- Dynamic performance with sharp acceleration
- Great road holding with go-karting DNA
- Funky interior with lots of on-board technology – all for an attractive price
- Many rivals offer better range
- Rear legroom is quite restricted
- The ride can be firm over bumps
MINI has ditched the traditional combustion engine in its latest model and given it the electric treatment. The aptly named MINI Electric is available in three trim levels called Level 1, 2 or 3 and there is all manner of ways to personalise the car.
The interior oozes MINI DNA through and through with circular dials, traditional toggle switches, along with all the quirky features we have grown to love about the car over the years.
The readouts have been altered to display more EV-related data, but this three-door hatchback loses none of its charm or appeal by moving forward with the times.
On The Road
We opted for the Cooper S Hatchback in mid-trim Level 2. Powering this three-door model is a 32kWh battery and electric motor developing 181bhp. While the battery is relatively compact compared to some competitors, the car can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 7.3 seconds and tops out at 93mph, but it does feel much faster to be honest.
The MINI Electric has just one gear and the acceleration is beautifully smooth and effortless with instant bursts of pace on tap for overtaking slow-moving traffic.
The driver can switch through drive modes called Sport, Mid, Green and Green+ and not surprisingly, Sport is the most fun as it really sharpens up the throttle and steering responses. Mid is ideal for day-to-day use and Green, along with Green+ are the settings for more refined, energy-saving motoring.
The car has a driving range between charges of 145 miles and you will notice this range drop quite dramatically on motorways or when travelling at higher speeds, especially if it’s particularly cold and you have all the heating systems set at full blast, but this is the norm for most EVs.
However, if driven carefully it is easy to maximise the distance between charges by recouping energy along the way.
Any concerns that an electric MINI would lose its driving appeal with so much karting heritage at stake, are quickly quashed as the car powers out of the starting blocks. The road holding is ultra-assured and the vehicle is well balanced meaning corners can be attacked with confidence.
The steering is perfectly weighted with lots of driver feedback and like MINIs through the ages, the car is never happier than when firing down a twisting country lane with lots of switchback turns.
The ride is on the firmer side so expect to feel the full force of any unexpected bumps and dips along the way, but otherwise it is perfectly settled with 17-inch wheels proving the ideal match.
MINI Electric cruises effortlessly at 70mph on motorways, although the driving range will drop quicker at that speed, and it is very comfortable in town centres with great all-round visibility and an impressive turning lock.
And it’s in the busier cities and towns with lots of stop/start driving that extra miles can be gained by recouping energy. If you lift your foot from the throttle, the car harvests energy through regenerative braking. The levels of regeneration can be adjusted and, in its highest setting, the braking is stronger and that means single pedal driving is possible.
With high quality cabin insulation, occupants are well-protected against any road surface or wind noise.
One glance in its direction will confirm that introducing electric technology to the mix has had no impact whatsoever on the traditional styling cues of the MINI.
To help the MINI Cooper S Electric stand out as the EV model in the line-up, the radiator grille area is blanked off and has a yellow E badge, there is some additional badging along with optional yellow wheel caps, new side scuttles, freshly-designed bumpers and the charge port replaces the standard fuel filler.
Our test car certainly looked the business in British Racing Green with a black contrast roof, black mirror caps and a black filled-in grille area. Bright circular LED headlights are standard and the taillights feature the Union Jack design.
Moving inside the MINI Electric boasts a modern, clutter-free layout with a wealth of high-end materials and upholstery throughout. The seats were a neat mix of cloth and leather, while the piano black interior looks premium in its design.
When it comes to the displays there is the usual MINI circular theme throughout, with EV-related information on the all-new 5.5-inch digital display screen and there is a yellow starter toggle switch instead of red.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
With plenty of manual seat and steering wheel adjustment, getting a comfortable driving position inside the MINI Electric is a simple process and the all-round driver visibility impresses too.
The car is generously-equipped as standard, which means you needn’t add any extras from the exceptionally long list of options that are available.
