The original Mini was created to solve the problem of mobility to the mass in an oil fuel crisis in 1959. Fast forward 61 years, and we have come around to the full circle, but this time we have to save our resources and environment around us. MINI’s new mission is to go full electric brand within the next 10 years by 2030 and to spear that change is the fully Electric MINI Cooper SE. This latest model in the line up is designed to make the charge into the future with some fun. The big question for this new and evolved MINI will be it the loveable friend we all know and memory or will it be clinical and robotic-like the future holds as we bid farewell to the combustion engine bows in 2035. Jump in, buckle up and take a ride with me into the future…
MINI UK team invited Rob & me to the factory for the all Electric model – MINI Cooper SE UK launch to see what we thought of this new model which we were a truly honoured.
The day started with us arriving at MINI Plant Oxford to meet the MINI UK Event and product team to get an overview of the event and all the details on the electric MINI.
MINI showed us a cutaway of the Electric MINI Cooper SE so we could see the motor and the battery pack in all its glory.
Embracing the shell of the MINI was the Electric Motor packing 135 kW/ (181 hp) and 270 Nm (199 lb-ft) which is encased in a cage for crash safety reasons.
The 32.6 kWh battery forms a T shape in the shell running from the transmission tunnel and fuel tank space from traditional F56 MINI and gives a Range: 124 – 144 miles (WLTP) – 235 – 270 km (NEDC).
The MINI Cooper SE weight penalty is 145kg and rides 15mm higher but has 30 mm lower centre of gravity due to the batteries.
Joining a small select group of people we started the day off with a plant tour learning about how the MINI is manufactured with the tour guide and management proudly explaining the accomplishments of using the same production line for both the electric MINI and It’s petrol brother. However, the group (including myself) was currently too fixated on spotting one of the first MINI GP3’s going down the line, having the massive rear wing fitted – the irony!
MINI UK Product Manager gave us a presentation outlining the MINI Cooper SE spec and how the day would go with our routes and everything we could possibly need to know.
Rob & I were handed our lanyard for the event outlining which are MINI we would be in for our run scenic drive through the heart of the Cotswolds to the Thyme Hotel for a late lunch. This would allow a mix of road types to experience in every scenario possible over 45 miles. After lunch, it was the same 45-mile journey back to the plant before heading home for the day.
Rob took the wheel for the first, so I sat passenger ready to see what it would like as back seat driver. This gave us time to take some pictures along the route and talk about the experience given I have worked at an electric go-karting track for over 6 years now as a part-time weekend job, and this would be Rob’s first drive in an electric power vehicle.
Rob’s impression of the all Electric MINI Cooper SE:
I wanted to share my thoughts on the vehicle, especially as this was my first time experiencing an electric car. Straight away, I wasn’t even sure if I’d turned the car on, after some slight confusion and a notification of a chime to confirm I had, I selected drive and the very first thing that became clear, was the lack of mechanical components, no clunk of metal from a clutch or gearbox, just a very smooth pull away from standstill with a slight buzzing sound artificially pumped through the speakers. The Electric MINI has 4 different modes; Eco Plus, Eco, Medium and Sport, each with their own characteristics. 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds while 0-37mph in 3.9 seconds. The car rides slightly higher due to the weight of the batteries, for most buyers I think this will be negligible and yes, while the petrol head in you will scream that this equates to a higher centre of gravity, I found that driving in a world surround by SUV derived vehicles, it means that you’re a bit more noticeable and may just escape the dazzling of oncoming motorists with LED headlights. Another plus for the height is the way it handles bumps and potholes, two things that litter the UK’s road network, especially the beloved British B roads, the MINI no longer seems to crash and bang over these monstrosities, while the suspension is still stiff and MINI like, the bumps are more welcomed with a slight thud rather than a bang.
