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First Drive

First Drive: MINI Electric

The story:
BMW has added a fully electric version of the regular Mini, called it the E and kitted it with a fake bonnet vent to look like the quick Cooper S version.
Category:Super Mini
Key rival:Honda E
Mini Electric Level 2
Price:£29,900
MPG:4.0 miles/kWh
Emissions:0g/km
On sale:Now

BMW has further swollen the ranks of battery electric vehicles with an electric version of the Mini.

Only available in three-door form, the Mini Electric has a range of 140-145 miles, according to the WLTP measure, from a 32.6kWh battery. However, Mini says the usable capacity of the battery is more like 28.9kWh. This means the Mini should give about 4.0 miles per kWh, which is pretty efficient by today’s EV standards.

BMW’s engineers have cleverly fitted the battery into the Mini with minimal detrimental impact to the interior space. In fact, the boot space is unchanged from the petrol or diesel Mini at 211 litres. What is marginally impacted is the rear-seat headroom, which is limited for anyone over 5ft 10 because of the rear seats sitting higher up due to them being on top of the battery pack.

First Drive-March 2020-MINI Electric-Image 11Charging capability is up to 50kW which gives the Mini a 0-80% charge time of 35 minutes, although a full (0-100%) charge from a 7kWh home charge box will be just over four hours.

The battery’s power is fed to a 184hp motor – the same as that in the BMW i3 S – which results in a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds. This makes the Mini Electric quicker than its main rivals, the Honda e, Peugeot e208, Renault Zoe, Vauxhall Corsa-e and VW e-Up, and goes some way to justifying the car’s slightly higher price and smaller range.

Indeed, pace and dynamics are its main selling point, aside from the obvious company car tax advantage. It’s also the reason the car looks like a Cooper S, with its (admittedly fake) bonnet vent and sportier front bumper.First Drive-March 2020-MINI Electric-Image 1

To drive, the Mini Electric is remarkably similar to the Cooper S too. That’s to say, it is quick and nimble, particularly in Sport mode, which sharpens up the throttle and adds a little weight to the steering. The typical electric car instant-go suits it and makes nipping into gaps in traffic around town really easy. The electric version, like the petrol Cooper S, is fitted with firm suspension to help that sporty feel, but the car doesn’t ever feel uncomfortable.

What is different is the lack of engine noise, which means you need to keep a closer eye on the instruments for an indication of how fast speed is building.

Alongside Sport mode, there’s also a Mid, Green and Green+, which as you’d guess improve the efficiency and decrease performance. Mini offers a choice of two regeneration modes, the more aggressive of which will very nearly bring the car to a halt and therefore almost allow one-pedal driving.

On our test we saw a efficiency figure of 3.7miles/kWh, which would give a range of 107 miles. That’s some way off the 142 miles claimed, but in the Mini’s defence this route was driven in cold weather and mostly in Sport. A worst-case scenario.

If that range fits for your typical routes, then it’s difficult to see why you’d pick the petrol Mini, particularly as a company car with the tax benefits of the EV.

tristan young

The verdict

A seriously attractive, and fun, near-hot-hatch proposition for those who don’t need to do regular long distances, and as with all EVs, it is incredibly attractive on the tax.