Back in 1959 the original Mini made its debut and showed the world that fun and frugality didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. 60 years on the new MINI Electric is here, offering low running costs and zero emissions without losing the eager performance and fun handling that’s at the core of MINI’s appeal.
The new MINI Electric looks like every other 3-door MINI, apart from a few subtle details. It’s badged Cooper S as that’s the equivalent level of performance in the combustion-engine models, but with the ‘S’ picked out in yellow to denote the electric power source. An embossed MINI Electric logo appears on the tailgate, front grille and side scuttles. The exterior mirror caps are finished as standard in Vigorous Grey with the option of yellow (this option also applies to the horizontal bar on the closed grille). An aerodynamic undertray, front bumper, rear apron and 17-inch asymmetric Corona wheels are all unique to this model, and a charging socket takes the place of the fuel filler cap. Inside, the start button glows yellow instead of red and there’s a special digital dash with a 5.5-inch instrument screen behind the steering wheel.
The new MINI Electric is powered by an advanced synchronous electric motor, while its 32.6 kWh battery is mounted in a T-shape between the front seats and under the rear seats, leaving boot space unaffected. Maximum power output is 184 HP and maximum torque is 270 Nm; 0-62mph acceleration takes just 7.3 seconds and a top speed is limited to 93mph. The four driving modes are SPORT, MID, GREEN and GREEN+ and you can also choose the level of regeneration from braking. Maximum range is between 124 and 144 miles, depending on conditions and how you drive. On a 50kW rapid DC charger an 80 per cent top-up will take just 35 minutes while AC 11kW charging takes 2.5 hours for 80 per cent or 3.5 hours for a full charge.
Technology and equipmentApart from the new digital dashboard that shows the charge level for the driver, there’s a 6.5-inch central infotainment screen with navigation as well as MINI Online and Apple CarPlay. Real-time traffic updates and map view that shows charging stations en route are also standard features. In standard trim the exterior colours are limited to silver or grey, but the colour palette widens as you move up the trim levels. The next trim level up brings cloth and leatherette upholstery, keyless entry, heated seats, a parking camera and MINI logo puddle lamps. Top of the range models get front park distance control, Park Assist, Harmon Kardon Sound system and head-up display, as well as an 8.8” infotainment screen, Lounge leather upholstery and wireless phone charging.
Electric cars are remarkable quiet, so to help pedestrians in urban areas there’s ‘acoustic protection’, a specially developed warning sound for low-speed driving. In place of a dynamic stability control (DSC) system the MINI electric features new ‘actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation’ (ARB) technology inherited from the BMW 1 Series and i3s. Other safety technology includes Pedestrian Warning and Collision Mitigation, which scan the streets and apply the brakes if they detect trouble ahead.
Verdict: with a lower centre of gravity than the internal combustion MINI models and faster 0-30mph acceleration than a petrol Cooper S, the MINI Electric keeps all the effervescent, go-kart performance that’s at the heart of the brand. A maximum range of around 120-140 miles isn’t the longest, but bigger batteries would have added weight and blunted the performance. Most commutes are 30 miles or less, so we’d suggest that a MINI Electric would suit a lot of people’s needs, as well as serving up all the style and pizzazz that’s so distinctively MINI.