Believe it or not the original Mini, designed by Sir Alec Issigonis in 1959, was born out of the Suez crisis oil shortage and the demand for affordable motoring. It was a car that served incredibly well and would remain not just an icon but a very capable car right up until the last one was produced in 2000. Now under BMW ownership the MINI brand has taken on a new lease of life and has an incredibly strong following. Since the relaunch in 2001 many variants of the MINI have come to fruition but few have been as significant as the prospect of this completely electric version. The MINI Cooper SE is the second electrified MINI in the model line-up, joining the MINI Countryman Plug-In Hybrid. These two models have proved extremely popular and currently account for 19% of worldwide-electrified MINI sales. A quarter of all UK MINI Countryman orders are now for the plug-in hybrid version and with the popularity of electric vehicles rising, its looking like next year, a third of MINI 3-Door Hatch models built at Plant Oxford is expected to be the fully-electric version.
So is this new electric MINI as good as the Cooper S we all know and love so much? Well, to look at it, you would think its just yet another cool MINI but the tell tail smooth front grill, power-spoke low drag alloys and the yellow detailing hints at something different. Inside its almost identical to a regular MINI Cooper S but when you flick the start toggle, things begin to change. Gone is the rumble of the combustion engine in favour of complete silence or a faint electro-drone to warn pedestrians of its presence outside. When you sink the go pedal 100km/h comes up in just 7.3 seconds, which isn’t far off the petrol powered Cooper S pace and the wall of torque is evident. But how does it get through the bends and can it still be regarded as a hot hatch? Well thanks to the clever package of battery cells spread along underneath the car, the centre of gravity is 30mm lower and it certainly doesn’t feel the whopping 145kg weight gain over its petrol powered sibling. B roads are negotiated with ease and stopping using the one-pedal’ function adapted from the BMW i3 is addictive. When you lift off the accelerator the re-gen slows the car aggressively in an effort to harvest otherwise wasted power back into the battery. You find yourself rarely touching the actual brake pedal!
The MINI Cooper SE is powered by a single 32kWh electric motor to the front wheels via an automatic gearbox. It produces 184bhp just like the 2.0-litre petrol-powered Cooper S but as mentioned the electric MINI is considerably heavier. With the 11kW cable you can achieve a full charge in about 3.5 hours or from empty to 80% in 2.5 hours. Now that our Irish charge network is improving you should try avail of a local fast-charge station that will take an empty battery to 80% capacity in just 35mins. According to the WLTP test cycle, the MINI Cooper SE is rated to achieve 234km on a single charge, but realistically with the odd spirted drive and not entirely city use, we got a shade over 170km before we needed to plug it in.
The MINI Cooper SE offers driver-assistance technology such as forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, and rain-sensing windshield wipers and headlights. Back when this shape MINI was orininally crash tested in 2014 it scored four out of five stars awarded by EuroNCAP. It scored 79% for adult occupant protection, 73% for child protection, 66% for pedestrian protection and 66% in the safety assist category. A new shape would determine additional crash testing.
Buyers can choose between three trim options or ‘levels’ as they are known. Level 1 €27,764, Level 2 €30,405 and Level 3 €35,445, which was the vehicle we had on test. As expected each level adds more standard equipment like automatic air con, leatherette seats, larger wheels, parking assistance and the endless customisation options that MINI’s are famed for. Fitted as standard is a digital dashboard, Navigation including Real Time Traffic Information updates and front LED headlights. We can wholeheartedly recommend the Harmon Kardon sound system along with the 8.8-inch screen, which is now touch-sensitive as well as iDrive controlled that was fitted in our Level 3 spec car.
The MINI Cooper SE is one of 13 electrified vehicles the BMW Group currently offers across its brand portfolio. This will be increased to a total of 25 electrified models on the road by the end of 2023, with more than half of those models fully electric. For us the MINI Cooper SE will be one of the more exciting electric vehicles you will have to choose from. Yes it could benefit from a bigger battery to exploit a little more range but for urban dwellers, few electric cars offer this level of cool, at this price point. We think it takes the brand’s trademark go-kart handling into a new era of electrified driving and we would urge you to take a test drive.