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Yorkshire Times
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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
8:00 AM 22nd October 2020
cars

MINI Electric – A Fully Charged First Drive Review

The modern MINI has been a common sight on our roads for almost twenty years and it has been my pleasure to own a couple and drive many more.

What is it?

I first saw the MINI Electric in concept form at the Frankfurt Motor Show three years ago. Quite why it has taken so long to come to market is beyond me. But was it worth the wait?

With recent local charging traumas still fresh in my mind, it seemed best to journey to MINI to drive the new car. A ridiculously early start saw me behind the wheel at 9am, close to Bicester.

The MINI Electric is based on the same body shell as the 3-Door Hatch, with a number of specific differences. An embossed MINI Electric logo appears on the car’s side scuttles, as well as on the tailgate and front radiator grille.

The front grille features the hallmark hexagonal shape but is closed, as the car requires less cooling. This also contributes to excellent aerodynamics, as do the enclosed undercarriage, the rear apron and the special 17-inch MINI Electric Power Spoke 2-tone wheels, which are optional.

The charging plug is located above the right-hand rear wheel, where the petrol filler would normally be.

Boot volume can be compromised in electric cars, but the MINI Electric retains the full MINI Hatch 211 litres, expanding to 731 litres when the rear backrests are folded down.

The battery pack has 12 modules of lithium-ion cells arranged in a T-shaped unit in the vehicle floor between the front seats and below the rear seats, providing a battery capacity of 32.6 kWh.

The motor is the latest, powerful version of the synchronous electric motor developed by the BMW Group and provides a maximum output of 184 HP and maximum torque of 270 Nm. As a result, the car accelerates to 62mph in just 7.3 seconds with top speed limited to 93mph.

The power electronics are shielded by a reinforced bumper carrier and the motor support frame, while the high-voltage battery is protected by a solid base plate. With an unladen DIN weight of 1,365 kilograms, the MINI Electric is only 145kgs heavier than the current MINI Cooper S 3-Door with automatic transmission.

In accordance with new EU law, the car is fitted with acoustic pedestrian protection for low speed driving, with a distinctive sound created especially for the car generated via a speaker system. 

Fast Facts

MINI Electric
Prices start at £24,900 (after £3k Govt. grant)
Lease from £299 per month (£4k deposit)
0-62mph in 7.3 seconds
Top speed 93mph
Range 145 miles (WLTP)
Roughly 4p per mile
BIK 0% for 2020
Charging (0-80%)
Home charge (13-amp plug) – 12 hours
Wallbox – 3 hours, 12 minutes
50kW fast charger – 36 minutes

The drive

The MINI has always impressed with its go-kart like handling and the Electric continues the good work. With a lower centre of gravity than a petrol-powered Cooper S and less weight over the front wheels, a dynamic drive is assured.

Chuck the MINI at a series of challenging bends and there is fun to be had. Body roll is negligible and there’s power aplenty to balance the car on the throttle. In ‘sport’ mode and with wet roads, it is possible to give the traction control unit a good work out.

Driven in a spirited manner, hard to resist, you will be unlikely to come close to the official 145-mile range. Of more interest then perhaps are ‘Green’ and ‘Green+’ modes, the latter restricting air conditioning etc in order to maximise range.

Most impressive is the regenerative braking function. In maximum mode, the force is so strong that the MINI electric can be driven most of the time using only the accelerator. It takes some getting used to and can be adjusted to taste. Another advantage is that the braking forces involved help replenish the battery.

Accelerating from rest is where electric cars generally excel, and the MINI is no exception. Bury your foot in the carpet and the instant response is startling. It feels quicker than the official acceleration figures already quoted, but I suspect it is the lack of noise that enhances this feeling.

A quick motorway blast was no chore, the compact car more than able to hold its own with the fast-flowing traffic. A little wind and road noise were in evidence.
Ride comfort is typically MINI, perhaps a tad firm for some, ideal for the keener driver.

The rivals

The new Honda e is now on sale and on looks alone it stands out. It majors more on comfort and tech and offers more space than the MINI for rear seat passengers and rear doors for easy access. The range is a little less at 125 miles. A couple of thousand pounds more expensive to buy, unlikely to be a deal breaker on what is a style-led product.

The Renault Zoe continues to impress. A practical interior, five door flexibility and a decent specification. A tad more expensive than the MINI Electric, its major plus is a quoted range of 245 miles.

Another new contender is the Peugeot e-208, also with a 200-mile+ range. You will find my review on our ‘Car’ page for your delectation.

Verdict

Undoubtedly worth the wait, I can see many existing city-based MINI owners graduating seamlessly into the new electric model when the time comes to change. The car’s range may limit the appeal for those who regularly travel longer distance.

All the fun MINI driving characteristics remain and as a driver’s car, it has the competition well and truly beaten. Good job BMW, undoubtedly worth the wait and it is British built too.