MINI Electric review
The MINI Electric is a fun, fast and chic small electric car, but its relatively modest driving range may put some buyers off
- Sharp handling
- Adequate performance
- As practical as petrol model
- No cable storage
- No five-door model
- Relatively short range
|Car type||Electric range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||140-145 miles||4hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||28mins (10-80%, 50kW)|
Just a year after it launched in 2020, the MINI Electric was refreshed to match the rest of the range, adding new customisation options and updated infotainment. It has now been 20 years since the first modern MINI arrived and MINI is aiming to double production of its electric hatchback with the 2021 model.
The biggest changes to the 2021 MINI Electric are cosmetic. Immediately you’ll notice the new grille, which replaces the grey panel of the first generation. Instead, like the updated petrol-engined versions, the Electric gets a taller, wider grille with a colour panel and a black rim. There’s also the option of a ‘multitone roof’ that combines several layers of paint you can customise – however that's exclusive to the Collection Edition model. But you can now add a heated steering wheel, roof rails and adaptive cruise control to Level 2 trim, while there’s a light grey leather upholstery option for Level 3 cars.
Inside, the MINI Electric’s infotainment was also upgraded, with the 8.8-inch touchscreen getting better graphics and split-screen functionality. The five-inch driver's display remains the same. But, being a MINI, the Electric is available with an optional Navigation Pack including Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto), while Navigation Plus now includes a head-up display and wireless charging. Overall, interior quality is still excellent, even if the buttons on the steering wheel feel slightly cheap, which is made worse by the fact they’re one of your main contact points in the car.
The rest of the MINI Electric is unchanged, which in some respects is good news and others less so. First and foremost, it's still fun to drive, with the 181bhp and 270Nm of torque produced by the front-mounted electric motor enough to propel the small electric hatchback from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. The car is also very responsive when you need to make quick manoeuvres like overtaking or exiting junctions.
It feels agile, acceleration is brisk and the steering is sharp and heavy, if lacking the more organic and intuitive feel (and tiny turning circle) of the Honda e. The MINI also gets a clever traction-control system that prevents the wheels from spinning when you accelerate hard without neutering the power on offer, so it's easy to make good use of the hearty performance without the traction issues that can arise from electric cars' strong torque.
The MINI's regenerative braking system is easy to get used to. The milder of the two settings isn't much different to engine braking on a petrol or diesel car, while the much stronger mode is aggressive enough to allow for 'one-pedal driving' around town. Ride comfort is a little on the firm side, though. While the damping prevents any uncouth jarring from the suspension, the MINI still thumps heavily over potholes and is a touch wince-inducing over compressions as well. Still, it's a compromise that most will be more than happy to make for the car's appealingly enthusiastic pace and handling.
The problem for some will be the relatively modest range on a full charge. MINI quotes between 140 and 145 miles from the 32.6kWh battery, although in reality you’re looking at closer to 120 miles in normal driving – or less in cold weather. Having said that, MINI has developed its own electric motor and put real emphasis on efficiency. That’s helped by the Green and Green+ driving modes, the latter of which will switch off the heated seats and air-conditioning to save energy. And 50kW rapid charging capability can get the battery back to 80% in under an hour.
Our drive on mostly rural UK roads returned efficiency of 3.5 miles per kWh, which works out at over 100 miles' total range, despite quite a few faster sections in wet conditions. It bodes well for being able to get close to the claimed range in warmer months, especially if you spend a lot of time around town. That’ll be plenty for those with a short commute and access to a home wallbox, but buyers looking for closer to 200 miles of range are better served by models like the Renault ZOE, Peugeot e-208 or Kia Soul EV.
The other issue that remains unresolved is that you can't get the MINI Electric as a five-door hatchback; it's three-door only, so while the two-seat rear bench will be fine for occasional use, it's awkward to get into and you're certainly not going to want to deal with fitting car seats in the back. Between that and the small boot, it's safe to say this car isn't aimed at those with kids. For a more detailed look at the MINI Electric, read on for the rest of our in-depth review…