- Great fun to drive
- Reasonable starting price
- Iconic image
- Limited range
- Cramped rear seats
- Small boot
Range (WLTP): 140-145 miles Top Speed: 93 mph 0 to 62: 7.3 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3.1p
The Mini Electric has only been on sale for a little over one year, but in 2020 it was already 12% of Mini sales. It is expected to hit 17% of Mini sales in 2021. Despite the newness of the Electric, Mini has already refreshed it along with the entire range. The changes are not enormous and are mostly cosmetic. But the Mini has a warm place in most British people’s hearts, and the rebirth under BMW Group control gave the brand a new lease of life, with popular looks and driving dynamics. The question is, does this still transfer over to an electric drivetrain?
Price and Options
The Mini Electric has not changed noticeably in price or specification with the 2021 facelift, because it was already sub-£35,000 so didn’t need to be adjusted to maintain eligibility for the UK plug-in car grant. The underlying platform remains identical, with a 184hp, 270Nm motor and small 32.6kWh battery. The motor is the same as the BMW i3s, but drives the front wheels in the Mini Electric rather than the rear ones in the i3. The battery is also smaller than the 42.2kWh one in the current BMW i3 range.
There are still three main trim levels, too, which Mini calls Levels 1, 2 and 3, making it clear that there is a hierarchy involved. Mini has also added a “Collection” version, which is basically the Level 3 with some different colour choice options, including a multitone roof. Standard across the range is satellite navigation, sports seats, and cruise control. Level 2 adds a “Comfort Access System”, which makes unlocking the car easier. Level 2 also includes Driving Assistant, folding mirrors, a central armrest, rear parking sensors and camera, and front heated seats. Level 3, which was the one we had for review, adds matrix LED headlights, front parking sensors, a Harmon Kardon Hi-Fi, a Head-Up Display, connected navigation, a panoramic glass sunroof, and parking assistance. The Collection has the same spec, but the panoramic sunroof is an option rather than standard.
Unlike some manufacturers, Mini varies your colour choices between levels. You just get the option of grey or silver for Level 1. At Level 2, you can also choose black, red, and green. For Level 3, there is one more choice called “MINI Yours Enigmatic Black”. Our car was the standard Midnight Black, though, so the other black will have to remain an enigma. You can also optionally choose yellow wing mirrors at every Level. Our car came with this and we think it adds an extra edge to the appearance.
You get a huge range of wheel choices, too. There are 16in and 17in alloys at every Level. Level 1 gets three options, Level 2 has five options, and Level 3 six. Our car came with Tentacle Spoke black 17in wheels, which are the standard wheel for Level 2 but an option for Level 3. We rather like them.
Despite there being no variation in drivetrain, there is a sizeable £6,000 range in price from Level 1 to Level 3, and £500 more for the Collection, although all cars still receive the reduced £2,500 government plug-in grant. Including this, the basic Level 1 car only costs £26,000, which is perhaps why this car features in so many TV spots on trying out EVs for the first time, because at this price it is one of the most affordable EVs on the market.
However, the price goes up to £28,000 for the Level 2, £32,000 for the Level 3, and £32,500 for the Collection version, which is as much as you would pay for a Hyundai Kona Electric or Kia e-Niro 2 Long Range, with 300 miles and 282 miles of range respectively. So while the Mini Electric Level 1 is quite reasonable, the higher Levels really trade on their BMW brand, Mini heritage, and trim specification.
The new Mini Electric is supposed to be a facelift, but it is quite hard to see what has changed compared to the previous generation. The updates are very subtle. The front now has this intake behind the number plate, and the air intake below that is mildly different too. The separate side lights at wheel level have been replaced by small air intakes as well.
Mini appears to have downplayed the obviousness of the electrification logos. There is still an E logo at the back, but elsewhere you get an S as found on Cooper S petrol variants. That is pretty much it for exterior changes – all very cosmetic. Otherwise, this looks like any BMW-era Mini. It’s a very popular appearance, so that’s not a problem. Although the new mini is much larger than the 1960s icon, it still has a lot of the same appeal.
Since this is an electric version of a car that was originally petrol only, the interior doesn't hold any surprises. Our Level 3 car has the Chester leather Sport seat option, but you can also choose black leather with this Level. Levels 1 and 2 have cloth seats. But they are all sports seats, with the same overall design. They are extremely comfortable, and in Level 3 guise very classy. Driver and passenger have decent headroom, although not as much as in the tall crossover format we often see with EVs.
