The Mini Cooper has a well deserved reputation as being a fun yet fuel-efficient way of getting around. Well now it’s about to be fun and fuel-free as an all-electric Mini finally enters mass production. So let’s see if the Min-“E” is worth plugging into.
Mini has finally gone electric for real with the 2020 Mini Cooper SE. Now, it’s actually not the first Mini EV we’ve driven, as we spent some time in this Mini E 10-years ago during our 30th season. That was a limited release of just 450 lease-only cars here in the states; but we felt it was the most fun green car we’d driven yet, extremely pleasant, with a nice flutter-like electric sound coupled to good throttle response at all speeds.
And we're pretty sure that there’d be many more to follow. Well, it has taken until now, for this Cooper SE to finally bring the brand into EV primetime.
And we’re not entirely sure what took so long; it’s not a new chassis, but a modified version of the current Cooper S. And the electric motor that powers it, comes from the BMW i3; mounted up front right where the gas engine would be.
But, since battery placement was not a part of that original design, Mini engineers were left with fitting them wherever they could, mostly where the fuel tank and transmission would be.
32.6-kWh’s worth means only 110–miles of range; not much more than that original Mini E.
And while that may be lower than what we’d like to see, there’s no denying the transformation has driven the Mini fun-factor higher than ever; which is why most people buy a Mini in the first place.
So, even though you can’t venture too far afield, darting in and out of urban traffic is still a joy. Same single-joint spring strut suspension up front and multi-link rear as in the Mini Cooper S; with unique tuning of course.
Therefore, lots of feedback from every aspect of the car, and even more heightened throttle response than with a gas engine. It’s every bit as engaging, if not more so, than the Volkswagen eGolf. And that’s saying a lot.
That electric motor has a 135-kW output. That means you’re sending about 180-horsepower to the front wheels, a little bit less than what the Cooper S has to offer. But between the absence of engine noise, and near instant acceleration, it feels more powerful.
Not bad considering it’s also about 300-lbs. heavier. Though the bulk of that weight is not over the front wheels, but low and centered in the chassis. We gauge 0 to 60 at 6.9-seconds. Top speed is 93 miles-per-hour.
There are just 2-modes for adjusting regen braking; neither of which are aggressive as those that allow for total one pedal driving.
A few Aero enhancements have been performed outside to make it more efficient; the grille is mostly closed off, and the rear bumper is new. Not to mention the light alloy wheels, which are just plain cool looking, as well as the splashes of yellow trim.
Ride height has been raised about half an inch, as batteries hang a little lower than the gas tank.
Otherwise, it’s the same lovable bulldog shape, with wraparound glass, wide stance, and short overhangs that we’ve come to know and admire.
A 7.4-kW onboard charger allows for full level-2 charging in as little as 4-hours at home; DC fast charging can take you to 80% in just 35-minutes.
Even with batteries being mounted where they are, there’s still a surprising amount of passenger and cargo space; 7.5 cubic-ft. behind the split-folding rear seatbacks, with a max of 25.8. Along with the same hipster vibe that always has most of us thinking we were mistakenly let into some club that is way too cool for us.
The SE comes feature rich too. Navigation on the central 6.5-inch display is standard; as are heated front seats, a dynamic digital instrument cluster with the customary EV-specific displays, and a leather multi-function steering wheel.
There’s also a different heater that uses less energy. And yes, there’s still a Sport mode; in addition to Mid and the 2 Green modes.
Government Fuel Economy MPGe Ratings are 115-City, 100-Highway, and 108-Combined.
For an almost perfect Energy Impact Score; 0.2-barrels of yearly petroleum consumption, and no CO2 emissions.
With three trim levels, the Mini SE starting price is just $30,750; minus whatever government incentives you can get from there. Mini says that makes it the most affordable premium EV you can buy, and we agree.
With only just over a 100-mile range, we thought it would be difficult to get overly excited about this 2020 Mini Cooper SE EV. But, as the BMW i3 is no longer sold here; we found the Cooper SE to be without a doubt the coolest of the current EV options. Much like every other Mini, the numbers don’t always add up, but whenever you’re behind the wheel, it’s just plain fun.
Range: 110 miles
0-60 mph: 6.9 seconds
EPA (MPGe): 115 City / 100 Highway / 108 Combined