The electric Mini Cooper SE is finally here, and it adds some interesting elements of futuristic design pizazz to the timeless Euro city car. Making 135 kW (181 hp) and offering a range between 235 and 270 km (146-168 mi), the SE aims to bring the Cooper's go-kart handling and premium city car vibe into a new age.
It's a front-wheel-drive three-door that adds a few cheeky touches to the Cooper's typically sassy style, such as little yellow bars and accents around the place, a telltale E logo and a closed-over front grille. And the 16-inch rims have a memorable look, too, featuring an attractively asymmetric design that recalls the power sockets this thing will pull its electrons from.
A cute little thing, then. Not quite as charming as the Honda e, which could easily have been a Jony Ive design, but then the SE offers a better range and thus some genuine short-range touring capability, and the Cooper's design has always had plenty of fans.
The small electric motor sits under the hood, and a 32.6-kWh, T-shaped lithium-ion battery unit sits under the floor. It takes Type 2 and CCS Combo 2 charging plugs up to a maximum of 50 kW, meaning you can get yourself an 80 percent charge in about 35 minutes if you need to plug in on the go.
Performance is a little flaccid in comparison to Tesla's Model 3 – the Cooper SE will accelerate from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 7.3 seconds, a touch quicker than the Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Ioniq, where the cheapest Tesla will get there in 5.6. But Mini says it'll keep up with most things for the first 60 m (200-odd feet) of a drag race, thanks to 270 Nm (199 lb-ft) of always-available torque. Top speed is limited to 150 km/h (93 mph).
There's configurable regenerative braking, a nice new instrument cluster and four driving modes to let you balance your need for speed with your charge level. It's also said to handle like a Cooper should, running the same suspension design as the Cooper S, with a lower center of mass and 145 kg (320 lb) more weight to keep the car flat in the corners thanks to that battery pack.
The new Mini Cooper SE is a fine and decent electric car that'll win buyers on its looks and personality alone. But there's really not much here to set the world on fire, and without official pricing to look at, it's hard to ignore the competition – just about all of which offer a lot more range.
Leave aside the Tesla, and you've still got the Hyundai Kona, whose base model offers vastly more range at 415 km (258 mi). If that's a little Korean-looking for you, there's a touch more Euro flair in the Renault Zoe, which'll go 390 km (242 mi), or the 330-km (205-mi) Opel Corsa-e. Or you could go American with the 383-km (238-mi) Chevy Bolt.
None of these, to be sure, is a Mini Cooper, and you'll get yourself a nicer cabin, a more premium experience and quite probably a better-handling car in the Mini. But that 32.6-kWh battery pack is going to rule the Cooper SE out for a lot of drivers, particularly those that want to get out in the hills and enjoy a nice drive just for the sake of it. With a battery that size, it had better undercut the rest of the market significantly on price and sell itself as a city car.
It's hard to ignore the timing here, with BMW Group CEO Harald Krueger falling on his sword last week, speaking of an industry undergoing "more transformation than in the last 30 years" in his brief four-year stint at the helm. BMW, of course, got out in front of the pack very early with electric cars – perhaps too early – with 2013's i3, which impressed in test drives but proved a tough sell to a market that may not have been warm enough to the idea yet. Under Krueger, the company focused more on the transitional benefits of plug-in hybrids than on building itself up as the electric leader it was at the beginning, and perhaps the lukewarm spec sheet of the Cooper SE is emblematic of the problem BMW hopes to solve by seeking new leadership.
Check out a video below, and fast forward to halfway through if you want to see the actual car.
Source: BMW Group
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