The second thing that I found immediately noticeable was the regenerative breaking, configurable at two levels. The more severe level works at -0.19m/s2 while the less severe brake energy recuperation level, which I preferred and would liken to a light press on the brake pedal operates at -0.11m/s2. While in the more aggressive stage of energy recuperation, one-pedal driving is achievable, however, I found myself having to reanalysis and adjust my driving style as I was approaching traffic lights and coming to a stop with 3/4 car lengths before actually reaching the white line.
10 miles or so into the driving experience I was still very open-minded about the MINI electric, some of the characteristics of the car are certainly different from a motor engine, however different isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it’s what MINI is all about!! Being electric, I was well aware of the instant torque and acceleration these electric cars have (my most anticipated category to test). Once my foot was pressed on the accelerator there was slight delay before the MINI took off, surprisingly similar delay to a vehicle with a combustion engine; I can only put this down to being deliberate as I’d imagine instant torque and acceleration could end up positioning you into the rear bumper of the car in front! – Which isn’t a good look for anyone.
After the initial delay the car took off in true MINI style, 30mph was effortless, 40 and 50mph? Piece of cake! As 60mph hit, I could start to feel the characteristics of an electric car show, characteristics that I have read about so much. While still torquey you could feel the power starting to plateau; I backed off reaching the speed limit. With a top speed of 93mph, you can tell this is a motor (pun intended) that doesn’t like to be pushed above 60mph. Turning off the slip road and onto the Great British B road, it was clear this MINI is most happy between 25-55mph with that iconic MINI personality oozing out between 30-50mph. Suddenly all these advancements in technology that have come together to create an environmentally friendly car could be used to have a lot of MINI fun! The instant mid-range torque with front-wheel drive pulling the MINI quicker out of a bend than anything I have experienced before, the regenerative braking system is allowing me to leave it late as possible, just dabbing the break before entering a corner and there it was, the smile that only a MINI can produce! I was reminded of the McLaren P1, a hypercar that moulded and manipulated hybrid technology to push the supercar further than ever before, using electric power to aid petrol in the pursuit of speed and efficiency. I felt like I was now in the same realms of the P1 using a technology originally designed for efficiency and conservation in the opposite manner and having a lot of fun in the process.
The electric MINI has an all-new traction control system which hasn’t been fitted to a car before. Unlike traditional traction control systems, which are reactive, this system with the torque of an electric car appears to be pre-emptive eliminating wheel spin. (Perfect for snow and wet weather I thought). During the presentation, it was even suggested to try and spin the wheels. During the driving experience, I pulled into a lay-by to take some photos. Upon leaving the lay-by, I chose the exit that was made up of loose stones, rumble and bits of tarmac. Waiting for a clear road the anticipation built, I put my foot to the floor, and sure enough, the MINI took off, no wheel spin, no struggle for traction. Absolutely nothing! All on a surface that Top Gear would call mildly moist. To say I was impressed was an understatement.
Halfway into the driving experience, I had to perform an unplanned emergency brake, exiting a corner I could see a pheasant on the verge of the road, they are often known for stepping out in front of cars, which indeed this one did. I’m sure MINI UK wouldn’t be very impressed with what might have resulted in, well something I’d rather not think about, the hazards came on, and we stopped safely, the pheasant crossed the road, and we carried on with our journey. The reason for sharing this is because, while there is no gearbox to downshift or engine braking to slow the vehicle, I was very impressed with just how sharp and responsive the brakes are. As the old racing saying goes, you’re only as quick as your brakes, and those brakes are indeed very sharp but smooth.
The interior of the MINI is very much kin to the current facelift F56 model with just a few changes to accommodate the options for electric vehicle settings such as the regenerative braking system toggle switch. The most significant change is the oval-shaped digital dash display above the steering wheel. Providing how much power is being used on the left-hand side, which I found very reminiscent of the power reserve gauge found on Rolls Royce. Over on the right side is the battery level, while situated in the middle of the screen is the driver information such as your current speed, the speed limit, time, outside temperature and mileage etc.
