It might not have the same impact as the original Mini, but the new Cooper SE is an important model as it allows the BMW-owned brand to enter the electric era. It’s labelled as being the “first purely electrically powered premium small car” (what about the BMW i3?) and combines just about everything we like about the Mini with a zero-emissions powertrain.
The design is typical Mini and it echoes the concept car introduced in September 2017 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Those bright yellow body accents on the front grille and side mirror caps denote this isn’t an ordinary Mini, much like the funky alloy wheels essentially carried over from the showcar. The absence of an exhaust system is another telltale sign the car doesn’t have an internal combustion engine (ICE), and if you’ll ever see its underside, you’ll notice it’s mostly closed to reduce aerodynamic drag.
At the heart of the Mini Cooper SE is an electric motor located underneath the bonnet where you’d normally find a petrol or even a diesel engine. It produces 181 bhp channelled to the front wheels promising to lend the car that go-kart feeling thanks to an “innovative driving dynamics system with wheel slip limiting close to the actuator.”
As with every other electric car out there, the torque is available right from the start. With 199 pound-feet on tap, the Mini Cooper SE goes from 0 to 37 mph in 3.9 seconds and needs 7.3 seconds to complete the 0-62 mph task. Interestingly, Mini says the all-electric hatchback can keep up the pace “effortlessly” with ICE-powered sports cars over the first 60 metres (nearly 200 feet). Flat out, it will do an electronically governed 93 mph.
Installed in the floor is a 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack with enough juice for 146 to 168 miles. Mini points out the info about range “has already been calculated based on the new WLTP test cycle and adapted to NEDC for comparison purposes.” To “fill up” the battery, the charging port is located above the rear wheel on the right side, so exactly where you’ll find the fuel cap on a standard Mini. It takes two and a half hours to recharge to an 80% level with a charging capacity of 11 kW and three and a half hours to 100%. From a fast-charging station that allows 50 kW charging, you’ll only need 35 minutes for an 80% charge.
In regards to practicality, you’ll be happy to know the Cooper SE offers the same 211-litre cargo volume as the conventionally powered three-door model. Fold down the backrests and you get 731 litres, which again is on a par with the regular Mini. The new electric derivative sits slightly higher (+18 mm or 0.7 inches) to provide additional ground clearance for the battery mounted in the floor.
The battery pack has added some weight compared to a regular Mini, but it’s partially offset by the electric motor as it’s lighter than the three and four-cylinder engines you’ll find in a traditional model. As a consequence, the Cooper SE is only about 145 kilograms (320 pounds) heavier than a three-door Cooper S fitted with the Steptronic transmission.
To entice buyers, Mini will throw in a lot of standard goodies: LED headlights, two-zone automatic AC, 6.5-inch infotainment with navigation, and even auxiliary heating. At an additional cost, there’s a bigger 8.8-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, along with a choice of four exterior and interior packages featuring different exterior finishes, wheel designs, seat upholsteries, and interior trims.