New MINI Electric Convertible prototype review
This one-off convertible gives us a taste of what's to come when the next-generation MINI Electric arrives in the UK
While electric-car makers continue to focus on volume models, cabrios and sports cars are being pushed down the pecking order. But even as a one-off, the Electric Convertible has us excited for what’s to come; wind-in-the-hair thrills and typical MINI handling, plus zero local emissions. When a future all-electric MINI Convertible emerges, it’ll be a very pleasant driving and ownership experience based on our quick test of this car.
Manufacturers often roll out wild concept cars previewing models that’ll never see the light of day. A handful are closer to production, while others – like this one-off MINI Electric Convertible – are visions of the future, with parts from the present.
The existing MINI Electric has been on sale since 2019, and has only ever been offered as a three-door hatch. But the brand has already promised the all-new next-generation model, due in 2023, will offer a Convertible version by the middle of the decade. This then, is designed to give us a taster of what’s to come.
While it might look like a normal, petrol-powered MINI Convertible, the underpinnings are more closely aligned with those supporting the Electric Hatch; the body of that car, we’re told, already has the required strengthening for the lack of roof to not adversely affect handling. Space for the batteries is catered for, too.
The core ingredients are all carried over unchanged. That means this prototype features the same 32.6kWh (28.9kWh usable) battery and an identical 181bhp electric motor as the current electric version of the Hatch. Range stands at around 140 miles – roughly the same as the hard-top – while charging from 10 to 80 per cent is achievable in less than half an hour via a 50kW charge point.
The powered roof is identical to the one found on the petrol car, and can be operated in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 19mph. Visually, this one-of-a-kind MINI is only identifiable via its subtle acid green details and plug-inspired wheels, plus its not-so-discreet ‘This toy is electric’ branding on the side and back bumper.
MINI says the electric Convertible weighs around 140kg more than an equivalent Cooper S, but with that mass bolted in the floor, there are few discernable character differences to the way this car handles. Sure, it feels different to drive, but in terms of grip, body control and steering feedback, it’s a MINI through and through.
That added mass means the Convertible isn’t quite as quick as the Electric Hatch in a straight line; 0-62mph takes 7.7 seconds - half a second slower - but you’d never know it. With a hit of instant torque, the drop-top feels constantly alert and ready to go.
The biggest difference between this bespoke electric car and the conventional petrol model is the sound – or lack thereof. This was only emphasised on our test route as we followed a turbocharged MINI John Cooper Works into the hills above Lisbon. It’s not that you miss the sound – we weren’t having any less fun – but played out alongside one of the brand’s characterful four-cylinder engines, the EV’s soundtrack is admittedly a little flat.
But consider what this specific car – if it were to be made – might be used for, and that feels immediately less important. It’s an urban runaround designed for fun. It’s a car to be enjoyed with the roof stowed, for short hops and in areas where the small battery and short range aren’t considered too much of a drawback.
MINI bosses insist this is a one-off, though we’re told that if the interest was there, there are no existing constraints preventing the maker building it alongside the standard car at Plant Oxford – for as long as the Electric Hatch remains in production.
|Model:||MINI Electric Convertible|
|Powertrain:||28.9kWh battery, 1x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
|Range:||140 miles (est)|
|Charging:||10-80% in 28 mins @ 50kW (est)|
Take a look at the MINI Electric Convertible on video courtesy of our sister site DrivingElectric...