MINI Electric Convertible prototype review
Prototype MINI Electric provides glimpse of limited-run Cooper SE Convertible going on sale in April
- Fun to drive
- Lots of performance
- Same boot as petrol car
- Very expensive, limited edition
- Same short range as hatch
- Cramped rear seats
|Car type||Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||140 miles (est)||4hrs 45mins (est, 0-100%, 7.4kW)||28mins (est, 10-80%, 50kW)|
You can buy electric cars in almost any shape or size. But one segment that has been left somewhat neglected is the convertible EV. Drop-tops tend to be heavier than their fixed-roof counterparts, and the challenge of adding several hundred kilos of weighty batteries on top of that has so far put paid to the idea of zero-emission cabrios.
But that’s all set to change; MINI has already promised its two-door Convertible will live on through the next-generation model – and that an electric version will join the range in 2025. In the meantime, it’s making 999 EV examples of the existing MINI Convertible, 150 of which are coming to the UK, each priced at £52,500.
Order books for the MINI Cooper SE Convertible (to use its proper name) don’t open until April, but we got an early taster of what an open-air EV might be like to drive in the summer of 2022. That’s when MINI created a special one-off of the existing Convertible – with the hardware from the popular Electric hatch.
The prototype’s ingredients are familiar. It uses the same 181bhp electric motor and 32.6kWh (28.9kWh usable) battery for a similar real-world range to the fixed-roof city car. MINI says this electric Convertible is around 140kg heavier than the equivalent petrol-powered Cooper S, but in reality, you’d never know.
On the road, the MINI Convertible Electric certainly doesn’t feel like a prototype. It’s tight as a drum and, like the petrol Convertible, handles like a hatchback. On-paper performance is affected slightly by the additional weight (0-62mph takes 7.7 seconds – half a second slower than the hard-top), but you’d never notice this in normal driving; the huge torque reserves all but completely mask the extra bulk.
You get the usual MINI trademarks: darty handling and pin-sharp steering, plus good grip and excellent body control. Of all the converted cabrios, the MINI was always going to be the driver’s pick. As well as carrying over the battery and motor, the Convertible also lifts the hatchback’s regenerative braking. It’s still one of the strongest and most intuitive setups we’ve tried – allowing for one-pedal driving that’s easy to modulate and predict.
But of course, while a lot goes unchanged, there’s one element that’s fundamentally different: the roof. MINI says the Convertible EV combines “open-top driving fun with clever functionality”. Mostly marketing hyperbole, sure, but a powered roof that lowers in 18 seconds (and at speeds up to 19mph) contributes considerably to the car’s overall personality.
That roof can be opened, closed, or raked part-way back like a sunroof. We spent the entirety of our drive with it stowed away, although like the normal car, the fabric top sits proud just behind the rear seats, so as to not compromise boot space.
Buffeting, with the side windows shut, is non-existent, even at higher speeds. The lack of noise was particularly noticeable – not least because for the most part we found ourselves following a petrol MINI John Cooper Works, whose exhaust let slip more than the occasional pop, crackle and bang. There perhaps isn’t the same sense of theatre in the Electric version, but we think the benefits of a zero-emissions powertrain outweigh the drawbacks of the muted soundtrack.
And that’s the thing; for what this car might be used for – short, urban journeys, or holiday rentals on Mediterranean islands – we can think of few models we’d rather be driving. With the sun beating down and the wind in your hair, the silent, effortless performance mated to the pointed, engaging handling, is quite a compelling combination.
This prototype offers a driving experience that’s familiar, yet different – and perhaps even better with the roof off – so we’re very glad to hear more people will get to experience that, even if it’s just 999 worldwide. Whether or not you think it’s worth its eye-watering £52,500 price tag is entirely up to you.