Mini unveils first mass production electric car

by Autocar India 10 Jul 2019


Mini’s long-awaited first attempt at a mass-production electric car has been revealed, mating the brand’s classic three-door hatchback with an electric powertrain that offers Cooper S performance in a package claimed to be more affordable than every rival.

It has been dubbed the Mini Cooper SE in global markets; but the brand has chosen to retain the Mini Electric name in the UK to avoid confusion and clearly differentiate it from the standard range. However, Cooper S badges will remain (alongside new 'E' badging) to denote its performance level.

The most significant development is the car’s relatively low price point and is said to be less than an ‘equivalent spec level’ petrol Cooper S. 

Electric Performance
Mini claims development of the car involved balancing the car’s ability to travel an acceptable city distance on a single charge with the desired performance level and aggressive price point.

The resulting compromise is a WLTP-certified range of 235-270km; about the same as the Honda E, albeit less than the model's more mainstream rivals – such as the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e. It achieves this through a powertrain taken from the BMW i3s that makes 184hp and 270Nm of torque. This is mated to a 32.6kWh battery mounted beneath the passenger seat in a T-shape. Unlike the BMW, the motor in the Mini powers the front wheels only. The resulting performance is strong for its class: 0-100kph in 7.3sec, with a 150kph top speed. Mini says it is also capable of fast-charging from 0-80 percent in 35min via a 50kW charge point. Via an 11kW wall box, 0-80 percent charge can be achieved in 150min – or 210min to full.

The firm insists that the compact battery and modest range results in a car that rides and handles as a Mini should. The standard car’s three driving modes – Green, Mid and Sport – are retained, while there is a new, more effective traction-control system (dubbed ARB) said to stop the front wheels from either spinning power away or losing grip.

Looking Traditional
The Mini Electric’s exterior styling sees the three-door Mini adapted with unique details rather than receive a totally new look. Product manager Chris Himsworth told our sister publication, Autocar UK, that the decision to adapt an existing shape over something unique was always intended.

“We always wanted this car to look conventional,” said Himsworth. “Other EVs can be quite polarising, and the customers are put off by the design. But we’re hoping the familiar character of the Mini, combined with the benefits of electric drive, will be a strong draw. Customers can make their Mini Electric stand out more or less by their choice of colour and wheel combinations.”

The standout change at the front is the grille – a blanked-out grey-and-yellow design that adds 17mm to the length of the car thanks to pedestrian safety regulations. The brighter hue, dubbed Energetic Yellow, is optional and can be added to the grille, door-mirror caps and wheels – as evident in these pictures. The AC- and DC-charging ports are located where the fuel-filler cap would otherwise be.

Mini claims the model's design changes are deliberately undramatic – partly due to a desire to keep the model at as low a price point as possible, but also to keep traditional Mini customers onside.

On the outside, the front-bumper design of the SE now has a splitter element, while the rear bumper is redesigned, since it no longer needs to accommodate the exhaust. The distinctive wheel design of the model in the pictures is made to look like a British plug-socket; though a variety of more conventional designs are on offer. The Mini Electric also sits 15mm higher than the combustion-engined model to allow clearance for the battery pack.

Cabin Fervour
Interior upgrades are similarly subtle as compared to non-electric Minis, with the focus being on the “instantly familiar”, according to Himsworth. Chief among these is the new digital dial display, seen on a Mini for the first time. It displays the car’s speed, range, power reserve and charging status – though the displays are not configurable. It will be rolled out across the rest of Mini’s range in 2020. The cabin also gets yellow cabin detailing. 

The car gets an electric handbrake (a first for a three-door Mini) and the only other difference is the new toggle switch for the multi-level brake-regeneration system. The firm says that the interior and boot space is largely unaffected by the new powertrain.

Trim Talk
Three trim levels will be offered – all yet to be named. The base car gets a dual-zone aircon, LED lights, the digital instrument display, cruise control and three years of free Apple CarPlay. It also gets a satnav with real-time traffic data capable of locating available charge points in the vicinity.

The mid-spec trim level includes new kit such as keyless entry and start, heated seats, the driving assistant pack, part-leatherette trim, a rear-view camera, parking sensors and an armrest.

The top-spec trim brings with it a larger 8.8-inch ‘XL’ infotainment screen, full-leather upholstery, a panoramic glass sunroof, adaptive matrix LED lights, a head-up display and a Harman Kardon sound system. No details of the car’s warranty have been released, but Mini claims it will be 'in line' with that of the BMW i3. 

The Mini Electric will make its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, with production commencing in November. The firm has managed to prepare its Oxford plant to handle production of electric and combustion-engine models down the same line. The firm will also prioritise volume-selling EV markets such as China and the US for deliveries.

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