Mini’s long-anticipated EV has arrived, but how does the Electric fare? Ryan Hirons heads to its home turf of Oxford to find out.
What is it?
An electric Mini isn’t all that new an idea. In fact, you only have to wind back to 2008 for the firm’s first EV offering – the E. That was a car built in extremely limited numbers, with none ever finding permanent public homes.
So, what we’re driving today has been rather a long time in the making. This is the Mini Electric, the car that lays claim to be the first mass-market electric Mini, and what the firm is happy to describe as its biggest introduction since BMW took over the reins.
With the electric car market incredibly competitive now though – think the likes of the latest Renault Zoe, new Vauxhall Corsa-e and Peugeot e-208, plus the upcoming Honda e – can the Mini Electric make an impact worthy of the brand? We find out.
Of course, a major change to this Mini comes under the bonnet with its electric powertrain, but fundamental changes are very minimal in a bid to keep the brand’s trademarks at its core. The Electric is even built on the same production line as petrol and diesel equivalents, which is currently a rarity in the industry.
Changes elsewhere include some optional visual tweaks to highlight its battery-powered prowess, although these are a free option in case you’d prefer to fly under the radar a bit, while it also becomes the first Mini to adopt a new ‘Level 1, 2, 3’ trim line-up that does away with individual cost options. Finally, a rather snazzy-looking digital display replaces traditional dials and gauges in front of the driver.
What’s under the bonnet?
Mini is launching the Electric in just one capacity, under ‘Cooper S’ guise.
For now, though, that sole option is a 32.6kWh unit sending 182bhp and 270Nm of torque to the front wheels. Zero to 60mph comes in 7.1 seconds, which is just a touch shy of the lighter petrol Cooper S.
While the powertrain itself is pretty impressive – delivery of its grunt is sharp and predictable – the whole thing is hugely compromised by its range. Mini claims 145 miles on the WLTP combined cycle, although hopping into the freshly charged car (admittedly on a cold February day), we’re met with a readout of about 120 miles – and realistically you can expect to extract 90-100 miles of that before having to plug back in.
What’s it like to drive?
Fortunately, the switch over to electric hasn’t compromised what the Mini is so good at in the first place – driving fun.
Take it on a tasty-looking back road and the chassis feels remarkably playful, with all of its agility able to be exposed well thanks to its potent powertrain. Its slight extra heft does leave the car a little more prone to understeer than a petrol Cooper S, but the spirit of its counterpart is very much there. It’s just as at home around town, too. Its ride is on the harsh side, however.
How does it look?
Rather than take some radical approach to design, Mini has opted to retain the core look of the car for the Electric, with some mild tweaks here and there to hint at its electrically charged nature.
Up front, its grille outline remains, but the unit itself is closed off and features a split yellow stripe through the centre, while colour-matching mirror caps and ‘E’ badging feature around the car.
Rounding out the look is a set of Electric-exclusive 17-inch alloy wheels.
Although we think these changes are pretty fitting, Mini also offers the ability to take them off for no cost in favour of more conventional colours and alloys if that’s your preference.
What’s it like inside?
Changes to the cabin are verging on non-existent for the Mini Electric, with the only ones of note being a digital display in place of traditional dials and gauges, as well as a yellow ‘S’ on its Cooper S-branded door sills.
Not that we’re complaining. The whole thing feels incredibly well put together, with a strong use of soft-touch materials in both the Level 2 and 3 trims we’ve had a crack in. Its new display is exceptionally clear too and does well to focus on key information on speed and charge without feeling overly cluttered.
The Electric is only available as a three-door, so reaching those back seats is a pain. Boot space isn’t compromised though, as the batteries sit towards the front of the car, retaining the hatch’s 211-litre capacity – but that lags behind the Vauxhall Corsa-e’s 267-litre offering and the Peugeot e-208’s 265 litres.
What’s the spec like?
Pricing for the Mini Electric kicks off at £24,400 (including the £3,500 government plug-in grant) in Level 1 guise. Equipment here includes automatic air conditioning, cruise control, automatic LED headlights, selectable driving modes, sat nav and rain-sensing wipers.
Moving up the £26,400 (grant inc), Level 2 builds on that with auto-folding mirrors, a centre armrest, ambient interior lighting, a rear-view camera, heated seats, anthracite-coloured headlining and cloth/leatherette seats.
Topping the range is the £30,400 (grant inc) Level 3. This adds full leather seats, matrix LED headlights, front parking sensors, a Harmon Kardon audio system, head-up display, panoramic glass sunroof, self-parking tech and illuminated dashboard panels.
What do the press think?
Autocar said: ‘Few cars, regardless of price, steer as well or hold their line as accurately.’ Top Gear said: ‘The goodwill behind this car should make it a success.’
What do we think?
Mini has nailed it when it comes to keeping the Electric on-point with everything its internal combustion counterparts stand for. It’s a remarkably fun thing to drive, while continuing to deliver a comfortable and appropriately premium experience inside.
Model: Mini Electric L3
Base price: £24,400
Engine: 32.6kWh electric powertrain
Max speed: N/A
0-60mph: 7.1 seconds
Range: 145 miles
Emissions (CO2): N/A
Looking for a fun electric urban runaround? This may be it.
Honda e, Peugeot e-208, Vauxhall Corsa-e.
KEY SELLING POINTS:
1. Classic Mini experience with emission-free powertrain.
2. Strong equipment levels.
3. High build quality.
Moving to an electric powertrain hasn’t compromised the typical Mini experience.