Taking pride of place in the centre of the dashboard is the 6.5-inch circular dial that is the main focal point with quick key access to the likes of navigation, media, map, communications and menu.
The menus are simple to navigate either via the touchscreen or, preferably by using the rotary dial on the centre console which is less distracting.
On-board kit impresses with Apple CarPlay smartphone connection as standard – there is no Android Auto facility – and a decent DAB radio and sound system, a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats, air conditioning, full navigation and lots more.
The main dial’s outer circle lights up in different colours depending on the driving mode and there are digital readouts behind the steering wheel that offer information on the remaining driving range and existing charge levels.
After a short time inside the MINI Electric, the cabin really starts to feel like it has been designed specifically for you. It’s comfortable and all dials, controls and readouts are perfectly positioned for ease of use.
Space & Practicality
Space within the MINI Electric is almost identical to that of the standard MINI Cooper S, although back seat passengers have a little less room due to the positioning of the battery pack beneath the rear seats. This impacts mainly on headroom as the seats are set slightly higher.
But a couple of adults can squeeze into the back when necessary, although they will have to clamber in as dignified fashion as possible over the front seats to get in and out. It’s ideal for children though who will find the space just fine.
The boot capacity is exactly the same with a limit of 211 litres, increasing to 731 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped down. The charge cables do need to be kept in the boot but they don’t take up too much space.
There is a decent-sized central cubby box under the front armrest, front and rear cup holders, door bins, a glovebox and seat back pockets to store other bits and pieces.
The MINI Electric can be charged via a 7.4kW wallbox in less than five hours or up to 80 per cent in a fraction of the time by using a fast charger.
When it comes to the running costs, MINI scores really well with a fully electric vehicle that actually has a reasonable price-tag.
The line-up starts from £26,000 for the Level 1 model and rises to £32,000 for the range-topping Level 3 version. These prices are after the Government’s £2,500 plug-in car grant has been deducted.
Our MINI Electric Level 2 was £29,900, reduced to £27,400 after the grant, which is very competitively priced, especially for a premium brand competing in the EV sector.
Although the battery is relatively small and therefore the range is limited to 145 miles at best, the car is more than capable of coping with the average daily commute at least twice before it needs topping up. And if overnight charging is an option, when tariffs are often cheaper, then the running costs will be kept to a minimum.
With its zero carbon emissions rating, there are many financial rewards too. If you are thinking of choosing the MINI as a company car, then the Benefit in Kind, otherwise known as company car tax, savings are very tempting at just one per cent for 2021/22. For the private owner, the car would be exempt from any Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax).
The insurance group rating for the test car is 22.
Quality & Reliability
MINI enjoys a very good reputation with regards to reliability and the BMW-owned company regularly features in the top 10 manufacturers when it comes to customer satisfaction surveys.
Although the MINI is still regarded as a British treasure, its German parent company brings with it a wealth of expertise in developing cars that feature a solid build quality with materials, fixtures and fittings that are designed to last.
The traditional quirky features on our MINI Electric, such as the toggle switches and circular dials, not only look retro, but they also feel sturdy along with the upmarket cloth, leather-combination upholstery.
The lithium-ion battery and electric motor driving the car are all new to MINI so only time will tell concerning their reliability. But the MINI Electric comes with a standard three-year, unlimited mileage warranty. The battery gains an eight-year warranty.
There is also the option of adding extra policies to the standard warranty as well as including roadside assistance.
Safety & Security
The MINI Electric is packed with safety features and driver assist systems to help protect occupants and other road users alike.
Standard features on the test car include dynamic stability control, anti-lock brakes, acoustic pedestrian protection so the car can be heard from the outside and six airbags.
Driver assist features add traffic sign and speed limit recognition, rear parking distance control, plus automatic emergency braking with pedestrian recognition.
There is an electronic vehicle immobiliser along with an alarm system to protect the car from any uninvited attention.
MINI has ensured the styling of its all-electric model is as similar to the standard car as possible and that’s not a bad thing as it maintains all its funky character and charm. There are EVs that are cheaper and boast a superior driving range, but few have the charisma of the MINI.