MINI Electric Convertible prototype review
One-off drop-top MINI Electric shows what the future of open-air EV motoring might look like
- Fun to drive
- Lots of performance
- Same boot as petrol car
- No firm production plans
- 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. And to give us an early taster of what an open-air EV might be like to drive, the brand has created a special one-off of the existing Convertible – with the hardware from the popular Electric hatch.
The ingredients are familiar. You get the same 181bhp electric motor and 32.6kWh (28.9kWh usable) battery, plus a similar real-world range. 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.
A MINI spokesperson told us that while this current-generation Electric Convertible is officially a highly valuable one-off, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be put into production and be built in small numbers for as long as the current Electric Hatch continues to roll down the line at Plant Oxford.
The question is, should it? Absolutely. It’s familiar, yet different – and perhaps even better with the roof off.