The front seats are heated at Level 2 and above, and our review car also had the £250 heated steering wheel option. As you can probably start to see, like other cars from German companies, there are lots of small optional extras that could push the price of a Mini Electric well above the basic sticker, although that won’t affect whether or not it gets the plug-in grant, because the latter is based on trim level pricing, not options. However, there is no option for electrically adjusted seats, which is a rather surprising omission in a car that could cost well over £30,000. In contrast, the panoramic sunroof that is included with the Level 3 may have a manual blind, but the glass retracts via a button.
You get a couple of sizeable cupholders towards the front of the central console, with both USB Type A and Type C connections in front of that and a recess for placing a device. There is a typical 12V car adapter port above these. The glove compartment is reasonably sized. Underneath the central armrest is a wireless phone charging system, which is standard at Level 2 and above. However, it is the same one as the BMW i3 uses, so doesn’t fit the largest contemporary phones such as the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Curiously, Mini has chosen to base the Electric on the two-door coupe version of the car rather than any of its four-door options, such as the Clubman or Countryman. This means that getting into the rear is a real struggle even for a normal-sized adult. If you are bigger than normal sized, you will have real trouble squeezing yourself into the rear seats of this car. Once you’re in the rear, the seats are reasonably comfortable. There is not a lot of knee room but headroom is okay unless you’re over six foot. However, there are only two rear seats, so these have at least been contoured for an adult-sized posterior. They also both have easily accessed ISOfix points. The front passenger seat has ISOfix points too, and you might prefer strapping your kid into that because the rear is so hard to access.
Rear seat passengers don’t have any USB ports for charging their devices, nor do they have access to air vents. In fact, since there are no rear doors, they can’t open any windows for ventilation either. They do get access to three cupholders, however – one in the centre and two either side. So rear seat passengers will be able to remain very well hydrated with a selection of beverages.
Storage and Load Carrying
The Mini Electric has cramped rear seats, and the boot size isn’t any better. With the rear seats up, the capacity is a tiny 211 litres. This is more than the Honda e, but less than the BMW i3, and most hatchbacks. There is a small space under the boot floor for charging cables, which at least keeps these out the way.
If you drop the rear seats down, which inexplicably is 60/40 divided considering there are only two rear seats, you get just 731 litres. This is a lot less than most hatchbacks, less even than the Honda e, and a lot less than the BMW i3. In other words, you could do a small food shop in the Mini Electric and pick up a few larger items with the rear seats down. But you won’t be taking a family of four with all their luggage on holiday, although there is another reason why you won’t be doing that, which we will discuss later in this review.
The Mini Electric’s control and infotainment systems don’t diverge markedly from the petrol versions. The steering wheel is very conventional, with cruise control buttons on the left and telephony, voice and multimedia control buttons on the right. You get regular stalks for windscreen wipers on the right or lights and indicators on the left. Our car had the £300 Active Cruise Control option, which is an effective adaptive system. The wing mirrors don’t fold automatically, so you need to push a button in the door to fold these.
There is a bank of industrial-sized switches on the central panel, the middle one of which starts the system. There are also switches for altering the level of regenerative braking; turning off traction control; and choosing power level, which has four settings – Sport, Mid, Green and Green+, with the latter turning off everything unnecessary like climate control. Operating the drive control involves a gearstick-like lever in the central console. You pull back for forward, push forward for reverse, and there is neutral in between, plus a button on the end for park mode. You get a separate parking brake, however, which is useful as this car doesn’t appear to have an auto hold option. The air conditioning has its own set of discrete buttons, making this easy to operate when driving. Strangely, considering the Mini’s small size, the climate control has left and right zones.
The instrument display behind the steering wheel is an excellent example of the genre, with a big numerical display showing your current speed in the middle and remaining range on the top right. The battery level has a fuel tank-like percentage semi-circular dial on the right. On the left is a semi-circular dial showing engine power delivery or regeneration. If that wasn’t enough, our Level 3 car comes as standard with a head-up display, which places key information right in your field of vision while driving, including navigational instructions.
Also in the central console is a knob and range of buttons for operating the central multimedia screen, which is 8.8in but sits in a much larger round frame with lighted rim that changes colour to indicate certain functions. It’s very eye-catching and colourful, and so is the sat-nav map. In fact, we found the map a bit too colourful, and lacking in some side street detail, unless you are turning down that street.