I was the last to arrive at the Thyme hotel after stopping to capture more photos and generally just enjoying my time spent with the car. Ali would be driving the return route, while I would be sat, passenger. During most of the drive, the MINI was more than happy to just sit at 40-50mph, just cruising along, without feeling like it wanted to be pushed harder. I feel this is something I haven’t seen from a MINI before, but I do understand the circumstances and market position of this car, it’s built for an environmentally conscious world. A world where we are all told we need to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce CO2 emissions, a world where ethical and moral environmental decisions can even define what milk we buy at the supermarket, so for that, I can forgive it.
My impression of the all Electric MINI Cooper SE:
The Cooper SE is MINI going back to the drawing board to what made it in the first place. The world changed, and the Mini was born under the concept to help everyone to get them where they needed to go in 1959. Fast forward over 60 years and that 4 wheel friend needs to change with the times so under the bonnet now is an electric motor and T Shaped battery delivering the watts for the environment fun at the wheel.
When I got into the driver’s seat seeing the digital dash to me symbolised the change to electric to me. Pressing on the yellow start button, you are greeted with the speedo lighting up and the unique sound that sounds like a space ship powering up to heading into light speed. The weird part is that nothing happens and there is no traditional noise of the engine, and there is complete silence like in a Rolls.
There is no traditional auto take off when you put into a drive which will be an unease as it doesn’t move forward till you press down on the throttle pedal. It’s effortless wafting from there as the ride is actually better than any other MINI as it floats along which helped with the smooth power delivery from the electric motor with instant torque. The pick of speed around town is perfect and made even easier when you have low regeneration on as you one pedal drive and when you head out on the B-Roads there is instant pull out of the corner as you head towards the straightaway.
The extra weight and ride height with the damping of the new shocks has made this MINI ride over the imperfections on the road zen-like as this is the effect it had on me when I drove it. This is a place that is perfect for the daily driver or 2nd car when you want time to yourself to think or just want to pop to do the shop or hit the gym. I say this as there is need to warm anything up as the electric motor is ready to go and you can precondition the car before driving so don’t have it deforest.
When the red mist descends on you, and you feel the need for speed, the 1.21 gigawatts come alive and you head to 88 mph leaving the road on fire. The Cooper SE instant torque is your best friend as it allows you dart in out of speed zones especially above 30 to 60 mph and that’s were SE shines the most as there isn’t much speed beyond 60 mph. That’s not of point this evolution of this MINI or any MINI it’s for fun around the corners, and the agility is what a MINI is built for. At full power, the MINI doesn’t sweat itself and lightning bolts ahead which left shocked as I couldn’t comprehend the speed as there was no noise and the numbers on the dash just increased which it made feel isolated. I think MINI should have artificially made some audible noise in the cabin to let you know your increasing velocity which could be switched on or off if you wanted it. As personally believe sound or feel is a key part of anything like how Apple give haptic feedback on iPhone or notification sounds which tell you something is happening and I would have loved MINI’s continue take on electric noise from the start-up procedure.
In the twisties, the Cooper SE handles well like a normal cooper but actually better as it has more planted feel along with and extra playfulness with it as it’s more adjustable around the corners with corrections because of its stability, traction control and instant torque. The MINI playfulness is there when you want it, and it’s especially funny leaving people behind when doing the traffic light Grand Prix or head out of town to the dual carriageway. The only bad part is when hit 60mph the SE doesn’t want to go any faster as it flatlines tell you NO NO NO NO you save the environment.
Regen braking is the best thing ever when you are pushing on as it dials out the need to touch the brake as when you in high regeneration it’s like an elephant has sat on the front end as scrubs the speed as expediential rate. It this scrubbing off that changes the game when your pressing on as you plan your lines better as your worrying about downshifting or braking noises so I was actually way more focused on my driving style and movements on the road. Imagine on the track and like how I race on the weekend at the electric go-kart track my driving improved and the electric MINI would amazing around the track as it leans gently when pushed but settles nicely and front end lifts as the instant torque straighten the role and fire out of the bend.
I genuinely believe if there was some back road fun or MINI run the Cooper SE would hold it’s own with petrol Cooper S and it wouldn’t pull away from it under normal speed limits. The Cooper SE is still a driver’s car so don’t be deceived by the electric credentials as deep down in still that MINI you feel in love it but only see on a part-time basis as there is a BIG but in the room. The range is something I couldn’t shake off as after some driving back to the MINI Factory from 94% charge I went down to 56% after mixed driving scenarios. This isn’t ideal but we combined Rob’s & my driving we would have just made it back with like something 15% which is something you should never do to a lithium-ion battery pack as 20% should be like lowest. If we remove the fun we had in learning the car we would have been there and back with around 35% battery left or more as what I was told by MINI the ECU learns you driving style and over time it adapts power delivery so technically speaking the range would actually improve if we did the same commute every day.
That outcome leads us down the path the MINI is a commuter car or 2nd car which hurts me as a MINI owner as to when I think of one it’s something to take on long road trips and enjoying MINI runs or shows as I should smiling every second I am in it instead I would be worrying over range anxiety. Sadly this leads to another problem which is a UK infrastructure is there aren’t any charging points I have seen besides in expensive car parks or shopping centres so the only option will be charging it overnight at home which probably results in a charge every night or every two days with my commutes.
The plucky brit fights back on the above points with business users or small commuters as there is zero road tax, 0% benefit in kind tax on a company car and it only takes £5 of electric to fully recharge it from 0%. So running costs are virtually zeroed down to nothing as there nothing to service, fluids etc. Its just the perishables being washer fluid, tyres and brake pads but brake pads would something you may never have to change under a lease or only once in 3 years. First had the experience I learnt from one of MINI UK team that she changed over to electric and over a course of 5 to 6 months she saved £1300 just by going which is an insane amount of money for anyone. I calculated with my own money and commute of around 60 miles I would save over £300 in a month and if I do that over 6 months I am £1800 up and the saving won’t stop there the Cooper SE is 6 insurance groups cheaper than equivalent Cooper S which another saving again for cheaper motoring.
Range aside I would still buy one as it’s finally a fun take on the electric car just like the reason why you buy an Apple product. You want the premium feel with substance, and that’s what MINI Cooper SE is a MINI electrified and yes a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe has a lot more range but who cares when your surround by a cheap interior which puts you to sleep. You buy a MINI for what it is a car that puts a smile on your face, and you’re wrapped in a cocoon a luxury with the world best owner group/club. I am sure over time as tech evolves the range will increase with smaller batteries with high Kwh which will probably come with the model facelift like what happened with BMW i3. However, your 4 wheel buddy keeps you in check as it creates a radius on where you can travel with your current range by creating a green circle on the sat nav screen. The only real competitor is small compact premium electric car it’s sister the BMW i3s or Honda E, which are the around the same price point with an equal premium feel and all-around performance.
Rob’s MINI Cooper SE Conclusion – Should you buy one?
My initial impression of the MINI was very remarkable; it’s an electric car that’s been packaged to tick a lot of the boxes while still maintaining the iconic DNA of the MINI character. With the lack of funds from the now ex CEO of BMW restricting the R&D department, the range of 140 miles may not be gargantuan compared to other electric vehicles currently on the market. However, it’s important to remember while lithium-ion battery technology hasn’t really moved forward in many years the software which manages the batteries is always progressing, becoming smarter and more efficient in battery management. I suspect with more development in software technology combined with improved batteries a second-generation electric MINI will rectify this shortcoming, however, for now, it’s important to remember that while 140 miles may seem insignificant, most people’s commute by car probably isn’t a 140 mile plus round trip, well not in the UK anyway. With 5000 sales predicted in the first year for this electrifying small car, I suspect most will be sold to customers who live and operate locally in their area. What I mean by this is people who commute maybe 20-30 miles to work, pop into town for shopping, which is most likely a few miles away from home and perhaps over to the next town/city for entertainment or anything that can’t be acquired locally.
