MINI Cooper review

MINI Cooper Electric

We get behind the wheel of the next-generation pure electric MINI hatchback…

As the saying goes, you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once. MINIs are a bit like that.

After a lean period on the launch front, this year has already seen the unveiling of the all-new MINI Aceman crossover, and the introduction of the third generation MINI Countryman family SUV.

Now there’s the subject of this road test – the fifth-generation MINI hatch. Or to be precise, the MINI Cooper, as it’s now known.

Built on a new EV platform, there are two versions so far – the Cooper E and SE.

MINI Cooper Electric

Priced from £30,000, the entry-level Cooper E gets a 40.7kWh battery that’s good for 190 miles of range in official tests. Power output is 187bhp, which means it’s capable of a swift 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds.

Splash out on a Cooper SE (from £34,500) and battery capacity increases to 54.2kWh for a range of up to 250 miles. Its 215bhp means it can sprint to 62mph in an even quicker 6.7 seconds.

Just as importantly, the E and SE can be charged at 75kW and 95kW respectively, meaning a 10-80% recharge takes around 30 minutes.

Like the rest of the new MINI family, the Cooper embraces a more minimalist look. There’s no chrome trim, but there’s still that iconic body shape with the wheels pushed out to the corners, plus trademark circular headlights.

MINI Cooper Electric

At the rear, the lights are customisable, so customers can choose between three different light signatures, including the familiar Union Flag option.

It’s paired back inside too, and now the centrepiece is the world’s first circular OLED display.

Serving as an instrument cluster and onboard infotainment hub, the stunning touchscreen is 9.4 inches in diameter. The upper half displays vehicle-related information such as speed and battery status, with the lower area is used for navigation, media, phone and climate.

Frankly, it’s a little overwhelming at first because there’s an awful lot going on there, but we reckon it would all start to make sense after a week or so of ownership. Thankfully, MINI has kept a few signature toggle switches below the touchscreen.

MINI Cooper Electric

The display’s party trick is a range of different ‘Experience’ modes, which change the look of the infotainment system and the car’s driving characteristics.

The default ‘Experience’ mode is referred to as Core – the others are Green, Go-Kart, Personal, Vivid, Timeless and Balance. Whenever you change the mode there’s a corresponding animation and jingle that plays. You’ll either find these quirky or irritating.

There’s are three trim levels (Classic, Exclusive and Sport) – each with its own theme. Classic’s highlights include a 2D knitted textile dashboard covering and black synthetic leather sports seats. Exclusive gets a two-tone houndstooth pattern for its knitted textile trim on the dash panel and perforated sports seats, while Sport delivers multi-coloured knitted textile and black synthetic leather with red stitching.

Premium quality of the cabin has always been a MINI strength. Except for the soft synthetic leather seats, I’d say the new model isn’t quite as classy, with its blend of rough-textured ‘knitted’ fabric made from recycled materials wrapped round the dashboard and door cards, and scratchy plastic surfaces below.

MINI Cooper Electric

There’s also the small matter of rear seat and boot space. Same old story here, because despite being a tad longer, the new MINI is still snug in the back, while luggage space is a modest 200 litres, rising to 800 litres with the rear seats folded.

That said, it is well equipped. Every MINI Cooper comes with adaptive cruise control, a rear-view camera, ambient lighting and a heated steering wheel, for instance.

MINIs are known for their go-kart driving experience, and the EV version doesn’t disappoint. There’s fantastic performance thanks to all that instant torque, while sharp-steering, superb grip and almost no body lean make it feel like it’s running on rails.

That said, some may find the ride on the stiff side, and the handling can get fidgety if you push too far.

Gareth Herincx driving the MINI Cooper Electric

I suspect owners will probably stick to default Core mode with its light steering feel and moderate throttle response, but it’s fun to shift it into Go Kart for short bursts too, with its heavier steering, quicker downshifts and sharper throttle response.

Frankly, there not a huge gulf between the E and SE on the road. If anything, the lighter E (smaller battery) is slightly more nimble, despite having fewer horses. Naturally, the E and SE are particularly easy to drive around town.

Unlike many EVs, the brakes are progressive, while the regenerative system works well, with a good selection of levels.

Gareth Herincx driving the MINI Cooper Electric

It always seems unfair to criticise road and wind noise when reviewing an EV, because obviously it’s going to be more noticeable, but it was higher than expected – especially on poorer road surfaces.

We drove both models back-to-back during an entertaining, sunny day in the Cotswolds. In real-world driving, we’d expect the Cooper E to manage around 160 miles and the SE closer to 200 miles, depending on the weather and location. And, if you drive mainly in urban areas, your range should be closer to the official WLTP figures.

Overall, the retro cool new Cooper is not perfect, but in many ways it’s everything you’d hope for from an electric MINI.

Verdict: The all-new, all-electric MINI Cooper is a worthy descendant of the iconic original. Yes, it’s much bigger, but it still oozes character, puts a big smile on your face, and it’s packed with cutting-edge tech. Job done.

MINI Cooper Electric

MINI UK

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Visitors to the Renault store at Europe’s largest indoor shopping mall will be able to test drive a trio of electrified E-Tech models.

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Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who’s worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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