The resurgence of the MINI has come a long way since its early days. To think, the original MINI, was born out of the Suez oil crisis with demand for affordable motoring more than sixty years ago, to being made famous by Michael Caine and cohorts in The Italian Job. Now, the iconic car, has joined the realms of the zero emissions club.
It was only a matter of time before the British brand joined the 'green' wave and introduced its first fully electric model – the MINI Electric. The environmentally friendly ethos behind the new British built MINI comes at a propitious moment in the brands history.
The reborn BMW-owned city car is a consistently strong seller in the UK market, with its desirability and endearing charm, not to mention its solid residual strength in the second-hand marketplace.
In the age of socially responsible drivers, BMW are hoping to capitalise on the ever expanding, competitive electric sector. So, does the electric engine make the MINI three-door hatch a useable everyday modern EV?
Powering the front wheels is a single electric motor – delivering 182bhp, the same as produced in the 2.0-litre petrol powered Cooper S. The engine uses a clever BMW developed design, which combines greater power density to produce more power over a longer distance than many of its rivals. Working in tandem with the electric drive-train is an innovative Dynamic Stability Control system which provides traction upon acceleration and driving stability in brake energy recovery mode.
The MINI Electric is slightly heavier than the standard MINI, however, the extra weight is distributed more evenly creating a better balance. And, with a lower centre of gravity, acceleration and torque are instant. Despite being heavier, the MINI electric is no slouch when it comes to performance. 0 –31mph is 3.9 seconds which is nippy for the urban commute, and 0 – 62mph is 7.3 seconds, with a limited top speed of 93mph.
Its lithium-ion drive battery is arranged in a T-shape unit housed underneath the front seats and below the rear seats, providing a battery capacity of 32.6kWh. But don't be alarmed, the batteries don't encroach space – rear space and the boot are exactly the same as its non-electric siblings. It's not the most spacious car in its class, with rear space a bit tight for taller passengers. However, according to MINI, research shows most owners treat their MINI as a two-seater coupe, so rear access is secondary.
MINI claim the electric powertrain’s range will be between 124 – 144miles, and BMW are confident that this will satisfy the needs of buyers, which will keep the battery size, charge times, weight and costs down to manageable figures. If it's used for mostly urban use, then its range and performance should see you through for a week of commuting.
Navigating through town is made easy, with brisk acceleration, good handling and sharp response. Unlike some of its competitors, the MINI electric drives well on the motorway and through country roads, holding the road well, with next to no wind or road noise. The only thing missing, is perhaps that MINI sound, or, simulated engine noise. Other than a low, subtle electronic whizz when pulling away (by EU law, it's fitted with an acoustic pedestrian protection sound generated by a speaker), the car is void of any real sound, but that's nitpicking, in an otherwise competent and solid performance.
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As an everyday car the MINI Electric is an enjoyable and engaging drive, with a responsive automatic gearbox, comfortable seating, nimble handling and a good driving position. It's surprisingly easy to drive, without feeling heavy like some electric cars can.
MINI have borrowed BMW's 'one pedal' approach to braking. By setting a switch on the dashboard, you can brake automatically if you lift off the pedal, or, you can set it to coast.
You have the choice of four driving modes. 'Green' and 'Green+' dial back on acceleration and throttle response and even disable climate control should you need to eke out more battery life and increase range. Whereas 'Mid' enables better steering and acceleration and 'Sport' provides more direct steering and a quicker more noticeable response.
The MINI Electric is well-made with solid build quality, and the cockpit is well laid out and easy to use. With physical buttons and a new 5.5-inch colour screen behind the steering wheel showing charge levels, driving modes, data, speed and navigation information. It's more than capable and practical for daily use.
The central instrument panel includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen, where you'll find Apple CarPlay. The navigation automatically displays battery charge and range, and the map shows you where to find public charge points. Remote services allow the driver to control the charging process via mobile phone connectivity.
MINI will supply both home and public charging cables as standard. A home wall box is additional. If you're able to find a fast charge point, then 0 – 80% will take approximately 35 minutes.
Those eagle-eyed spotters, will have noticed the 'Electric Spoke' 17-inch alloys, a subtle plug-in motif.
All MINI Electric's will have a £3,000 government plug-in grant applied upon purchase.
There will be three trim levels, beginning with 'Level 1'. Lease prices start at £299 per month or £24,900 (inclusive of grant) with cruise control, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and 16-inch alloys as standard. For £329 per month or £26,900 (inclusive of grant) 'Level 2' adds parking sensors, rear view camera, cloth/leather upholstery, brake energy recuperation switch, additional alloy options, heated seats and driving assistance pack. Customers looking for that premium experience, the top of the range 'Level 3' adds park assist, Harmon Kardon sound system, head-up display, panoramic sunroof, matrix LED lights, 8.8-infotainment touch screen, wireless charging, full leather upholstery and the choice of five different alloys – this can be yours for £399 per month or £30,900 (inclusive of grant).
The MINI Electric is a practical and competitive EV which preserves much of the fun from a standard Cooper S, and is a welcome addition to the ever changing EV market and MINI family. It's ready to inject some fun into the zero emissions world. After all, it's in its DNA. It's a MINI.