In-depth reviews

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

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5

Price
£27,520 - £33,920
Fuel Type:
Electric

Pros

  • Sharp handling
  • Adequate performance
  • As practical as petrol model

Cons

  • No cable storage
  • No five-door model
  • Relatively short range
Car typeElectric rangeWallbox charge timeRapid charge time
Electric140-145 miles4hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)28mins (10-80%, 50kW)

MINI was running pilot projects with electric versions of its three-door hatchback as far back as 2008, and while the Countryman plug-in hybrid SUV, its first electrified production car, arrived in 2017, this is the really significant one: the MINI Electric. Even the simple name suggests a punctual significance to this model, so it had better be good...

Under the unmistakable bodywork, the Electric gets a 32.6kWh battery pack paired with a 181bhp electric motor that powers the front wheels. The batteries are mounted under the floor, where the petrol car’s transmission tunnel sits, so there’s no difference in space or practicality compared to the conventional hatchback. Conveniently, it also means MINI can build the electric version on the same production line as every other model that rolls out of its Oxford factory.

Familiarity is the name of the game when it comes to the MINI Electric. Unlike its close rival the Honda e, the MINI is best viewed as a variant of the conventional car rather than a standalone model in its own right. It feels very similar from behind the wheel; the obvious change inside is a new digital dashboard lifted from the MINI John Cooper Works GP hot hatchback.

It’s not as customisable or visually appealing as similar setups from Audi or Volkswagen, but it fits right in with the MINI’s high-tech feel. The central screen, which sits inside a large roundel, is unchanged, and it remains frustrating that MINI won't offer Android Auto smartphone connectivity.

Elsewhere, the MINI Electric feels nicely screwed together, with a wide range of high-quality materials and a neat dashboard design. There are flashes of yellow on the fascia and gearlever, as well as some unique trim on the seats, but otherwise it’s business as usual. Some will love this, while others will pine for the individuality offered by cars like the fantastically quirky Honda.

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 that this car isn't aimed at those with young kids.

But, as with most MINIs, the Electric shines on the road. It feels agile and responsive; 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. 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 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, 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.

Our drive on mostly rural UK roads returned efficiency of 3.5 miles per kWh, or over 100 miles despite quite a few faster parts 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 other models like the Renault ZOE, Peugeot e-208 or Kia Soul EV.

For a more detailed look at the MINI Electric, read on for the rest of our in-depth review...

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