18.8.2020Mini Electric review
The combination of a Mini's famous driving dynamics and an electric powertrain has long been an exciting one. It seems as though Mini agreed, since they've put the two together to create the sensibly -named Mini Electric. The popular supermini doesn't have a long range compared to rival offerings, but the 'normal' model has character in spades. We see whether an electric version does too.
Review by Chris Lilly
Performance is one thing the Mini Electric does very well. A 137 kW electric motor allows for a 0-62 mph time of just over seven seconds, so it's a nippy wee thing. Add in the instant pick-up of an electric motor, and the Mini Electric feels quicker still, particularly when running about town and short, sharp bursts of acceleration are required. Thankfully, the motor holds its own at faster speeds too, and doesn't feel out of puff at all in UK legal limits. As such, you could think of the Mini Electric as a modern-day warm-hatch - capable of surprising a few drivers in town, and pulling everything along nicely on the open road.
Thankfully, Mini's engineers have retained much of the legendary driving dynamics of the hatch. You can feel the Electric weighs a little more than a conventional petrol version, but the weight is placed low down and in the centre of the car, so it actually drops the centre of gravity. As such, the 'go-kart-like' feeling drivers expect from a Mini remains. It feels great to drive in town, or on open roads, without too much unsettling what is fairly stiff suspension - though far from an uncomfortable set of springs. It's tailored to an agile driving experience, suiting both the character of the car and it's natural habitat - urban driving. It's one of the best handling EVs on the market, and in fact, one of the best superminis to drive full stop.
Few will notice that the Mini Electric is electric. The grille is subtly different, and Mini's lime-yellow paint scheme for its plug-in cars was used on the test car's wing mirrors. Other than that a a few discreet badges, that's about it from the outside, so Mini fans should keep their interest no matter what the powertrain. Inside, the Mini Electric is also very similar, with the biggest difference for keen-eyed Mini spotters being a different instrument panel for the driver. Other than a few more splashes of the yellow-ish signature colour, that's it again. The battery is placed in in the floor between and beneath the rear seats, so interior space is largely the same as a conventional three-door Mini. As such, rear space is rather cramped, and boot space isn't much more convenient. However, this will put few Mini Electric buyers off, and the front is plenty big enough for daily use by even tall adults.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The interior of the test car had cloth seats with leather trim, and proved comfortable and supportive, even over a day's driving. The driver an get into a very good seating position, and the instruments fall nicely to hand, with Mini's controls working well across the board. Toggle switches feel solidly built and add a sense of occasion to proceedings, and the large infotainment system is essentially a Mini-branded BMW set-up. The driver's instruments are better than the petrol/diesel-powered Mini's set-ups and give a good range of information.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
What could be an issue for some is the Mini Electric's driving range. At 145 miles on a charge, it doesn't sound like a lot. However, many buyers would need to charge it only once a week, and in fact it's plenty for a significant number of the UK's driving population. There are those for whom the Mini won't work as their only car, but if you have a modest daily mileage, or you are able to charge at work for example each day, the Mini Electric's range is more than enough for most. In real world driving in warm weather, the Electric was covering around 125 miles on a charge after a long, fast set of roads. As such, many buyers will be able to match that much of the time, and easily exceed the figure if sticking to town work more.
The Mini electric will take only around half an hour to charge on a rapid DC charge point, with 50 kW charging possible via the CCS inlet. It's one positive of having a smaller, 32.6 kWh battery - and thus smaller range - that charging stops may be more frequent, but they will be shorter than many rival models. AC charging on a 7 kW unit will take around 4.5 hours. There is a selection of brake regen settings, with low allowing more coasting, and high effectively enabling 'one-pedal' driving. This second setting feels as though it's been more or less lifted from the BMW i3 such is its feel. Other useful features include drive mode select, and connected car systems to control charging etc via an app.
There is one powertrain option for the Mini Electric, and three trim levels. These share a naming system as complex as the model itself - 1, 2, and 3. Level 1 gets drivers a choice of 16- or 17-inch alloys, LED lights front and rear, Mini Electric styling details and grille, infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and phone connectivity, e-Drive connected services, cruise control, leather steering wheel, air conditioning, automatic wipers & lights, and drive mode select. Higher trim levels get features such as parking sensors and rear view camera, front seat heating, adaptive LED headlights, head-up display, Navigation Plus pack, Harmon Kardon audio system, and panoramic glass sunroof.
I have to admit that I fell for the Mini Electric. It proved more than up to the task every time I got in it, and that includes fitting two kids seats in the rear (a tight squeeze getting them in), or covering 300+ miles in a single day. The driving experience put a smile on my face each time I drove it, at any speed, and the instant response combined with the Mini's agile nature made for one of my favourite superminis on the market today.
Model tested: Mini Electric
Engine / CO2: 137 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3
On-road price: From £24,900.
Warranty: Three years / Unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars