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First Drive: Mini Cooper SE

By / 1 year ago / Road Tests / No Comments

Martyn Collins finds that this electric Mini’s keen drive does have a range cost.

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SECTOR: Supermini PRICE: £24,400-30,400 RANGE: 140-145 miles (WLTP) CHARGING: 0-80% 36 minutes

In a rapidly changing motoring landscape, there’s something reassuringly familiar about the electric Mini.

Outside, apart from the sealed grille, Energetic Yellow highlights and 17-inch

Electric Corona wheels, it looks largely the same as a standard third-generation Mini Cooper S.

However in the spirit of Mini personalisation, these can be deleted or changed, to make it look more standard.

The inside is essentially unchanged too, apart from new digital instruments, more yellow highlights and a push button hand brake.

Underneath the bonnet, there’s a 184hp electric motor, borrowed and mainly unchanged from BMW’s trendsetting EV, the i3. The 28.9kWh Lithium ion battery, placed under the back seats and in the transmission tunnel – so as to not affect the Mini’s already compromised rear space.

That battery equals up to 145 miles of WLTP range, and this Mini offers the flexibility of rapid charging. The result: 80% charge, takes just 36 minutes, via its 50kW CCS rapid charge port. But, it’s just as happy with being charged at home, although slower, via the included three-pin plug AC occasional home charging cable.

The Cooper SE’s ride height has been raised to accommodate that battery pack, however with near perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the Mini’s characteristically keen driving dynamics remain largely unchanged. There are four driving modes; Mid, which it starts in; Sport, which gives more steering weight and sharper throttle response; Green which mostly retards the throttle and new Green+ mode, which shuts down kit such as the air-conditioning to eke out extra miles. It also has two regenerative braking modes, although in our opinion, one is too heavy and the other too light.

Despite weighing in at 1,326kg (145kg more than a standard Cooper hatch), performance is rapid – especially in Sport mode – with 0-62mph acceleration in just 7.3 seconds, and all 270Nm of torque available from the start. Clever traction control means there’s virtually no wheel spin too and the expected precise steering and keen handling adding to the fun – but you can feel the extra weight in corners and using the performance will dent the range.

Available in Level 1, 2 and 3 versions, with prices starting at £24,400, all models have a fixed specification, but with the chance to choose different alloy wheels and colours. They are well-equipped, with standard navigation, automatic air-conditioning and rain-sensing wipers. Level 2, which is expected to be the best-seller, seems best suited to corporate, although Rob East, general manager corporate sales, expects fleet choice to be a “broad church spec-wise”. The Cooper SE is looking like it will be a conquest model for the brand, with Mini UK managing director David George telling Fleet World that of the almost 2,000 pre-orders, 70% of buyers are new to the brand.

The move to electric Mini motoring should be smooth, as the carmaker has tie-ups with BP Chargemaster for wall boxes and charging, plus a special electric tariff from OVO Energy.

The Verdict:
Mini breaks most of the EV ownership barriers down with the Cooper SE, as it’s almost as good to drive and as practical as the ICE version. Watch the range though.

The Lowdown:

Key fleet model: Level 2

Strengths: Great to drive, high quality, well-equipped

Weaknesses: Range, Regenerative braking modes

FW Star Rating: 4/5

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.