Iconic, fun-to-drive hatchback now with green credentials.
What we have here is a rather special electric car from the house of the iconic British brand, Mini. Christened ‘Cooper SE’, it comes with the promise of sporty performance and Mini’s legendary go-kart-like driving manners. We drive around the heart of Mumbai to know what Mini’s first all-electric hatchback is all about.
What is it like to drive?
Mini has delegated a 32.6kWh battery pack (28.9kWh net capacity) to power its electric motor which puts out 184hp and 270Nm of torque, 8hp and 10Nm lesser than the internal combustion engine (ICE) Cooper S. The instantaneous responses from its electric motors in the real world, however, more than make up for its performance deficit on paper. There isn’t a multi-speed gearbox nor is there any turbo lag to tackle, and, as a result, when you want sudden bursts of acceleration, the Cooper SE zips ahead with all the motor’s ready torque transmitting to its front wheels. Adding drama to its fuss-free acceleration is a hint of torque steer and some tyre chirping under hard acceleration, before the ESP regulates wheelspin.
There is a Green+ mode to enhance the range, however, it turns off climate control, hence it isn’t a setting owners are likely to dial. The Sport mode makes the accelerator a tad sharper, compared to the Mid and Green modes, which feel reasonably quick on their own. The absence of a growling intake and a booming exhaust doesn’t captivate your aural senses like its ICE version, but the Cooper SE’s ability to whizz past traffic in complete silence is a very unique experience, lending the child-like Mini a mature, serene approach.
Offers two regeneration levels; both allow one-pedal driving.
And each time you decelerate, its battery converts some of the kinetic energy into electrical energy and recharges its battery. There are two levels of regenerative braking to speak of – retardation in the first level feels natural and it’ll shed speed gradually; the second level is very aggressive and the reduction in speed feels similar to strong braking. Both modes allow for one-pedal driving, wherein the car will even come to a complete halt without the need to depress its brake pedal.
The Cooper SE is derived from BMW’s UKL platform, which also underpins its ICE siblings. The electric version gains 145 kilograms compared to the 3-door Cooper S hatchback on account of its heavy T-shaped battery which is placed beneath the cabin. Its weight balance now shifts towards the rear, because its electric motor is actually lighter than the combustion engine. The placement of the battery further reduces the Mini’s center of gravity (CG) by 30mm; so this shift in weight balance and a lower CG have made it even more chuckable than the already go-kart-like ICE Cooper S.
The quick ratio steering is one of the most direct and communicative electric power steering units out there which allows you to precise control, and this car pivots around its axis with the finesse of a ballerina. The 17-inch wheels do a better job of bump absorption than the Cooper S JCW riding on low-profile 18-inchers, and it doesn’t feel as skittish as the JCW over mid-corner bumps either. That said, its short-travel suspension is properly stiff and the car will crash through broken roads and potholes. On account of its short wheelbase and stiff set-up, it’ll cross most speed breakers without scraping its underbelly, and what’s reassuring is the fact that Mini has raised the ride height by 18mm and the battery pack is protected by a solid base plate to save it from any untoward incident.
A 25kW DC fast charger tops up its battery from 0-80 percent in about an hour.
On a full charge, this 28.9kWh battery will lend a drive range of around 160-180km. And that’s actually a shame because this Mini is such a hoot to drive that you’ll yearn to drive it up to your favorite hilly sections, and explore great twisty roads. Using a 3-pin home charger, will slow charge the Mini’s battery in a snail-like 15 hours. Opting for 11kW wall box makes a huge difference to charging times, and in just two-and-a-half-hours you can replenish 80 percent of the battery, with the remaining 20 percent taking an hour more. It also supports 50kW DC fast charging which takes around 36 minutes to charge the battery from 0-80 percent.
What is it like outside?
There’s little to tell the Cooper SE apart from the internal combustion engine (ICE) version; the design is unmistakably Mini, and that’s no bad thing. The closed-off grille-area and the vertical air-inlets on the front bumper along with the green number plates give its identity away. Unique to the Cooper SE are yellow ‘S’ badges on the front grille area, fenders and boot; it also gets yellow outside mirror housings, a yellow lip for the alloys as well as an Electric logo on the boot. The funky-looking 17-inch alloys are inspired by a typical British three-pin wall socket. At the rear it retains the Union Jack tail-lamps and a roof spoiler, and the bumper is cleaned up in the absence of muffler tips.
Design for the 17-inch alloys are inspired by a typical British three-pin wall socket.
What is it like inside?
Like its exteriors, its interiors are all too familiar with high quality bits in funky designs and shapes. The front seats are fantastically sculpted, however, those with healthier body frames will find the seat bolstering a bit excessive. Its low seating goes well with its sporty persona, and visibility due to its upright windscreens and low window line, is excellent. The digital readout for the speedo and the level of charge reading are straightforward, and even the information imparted on the infotainment screen is limited, thus leaving geeky owners longing for more EV-related data. The rear seat is best left unused due to the lack of room for adults, however, folding it down liberates a cavernous 731-litre cargo area that’ll be handy during airport runs.
Funky designs and shapes add character to the Mini’s high quality cabin.
Should I buy one?
The 3-door Mini Cooper SE isn’t a car targeted towards the masses; with two doors, limited cabin space and limited battery range, it is quite impractical as a primary, family car and most will scoff at the idea of spending Rs 47.20 lakh ex-showroom on this electric hatchback even if it flaunts the iconic ‘Mini’ badge. But affluent individuals, with multiple car garages, looking for a compact electric runabout are likely to gravitate to the chic Cooper SE’s proposition.
You’ll yearn to drive it on your favourite twisty roads, but its 160-180km range is a bit restrictive.
This all electric Mini sports the right attitude, its oozing with individuality, and it retains the legendary go-kart like driving dynamics. In addition, it also boasts of green credentials and zero tailpipe emissions. With just 160-180km of driving range from its small battery, the Cooper SE will be limited to the city, but its beauty lies in its ability to infuse excitement into mundane commutes, leaving owners grinning ear-to-ear at the sight of every corner. It certainly isn’t perfect, but for the sheer thrills it delivers, and as a secondary car, the Mini Cooper SE deserves a serious consideration.