINI Electric is a revolutionary car that sets its maker on the path to becoming an all-electric brandVerdict3.5The new MINI Electric is a curious car. For many, the fact that it looks, feels and drives much like a normal MINI – albeit with an electric motor and unique badging – will be part of the appeal. And its undeniably modest range won’t matter at all. Yet others will wonder why it lacks the flair and individuality of cars like the Honda e. Either way, it’s a solid first effort, and one we’re very much looking forward to trying properly in the UK in the coming months.
MINI is on the way to becoming an all-electric brand. It’ll launch a raft of EVs and plug-in hybrids in the near future – and the process that began with the Countryman PHEV continues with this, the MINI Electric.
The company’s first full production EV is based on the conventional three-door hatch, switching its combustion engines for a 32.5kWh battery and an electric motor. The former is mounted under the floor within the standard car’s transmission tunnel, so there’s no impact on cabin or boot space.
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Let’s be clear on this, though: this is still a small car, and even kids will feel hemmed in after longer stints in the back. But time spent in any of the four seats is limited, because the MINI Electric has a WLTP-rated range of between 140 and 145 miles.
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By modern standards, that’s not much to shout about; the latest Renault ZOE can do 240-odd miles before you need to plug it in. But the MINI is aimed at urban dwellers for whom range is less important than looks.
If your commute is fewer than 10 miles each way, MINI reasons, you could feasibly complete a five-day working week without having to top up even once. A 50kW rapid charger will boost the batteries from 0-80 per cent in just 35 minutes; an 11kW plug at home will need two and a half hours.
The MINI Electric’s cabin will feel familiar to those au fait with the regular car. Every model uses the same round central display, which houses an identical touchscreen and iDrive-style infotainment system. However, directly ahead of the driver sits a new digital instrument binnacle, showing the remaining range, trip information and speed.
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There are three trims to choose from, labelled Level 1, 2 or 3. Every car gets sat-nav, Apple CarPlay (still no Android Auto), MINI Connected services, cruise control and dual-zone climate control. Step up to Level 2 (an extra £2,000) and you’ll benefit from a parking camera, part-leatherette heated seats, and extra paint and wheel options.
Level 3 costs a further £4,000 (topping out at £30,400 after the plug-in grant), and adds a Harman Kardon stereo, a panoramic roof, a larger central screen with Navigation Plus, park assist and a full leather interior.
Material quality is fantastic. Our test car felt impeccably screwed together and more luxurious than a supermini has any right to be.
The amount of performance on offer is strong, too; the MINI zips away from traffic lights and junctions with the instant electric punch that’s synonymous with all small EVs. The claimed 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds feels conservative, if anything.
Build your speed and the MINI will sit happily at 70mph for short stints – limited only by its overall range – with very little wind or road noise. It’s remarkably refined for a supermini, electric or otherwise.
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There are two brake energy recuperation settings, and while the more gentle of the two doesn’t quite allow for ‘engine-off’ coasting, it slows the car just as a petrol model might if you were to lift off the throttle and leave it in gear. The stronger mode was our preferred setting, however, proving easy to modulate and stout enough to allow one-pedal driving in town.
In addition, there are a handful of drive modes designed to maximise range. Green is the best of the bunch, boosting the digital range readout by as much as 15 extra miles depending on driving style. Green+ is more economical still, dulling the car’s responses and switching off the air-con. Meanwhile, Sport and Normal do the opposite, improving acceleration and sharpening the steering.
There’s no avoiding the fact that the ride errs on the stiff side of things, mind. While it never feels rough or brittle, the car has a tendency to fidget at lower speeds. The few corners we did manage to find showed the MINI Electric handled with composure and accuracy, with perhaps a degree more body roll than the conventional Cooper S, probably due to the Electric’s extra weight.
- Model: MINI Electric Level 1
- Price: £24,400 (after govt. grant)
- Engine: 32.5kWh battery, single electric motor
- Power/torque: 181bhp/270Nm
- Transmission: Single-speed auto, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
- Top speed: 93mph
- Range: 144 miles
- CO2: 0g/km
- On sale: Now
For an alternative review of the latest MINI MINI Hatchback visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk
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