The central screen is not touch-operated and is in fact a bit too far away to be easily reached by the driver anyway. There is a DAB and FM radio, plus support for Apple Car Play – but not Android Auto, which was an omission in the BMW i3 as well. The BMW group must have some negotiations still to do with Google. The sat-nav will tell you if you have programmed a trip that is further away than remaining battery but doesn’t tell you how much battery you will have left otherwise. The rest of the menu system is as typically complicated as we tend to expect from German cars. There are lots of options available, but (for example) you have to dig really deep in the structure to adjust the head-up display angle. It’s actually quite hard to find this option and we had to look it up via a YouTube video online. We have had similar problems with Mercedes cars that bury important functions like resetting tyre pressure sensors so deeply you have to consult a video every time you need to access this function.
Performance and Driving
The Mini Electric’s party trick, like most Minis, is how it drives. When we drove the car at the SMMT Drive Zero event in 2020, it was one of the best-handling cars we tried. After spending a more extended period with it, our opinion has only improved. The 184hp motor is a little less powerful than, for example, the Kia e-Niro or Hyundai Kona Electric with 64kWh/204PS drivetrain. But it only weighs 1,365kg, which is light for an EV, so it’s actually faster and corners better.
The Mini Electric can hit 62mph in just 7.3 seconds, which is similar to the basic BMW i3 and the initial version of the Volkswagen ID.3. Unlike some EVs that also share a platform with petrol, the Mini Electric is not the fastest in its model range, with the John Cooper Works version for example considerably quicker.
For pure driving involvement, we would still rate the BMW i3s higher. The front-wheel-drive system also produces some torque steer, although you don’t get a sense of the front trying to jump around, just a slightly muddy sensation of the steering going into slow motion. But it’s not as bad as some powerful petrol front-wheel-drive cars exhibit and doesn’t detract from the Mini Electric’s sense of fun and nippiness.
Overall, this is an extremely fun car to drive, with that go-kart like road grip and cornering we have come to expect from Minis. It also sits confidently at motorway speeds. But that is likely to be a rather unused capability, as we will see in the next section of this review.
Range and Charging
If there is one really major drawback with Mini Electric, it’s the range. That small 32.6kWh battery only provides a WLTP range of between 140 and 145 miles, depending on Level and wheel size. When we drove our press car the 95 miles back from the launch event, much of it down the M40 motorway, even with the Mini Electric on the most frugal Green+ setting we weren’t convinced it would make the entire journey and had to stop for a charge.
We have seen more than one British TV programme where EV newcomers are given a Mini Electric as a first taste of electric driving, and this is virtually setting them up to fail from the outset. The Mini Electric is not the right car for a long journey. On the plus side, at A-road speeds the remaining range display seemed extremely accurate. This is aided by the fact this car has a heat pump as standard across the range, where on many other cars, such as Volkswagen’s, it’s an expensive optional extra. But we still wouldn’t tackle a journey more than 90 miles in one go on a full charge.
However, the small battery does have an advantage when you’re charging. A 7kW wall box only takes around four hours for a full charge, and 11kW is supported too, which drops the time to 3 and a half hours. DC is only supported up to 50kW, but it still only takes 36 minutes to hit 80%. To further assist your public charging needs, Mini also offers a partnership with DCS that includes access to key networks such as bp pulse, Osprey and Instavolt. But you’re not really going to be using this car for visiting your relatives in Scotland unless you’re happy taking a really long time to get there.
The Mini Electric is at least cheap to run. With a 14p per kWh electricity supply, it costs a very reasonable 3.1p per mile. The warranty is typical for a European manufacturer, including a general three-year guarantee plus a much longer eight-year, 100,000-mile guarantee for the battery. The Level 1 and 2 cars are in insurance group 22, while the Level 3 is in group 23. These aren't particularly onerous groups considering the performance available – above the more basic petrol Minis, but less than the really hot versions.
Safety features are reasonable if not exceptional for the Mini Electric. All cars have basic cruise control that also maintains speed going downhill. However, if you want adaptive cruise, it’s a £300 extra, even in the Level 3 trim. Our car did come with this and it worked well.
The Level 2 car adds Driving Assistant, which includes camera-based warnings at low speeds and even brake preconditioning at higher speeds. The Driving Assistant pack also supplies speed limit and traffic sign recognition, plus lane departure warning. Level 3 doesn’t add any further safety features, and Blind Spot Detection doesn’t appear to be available at all.
Overall, the Mini Electric is behind, for example, Korean EVs for the range of safety tech features on offer. So this is a bit of a shorter section than with some cars we have reviewed.
|Price:||Level 1 – £26,000; Level 2 – £28,000; Level 3 – £32,000; Collection – £32,500|
|Range (WLTP):||140-145 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||4 hours|
|Charge time (11kW):||3 hours 30 minutes|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||36 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||11kW|
|Cost per mile*:||3.1p|
|Cargo:||211 litres; 731 litres with rear seats down|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh