As Good as we Hoped? Getting to know the MINI Electric
Is MINI's new electric car as good as it promised to be? We spend a day with one to find out.
A MINI Electric in a field full of solar panels, is there any better setting for getting to know MINI’s new electric car? To be honest, it was a day that turned out far better than planned thanks to a couple of very generous farmers and a car that is just as good – if not better – than we imagined it would be.
Ever since the new electric revolution began, the MINI Hatch has always seemed like the logical place to put an electric drivetrain; after all, the very ethos behind the MINI Hatch is to be compact and ready to take on city life. That said, there’s always that worry that taking an existing model and converting it to electric life is going to ruin what makes that car great. With the MINI Electric, that isn’t the case.
In fact, arguably the biggest compliment that we can give the MINI Electric is that it feels exactly like a MINI. Besides the fact that it creates next to no noise (except for space age hums at slow speed, which we’re totally behind) and that it’ll get from 0-62mph in a sea of instant torque, you wouldn’t know you’re in an electric MINI. Again, that’s not a bad thing.
Of course, adding the electric drivetrain has upped the weight a little, with the new MINI Electric weighing in about 145kg heavier than the petrol Cooper S. Despite that additional weight, it still drives impeccably, retaining that ‘go-kart’ feel that all MINIs share. The main reason for that is the fact that MINI have been able to spread the weight better across the car, ultimately storing all of the weight more evenly and lower in the chassis.
Through the corners, it feels fantastic and promotes confidence, gripping the road and exiting in a flurry of torque. It actually shares the BMW i3’s clever traction control system that anticipates slip and eliminates wheelspin … ultimately, that means a better drive and less wasted charge due to the system jamming on the brakes mid-corner.
That was something that we really got to enjoy whilst driving from location-to-location; thanks to the MINI Electric being such a joy, the constant inaccessibility of our planned photoshoot locations wasn’t an issue … in fact, it was more of a blessing. The MINI Electric is something that you love being in, you love driving and you don’t want to stop driving.
Power wise, the MINI Electric’s motor produces the equivalent of 182bhp and 199lb ft of torque. In real terms, that means that MINI’s new electric car will cover 0-62mph in 7.3seconds and 0-31mph in just 3.9 seconds. The latter is the one that you’ll enjoy the most, thanks to the assault on the senses that 199lb ft of instant torque gives you. It’s mighty impressive and more than sufficient for a little city car like this.
Charge comes from a 32kWh lithium-ion battery and total range on a single charge is somewhere around 144 miles. Whilst that might give a few people reading this instant range anxiety, it really isn’t bad for most and would be more than sufficient for a daily drive that is charged every night. Talking of charging; you can take the MINI Electric to a full charge on a standard 11kW home charger in just two and a half hours. That low charging time is part of the reason why MINI didn’t go for a larger battery and a bigger range.
As with other electric cars, you’ll also get some extra charge out of the battery by using regenerative braking; on this occasion, MINI have borrowed the one-pedal function that the i3 used. What does that mean? Effectively you can drive the MINI Electric using almost solely the accelerator pedal, lifting off to ‘brake’ using the motors ability to re-generate otherwise wasted energy into additional charge. It’s a slightly strange sensation at first but you quickly get used to it. You can also dial back the re-generative braking by using one of the centre-console mounted switches.
After getting to know the MINI Electric for some time – and settling for a less than ideal photo location – we were kindly invited onto Glebe Farm; a place where electric power generation had become a key part of the business and the perfect place for a car like this. After all, where else would suit a new electric car better than a place that houses a wind turbine and field-upon-field of solar panels? We can’t thank the kind guys at Glebe Farm enough for their assistance.
Anyway. After arriving at the farm and parking up in front of their majestically rotating – insanely massive – wind turbine, we finally got chance to admire the outside of the MINI Electric. Much like the driving experience, the styling remains pleasantly familiar and gains inspiration from the current MINI Cooper S. The connotations that this is actually an electric car are very subtle and can be dialled up and down by the person speccing the car.
For example, if you wanted, you could create a racing green MINI Electric with standard looking wheels and the only real hints that it’s electric would be the redesigned grille and green badges. On the flipside, you could have something more like the press car, with the fantastic new MINI Electric three-pin wheels (ours had these, they’re great) and various yellow accents. It’s totally up to the individual.
Stepping inside, the interior of the new MINI Electric is a very nice – and quiet – place to be. The latest in BMW iDrive system sits within the centre console (now with a touch-sensitive screen) and all the usual controls sit below. Pleasingly, the brilliant start-stop switch remains, this time presented in MINI’s electric yellow.
Sitting behind the steering wheel, you’ll notice that MINI have fitted a new, fully digital, driver information screen. Debuted with the insane new MINI JCW GP, the screen has been optimised for electric driving but remains clear and concise. Impressively, despite not having any kind of shield, it remains easy to read even with the sun blaring in through the open sunroof.
Our particular MINI Electric came with the JCW style wheel which is a pleasure to hold and full leather – Union Jack adorned – seats. As with all MINIs, the driving position is superb and instantly feels supportive and comfortable. It’s just a great place to be. Compared to many of the competitor electric cars at the same price, it’s also feels like one of the most high quality interiors currently available.
We ended up spending only a couple of hours surrounded by the solar panels, partly because we were excited to be back on the winding back roads, enjoying the thing. That’s probably the best thing about the MINI Electric – you want to drive it. Compared to other electric cars on the market, the MINI Electric isn’t just a commuter that you buy to save some fuel money. You buy it to enjoy it.
That’s a big deal and it’s all thanks to the fact that the MINI Electric stays true to its roots and retains that feeling of being a MINI … they’re just great fun. In this case, it’s just happens to be an added bonus that, depending on your electricity provider, you could run a MINI for as little as £4 a charge.
All that remains is for us to thank Sytner Leicester MINI for letting us try out their new MINI Electric demo and the guys at Glebe Farm for allowing us the time to get photos on their farm. Thank you all.