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In-depth reviews

MINI Cooper - Electric motors, performance & drive

The electric version of the MINI Cooper still manages to embody the same driving fun we’ve enjoyed in previous versions

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Electric motors, performance & drive Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£23,110 to £42,500
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Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

MINI Cooper E

181bhp

7.3 seconds

99mph

MINI Cooper SE

215bhp

6.7 seconds

106mph

The question is, can the driving experience of this latest MINI Cooper get even remotely close to the agility and fun offered by so many petrol-powered MINIs over the past 20 years? The answer is yes, albeit with a few caveats.

So far, we’ve only driven the electric Cooper in its most potent SE form. This version has enough instant punch to overcome the car’s weight – nearly 1,700kg – making the MINI feel nippy, if not hot-hatch quick. If you happen to be running in silent mode, without any of the sound effects activated, you’ll be pleased with the refinement, too.

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A three-door MINI has to handle, though, to deliver the ‘go-kart feeling’ so frequently quoted by the car’s engineers. It’s this, perhaps slightly cynical essence of ‘the classic MINI’ that’s hardest to achieve in a car carrying more than double the weight of the original icon.

And yet the MINI Cooper SE has enough agility about it to satisfy most customers. Approach a corner quickly, and the front end tucks in nicely; there’s excellent lateral grip and minimal body roll, so if you’ve enjoyed hugging the inside of a corner in your petrol-powered MINI over the years, you can do the same here. You’re never unaware of the mass involved – the laws of physics simply can’t be ignored – but equally, it’s hard to think of many EVs that are as happy to change direction as this.

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We tried the car on both dry and thoroughly shiny, drenched roads, and were pleased by how effectively the Cooper SE puts down its power. In the wet conditions, stamping on the throttle did induce a bit of understeer as the front wheels started spinning, but in the vast majority of scenarios, this is a vehicle that’s comfortable with its weight and performance – and that is not an easy balance to execute.

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The trade-off for this composure in corners is a slightly firm ride – to the point where we’d like to try a standard Classic car (on 16-inch wheels, rather than our test vehicle’s optional 18-inch alloys) to see how it copes with UK roads. There’s a constant patter on even smooth surfaces and we also noticed some porpoising along soaked motorways, a trait that could quickly become wearisome on longer journeys. MINIs have never been the most soothing of creations, of course, but if you’re looking for an area where it’s clear that engineers have had to compromise to accommodate the weight of a large battery, it’s right here. We’ve yet to try the less powerful Cooper E, but we suspect it could drive a little more deftly because of its smaller battery pack.

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In better news, MINI has nailed the control weights; the steering is a teeny bit on the heavy side for a car that will spend a lot of its time in town, but the response around the straight ahead is reassuringly direct, and the pedal weights and progression are satisfying to use. We would like steering wheel-mounted paddles to allow you to play with the level of brake energy recuperation, though; it’d add another thin veneer of involvement as you’re squirting the Cooper SE along a back road.

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Speaking of which, you may not find much pleasure in the assortment of noises that MINI offers in the cabin to make you feel more involved in what the car is doing. Selected via an ‘Experiences’ menu that also adjust the display on the central infotainment and instrument panel, they range from a classic Cooper’s engine note that graduates into a sci-fi whoosh as you accelerate in the sportiest mode, sounding like a Star Wars pod racer on the overrun. 

They’re entirely synthetic, and sound it. But they do involve you – perhaps not to the same extent as a petrol engine and its exhaust note, but enough to make you aware of when you’re gunning the Cooper SE hard out of a corner, or lifting off and feeding in the brakes when approaching a hairpin. And we’d rather have them than the speaker noise of an Abarth 500e, fun though that car is.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

There are two specs of all-electric MINI Cooper, mirroring the way the petrol vehicles are arranged. The Cooper E has a single front-mounted motor producing 181bhp and 290Nm of torque, for a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds. This version gets a 40.7kWh (36.6kWh useable) battery that’s good, MINI claims, for up to 190 miles of range.

The only version we’ve tried so far is the Cooper SE, which is still front-wheel drive, but its single motor produces 215bhp and 330Nm, so the 0-62mph sprint takes 6.7 seconds. The battery is larger too, at 54.2kWh (49.2kWh useable), so the range increases to as much as 250 miles depending on which spec and wheel size you’re running.

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Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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