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In-depth reviews

MINI Cooper review: a fun and sophisticated EV

The MINI Cooper is a high-tech electric hatch that maintains a premium feel while also being fun to drive

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£23,110 to £42,500
  • Fun dynamics
  • Impressive in-car technology
  • High-quality cabin finish
  • Not exactly cheap
  • Rear-seat access is tight
  • Range is only just acceptable
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Quick verdict

The MINI Cooper SE is not cheap, but it does have that air of sophisticated fun that’s made the reborn brand such a success over the past two decades. Compact dimensions and a modest battery mean that this is not a car that will win prizes for practicality or even EV range – but it oozes quality and has just enough dynamic spark to feel like a MINI. We can’t wait to try the forthcoming petrol-powered versions to see if they offer a similar experience for much less cash.

 

Key specs

Fuel type

Electric

Body style

Three-door hatchback

Powertrain

40.7kWh battery (36.6kWh useable), 1x e-motor

54.2kWh battery (49.2kWh useable), 1x e-motor

Safety

N/A

Warranty

3yrs, unlimited miles

MINI Cooper: price, specs and rivals

MINI recently stretched the reach of its range with its largest-ever model, the new Countryman. But the company is also introducing a fresh generation of its core product, the three-door MINI Cooper – and its SUV sibling’s growth spurt puts this car under more pressure than ever to stay true to the pure ethos of the ‘modern MINI’.

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The latest car, codenamed J01 in electric form, will be available with a choice of this powertrain or a combustion-engined version (F66) with 1.5-litre or 2.0-litre petrol power. But we’re restricted to just the electric car for this first taste of the final production version, after being impressed by a run in a prototype last year.

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MINI tries hard to maintain the links between its modern three-door model and the original car from the sixties – probably harder than it ought to. But the latest reinvention is certainly a neat one – helped, just as the larger-than-ever Countryman was, by the addition of the MINI Aceman five-door EV into the middle of the line-up.

As such, the designers have been able to keep this three-door compact, with roughly the same footprint as the previous generation, while trimming away many of its styling add-ons and panel surfacing to create a small car that manages to mix cuteness with sophistication. Mind you, it’s still more than 20cm longer overall than an electric Fiat 500, so if your overriding priority is a tiny EV then the Italian car may be a better option.

The overall effect of the styling revamp is quite angle dependent; from the front corner the car looks short and squat, as a MINI should. But the side profile reveals how much front overhang has had to be introduced, presumably in the name of crash protection and the myriad sensors, and how lengthy the wheelbase has become to accommodate a larger battery pack.

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The standard kit across the range includes a heated steering wheel, a rear-view camera, cruise control, and satellite navigation. SE models get heated front seats, LED headlights with high-beam assist, a wireless smartphone charging pad, a head-up display and anti-dazzle mirrors. Further options packs (called Levels) can bring larger wheels, a panoramic glass roof, a Harmon Kardon sound system, and electric seat adjustment.

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Additionally, the car is being offered with three cosmetic-focused trim levels. Classic offers a choice of four body colours and two roof colours, plus 16-inch alloy wheels, and a couple of upholstery options. Exclusive expands the roof-colour choice to three, brings a brighter cabin finish, and beefs up the alloys to 17 inches. Sport gets its own mix of body colours, introduces high-gloss black detail elements and cord upholstery, and switches to 18-inch wheels.

Engines, performance & drive

It may be electric only (for now), but the latest MINI Cooper manages to embody the sharp dynamics and fun that have been rolled up in the brand since its reinvention by BMW. In Cooper SE form at least, it’s fast enough and great to drive, but we’d like to try a Classic version with smaller 16-inch wheels, because we found the ride to be a little firm and think smaller wheels might help improve comfort levels. Read more about the MINI Cooper's electric motors, performance and drive…

Range, charging & running costs

The MINI is no better than the class average in terms of range and charging. It trumps the likes of the Abarth 500e, but a range of a little over 200 miles in the real world will still be a barrier for some. Insurance is likely to cost more than the Fiat 500e, but less than for small EV alternatives like the Ora 03 and MG4, while the MINI’s desirability is likely to help it retain more of its value over time. Read more about the MINI Cooper's range, charging and running costs…

Design, interior & technology

Step inside the MINI Cooper, and you’ll find a beautifully finished interior that feels every bit the baby premium supermini its price suggests. It’s also a tech tour de force, with a highly impressive and responsive infotainment system. Of course, there are different styles to be had with the Classic, Exclusive, and Sport trims, which cater for differing tastes. Read more about the MINI Cooper's interior, design and technology…

Boot space, comfort & practicality

The MINI Cooper can seat four adults, but those in the rear will have to forgo most of their grace to get in and out of their seats thanks to the compromises of a three-door bodystyle. The boot remains on the small side, with barely city-car amounts of capacity and no clever touches to make up for the lack of overall volume compared to bigger, similarly priced rivals. Read more about the MINI Cooper's boot space, comfort and practicality…

Safety & reliability

It’s too early to say how safe the MINI Cooper is, given that Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested it yet, but it does come with plenty of standard active and passive safety features, so we expect it should do well. The MINI brand has a decent reputation in the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, so we hope that the latest Cooper continues this trend. Read more about the MINI Cooper’s reliability and safety…

Should you buy a MINI Cooper?

The new MINI Cooper is an EV that somehow manages to feel like a MINI should, with a firm but composed chassis that rewards keen drivers – even if they’ll have to get used to the artificial sounds that try to improve the level of involvement. But in truth, it probably has enough of the modern icon’s DNA about it to satisfy aficionados, while offering them a considerable upgrade in cabin quality, fit and finish.

It may not be the cheapest small car, and it is certainly not the most practical – but modern MINIs have traded on fun and desirability more than these factors, and the Cooper E and SE indeed show every sign of being able to continue that.

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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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