So, to conclude, would I buy one? While I would miss the connectivity of man and machine, banging through the gears, upshifting or downshifting with a burble, pop and bang of a manual, I can’t ignore what this car brings to the table. It’s nippy and direct like a go-kart, quick – very quick, and oh so smooth, it’s an all-round pleasure to drive. I think I probably would buy one and use it for the exact reasons as stated, nipping into town and not having to worry about the engine warming up, commuting in and out of the city not worrying about clutch wear and tear etc, the list goes on. Then there are the cost savings, just over £5 to fully charge the car, instead of just over £60 for a full tank of petrol, no more oil costs – for those of you that burn through it. But would I swap my JCW for it? No, I wouldn’t, the MINI electric would become my daily car and that’s exactly where MINI UK has targeted this vehicle. A practical, environmentally conscious, cheap to run daily car. (With one hell of a community that comes with it).
Over the last few days, the electric MINI has made a lasting impression on myself, I just can’t stop thinking about it. The driving dynamics, the way it produces its power, the thought and technology behind the vehicle. I’ve seen a few F56 MINI’s on the road since and I keep asking myself, would I rather have an electric F56 or petrol? To my surprise and perhaps yours, I keep lusting back to the electric F56 and I think that’s where the MINI electric gets you. You just can’t ignore what it’s bringing not only to the world but also the MINI community. The original mini was created during the petrol crisis, to be economical and practical with new ideas that hadn’t been done before, like the transverse engine mounting and here we are again 60 years on, with MINI producing its answer to the climate crisis, it’s the start of something special, the next chapter in the brands history and as I said, that’s just something you can’t ignore.
Rob’s Review Score: 4/5
My MINI Cooper SE Conclusion – Should you buy one?
My Driver Way TakeAfter heading back to my JCW after the review and heading home I was left pondering on whether I would add the electric MINI Cooper SE to the fleet which stands with a BMW 1 Series Diesel and Porsche Carrerra S. Each car has its place in what I use it for – JCW for fun, BMW for long-distance travelling and Porsche for summertime. This leads me to believe that Cooper SE would fit into the line-up as it would be my commuter car for work which would make life a lot easier as I am rarely hitting above 60mph there and back and the SE lives between 30-60 mph make it trouble-free motoring I am after doing over 130,000 miles in my JCW.
To me, the Cooper SE lives in another world where it is literally the perfect 2nd car the one you don’t have to worry about as that 8-year warranty or 100,000 miles covers and financial saving can not be ignored. So the Cooper SE is a logical purchase instead of an emotional one as it saves me money over the long run as I am in that stage of my life where I have to think more so about my future which MINI has done with its brand as it goes all-electric by 2030.
If I am take away all my life situation then I would have one either way as Birmingham is getting a low emission zone and so will many more cities as deadline looms for 2035 with no combustions engine cars will be sold in the UK. The Cooper SE is the future and it keeps it all wrapped up in a familiar package without taking away the fun which is no brainer for me as still get to see the infamous winged logo sitting next to my beloved JCW. If I was young again and I was getting my first car this would be the ideal first as I could have all the fun I did with my R56 MINI One just with the electric fun and being so much cheaper to run and own given how expensive insurance is now for first-time owners.
Ali’s Review Score: 3.5/5
The MINI Cooper SE keeps the fun alive in the MINI brand as it goes towards the electric future by evolving with voltage. The fun on 4 wheels continues on where it started back in 1959 with the style and quirkiness, but there is a limit to it with the range which comes as a premium package as either your 2nd car or my first car.
Thank you for the MINI UK Team for the hotel, food, hospitality and invite to this special event to mark the beginning of a new era for the iconic MINI brand.
Photo Credits & All the Apertures to Rob who took all the shots for this review
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