MINI Electric review
|Car type||Electric range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||140-145 miles||4hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||28mins (10-80%, 50kW)|
MINI has been running pilot projects with electric versions of its hatchback as far back as 2008, and while the Countryman plug-in hybrid SUV was its first electrified production car in 2017, this is the really significant one: the MINI Electric. Even the simple name suggests a punctual significance to this model, so it better be good...
Underneath the unmistakable three-door body, the Electric gets a 32.6kWh battery paired with a 181bhp 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 when it comes to space or practicality compared to the petrol model. Conveniently, it also means that MINI can make the electric model on the same production line as every other hatchback that rolls out of the 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 JCW GP. It’s not as customisable or visually appealing as similar set-ups from Audi or Volkswagen, but it fits with the MINI’s high-tech feel.
The central screen, which sits within a large roundel, is unchanged, and it remains frustrating that MINI refuses to 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 MINI Electric in the five-door hatchback variant; it's three-door only, so while the two-seat rear bench will be fine for occasional use, it is awkward to get in and you're certainly not going to want to deal with car seats in the back, either. Between that and the small boot, it's safe to say that this is not aimed at those with young kids.
But, as with most MINIs, the Electric model 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 (or 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, making it easy to make good use of the hearty performance without the traction issues often suffered as a result of the high torque output on electric cars.
The regenerative braking system is easy to get used to, as well. The milder of the two settings isn't much different to the standard 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. Although 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 MINI's appealingly enthusiastic pace and handling.
The problem for some will be the relatively modest range. 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 conditions. Having said that, MINI has developed its own electric motor and has put real emphasis on efficiency. Our drive on mostly rural UK roads returned efficiency of 3.5m/kWh, or over 100 miles despite quite a few faster miles 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 latest 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.