By Guillaume Séguin – 29th August 2020

So what is the Mini Cooper SE?

The current iteration of the Mini hatch was launched in 2014 and it’s just in 2020 that the fully electric variant joins the petrol and diesel versions. And even though this generation is 6 years old, the Mini design is timeless and a few modern touches, specific to the Electric version, make it look really fresh!

It inherits the 184hp motor from its cousin the BMW i3s we reviewed here, but on a classic front-wheel drive front-motor architecture. Performance is very good with a 0-100 kph achieved in 7.3 seconds but this is actually the same figure as the regular BMW i3 (170hp). Why ? The Mini, despite being smaller in each dimension, is 100kg heavier. And it also has less grip if you floor it, which, combined with torque steer, makes it harder to put all the power down. The i3, being rear wheel drive, will do that effortlessly but the Mini is more fun!

Batteries are located below the floor, without taking any of the interior space. The only compromise is that the suspension is raised by 15mm to make space for the battery pack, without losing too much ground clearance. The overall result is a success : it looks good and practical like any other Mini !

The battery capacity is 32.6kWh (28.9kWh usable), which is not amazing by 2020 standards, but is acceptable for a second/commuter vehicle, which the regular Mini often is in many households.

Range, Charging and driving modes

The WLTP range is 234km. That’s not too impressive compared to other superminis such as the BMW i3 (310km), Opel Corsa-e (337km), Peugeot e-208 (345km) or best-in-class Renault Zoé (395km). But you shouldn’t focus just on the range, because there is an upside to it, and we’ll come to that later.

This is not a PHEV, but a fully electric Mini

The Mini Cooper SE charges at 50kW in DC (CCS) which is ok for a commuter and occasional long distance vehicle. It means a typical 30 minute stop will recharge 80% of the battery. The lack of faster charging is not a huge issue with a battery of this size; a 100kW capability would challenge the cooling system and save just a handful of minutes at a fast charger. It’s fine this way !

It also has an 11kW AC onboard 3-phase charger which can recharge the battery in just 3 hours at a street charge point, or in 4 hours at home on your typical single phase 32amp installation.

11kW AC and 50kW CCS

I drove from Cork to Limerick to see how the range was compared to similar EVs. And I was pleasantly surprised. Across Cork city, the Mini returned a consumption of just 12.6kWh/100km and en route to Limerick it was still the same, thanks to the somewhat slow traffic on the N20 (and no wind). At this pace, the Mini easily matches its WLTP range, and with a more mixed type of driving, 200km are achievable in summer, and probably close to 150km in winter.

So despite being retrofitted onto an ICE chassis, the Mini manages to be very efficient. That’s the upside from having that smaller battery, a reasonable weight and because it’s relatively low and aerodynamic, it performs quite well on the motorway as well, with just below 20 kWh/100km at 120 kph.

Similarly to the i3s, with which it shares many software elements (from the infotaiment to the mobile application), it has 4 similar modes, called Sport, Mid (the default when starting the car), Green and Green +. But unlike the i3, you have a lower regeneration level available, by flicking a switch at the bottom of the center console (not very ergonomic but at least it exists). By default the Mini has a stronger regenerative braking, similar to the i3, and you can drive with just one pedal, which suits perfectly to the urban/sporty profile of the Mini. This strong regen, matched to the Sports mode, makes this car joyful and really sporty to drive on smaller winding roads. Just make sure these roads aren’t too full of potholes, because you will feel every single one of them, harshly. That suspension is hard and the seats have great support but not much cushion. That’s a Mini.

How is it as an everyday car?

Attention to detail : lightened door handles and Mini logo projected on the ground

The Mini Electric is just 3.82m long, 1.73m wide and 1.43m high, making it one of the smallest cars available today on the market. It is therefore not a surprise if you find the interior rather small. The front seats are just fine, but if you’re more than 1.80m tall, not even children will feel comfortable behind you. And the boot is really small. At least there is underfloor storage; perfect to store your charging cables and keep the rest of the boot neat. Fit and finish is really good, as a premium car should be, and the design of the interior hasn’t aged much; only the modest size of the screen shows that it’s an older design.

The standard equipment is quite comprehensive. This test model is the Level 2 (mid-range) version, offered at just above €30,000. For this price you get dual zone climate control, a digital cockpit and navigation with apple carplay, semi-leather upholstery, these really nice 17” alloy wheels (originally called “Corona” first, now simply “Mini Electric”), and even metallic paint.

99% Mini, 1% EV interior

Should I buy one?

Digging into the equipment list, this Mini reveals itself as surprisingly affordable, just because the list of standard equipment is so complete. Even the base model has the same exterior look as this one, including the metallic paint, alloys, LED headlights and fog lights, the seats are made of cloth only. The only downside of this version is that it is only available in silver or grey. For €2,640 the Level 2 offers a wider choice of wheels, the seats are upgraded, and you get rear parking sensors, cruise control with brake function, electrically folding mirrors, ambient lightning, auto-dimming rear view mirror, comfort access, a front armrest, heated seats and a reversing camera. Finally, the top of the range version is a more significant stretch (+€5,290) but adds the luxury items you want to the premium feel of the Level 2,, such as leather seats, premium sound system, sunroof, heads-up display, front parking sensor, adaptive LED headlights, phone wireless charging, and park assist. No option is available, you can just personalise colour, wheels, roof or mirror colours, at no extra cost.

The specific asymmetrical wheels are quite stylish and are available on all version, at no extra cost

These very well equipped versions make this Mini a real bargain : not only it is around €7,000 cheaper than the equivalent petrol or diesel Mini Cooper S, but it’s effectively the best-value EV on the market if you consider the standard kit, and on top of that you have a premium product. Of course the usability of this Mini will be more limited than with the Corsa-e, e-208 or Zoé, which are larger vehicles with a range more suited to long distances. It also has less range than the i3 but is €12,000 cheaper! So if you’re buying this as a second vehicle for your household, not going on long distance trips too often, and don’t mind the lack of interior space, the Mini is probably the best choice today.

Prices :
Mini Cooper SE Level 1: €27.515
Mini Cooper SE Level 2: €30.155
Mini Cooper SE Level 3: €35.445

Price excludes delivery charges, includes VAT, VRT, VRT rebate and SEAI grant.

The BMW i3 (pre-facelift) next to the Mini Cooper SE
The BMW i3 (pre-facelift) next to the Mini Cooper SE Petrol infrastructure is quite weak in some parts of the country, thankfully households are typically supplied with a driveway and electricity to fuel EVs overnight.  :)