Review: MINI Electric (2020)

Rating:

Fun to drive. Interior just as premium as any other MINI.

Very firm ride. 145-mile range will deter some buyers.

MINI Electric (2020): At A Glance

While some manufacturers are taking radical approaches to launching electric cars, MINI is keeping it simple. The MINI Electric is essentially a three-door MINI Hatch, with its conventional powertrain ditched in favour of a 184PS electric motor and 32.6kWh battery pack.

You can choose various options to make it look more like an electric car if you wish (such as the unique plug-like alloy wheels or Energetic Yellow door mirrors), but as standard you’d be hard pushed to distinguish the MINI Electric from a petrol model, save for the lack of exhaust pipes.

The result is a car that should appeal to typical MINI buyers - you don't need to be an early-adopter to buy a MINI Electric. It's also just as fun to drive as a standard MINI, only with all the benefits of electric power, including instant acceleration and a lack of noise.

On the downside, it’s heavier than a normal MINI, meaning it thumps over bumps in the road, but it still provides that go-kart driving experience the brand is known for.

It feels just like a MINI inside, with lots of high-quality materials and quirky features. It's not a particularly practical car, although the batteries haven't hindered boot space at all, meaning there's more loadspace than a Honda E. Not that that's saying a lot.

The MINI Electric has value for money going for it, starting from £24,400 after the Government's plug-in car grant. That's for the pretty comprehensively equipped Level 1 model, equating to around £299 per month on finance. There are no cost options to choose from, either, making ordering a MINI Electric a refreshingly simple process.

It's not a car that caters for long-distance driving, though. Officially it can travel up to 145 miles between charges, meaning you'll be feeling pretty anxious after around 100 miles. Fine for local driving, but you'll have to get acqainted with the public charging infrastructure if you wish to travel further afield.

What does a MINI Electric (2020) cost?

MINI Electric (2020): What's It Like Inside?

The MINI Electric’s interior is just as classy as you’d expect from a MINI. It feels well-built, with lots of soft-touch materials and retro design features.

One feature that’s unique to the Electric is the 5.5 digital display in place of conventional dials behind the steering wheel. This provides the usual necessary information such as speed as well as details on the battery’s charge levels and range remaining. It doesn't look as sharp as similar systems used in rivals, if we're being picky, but at least it's not overloaded with information.

The fairly shallow windscreen can make the MINI Electric feel a bit claustrophobic, especially if you're tall, but the narrow pillars means visibility is actually pretty good. Rear parking sensors are standard on Level 2 models - a useful addition the MINI's small rear screen can make reversing tricky.

While there’s plenty of space in the front, things aren’t quite so good in the back. The MINI Electric is only available as a three-door, meaning passengers will have to clamber into the rear seats. And once they're there, it's quite gloomy. The rear seats really are for kids or occasional use only.

The 211-litre boot is the same size as a regular MINI Hatch. That's nothing to particularly shout about - you get more space in a Peugeot e-208 or Renault Zoe - but it's impressive that the batteries haven't intruded into luggage space.

Refreshingly, there are just three very simple trim levels: Level 1, 2 and 3. All are well equipped, with even the Level 1 featuring navigation (with public charging points programmed in), the aforementioned digital cockpit display and LED lights all round. It certainly doesn't feel basic, although MINI's finding that the majority of early pre-orders are for the top-spec Level 3.

There are no optional extras, either. You can choose from a variety of no-cost options to help personalise your MINI Electric (such as the paint colours and alloy wheels), but everything's included in the three trim levels.

Standard equipment (from launch):

Level 1 features sport seats with double stripe cloth upholstery in Carbon Black, sport leather steeering wheel with multi-function controls, black chequered interior surface, satellite grey headlining, automatic air conditioning, cruise control with brake function, floor mats, fully digital cockpit, ISOFIX child seat attachment, LED fog lights, LED headlights and rear lights, MINI driving modes, Navigation Pack, passenger seat height adjustment, performance control, rain sensor with automatic headlight activation.

Level 2 adds sport seats with back pearl cloth/leatherette upholstery, piano black interior surface, anthracite headlining, comfort access system, Driving Assistant Pack, folding and auto-dimming mirrors, front centre armrest, Interior Lights Pack, MINI Excitement Pack, rear park distance control, rear-view camera, front heated seats, Storage Compartment Pack.

Level 3 comes with sport seats with lougne leather upholstery in carbon black, MINI Yours leather steering wheel, illuminated piano black interior style, adaptive LED headlights with matrix function, front parking distance control, Harmon Kardon Hi-Fi system, head-up display, Navigation Plus Pack, panoramic glass sunroof, parking assistant.

Child seats that fit a MINI Electric (2020)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the MINI Electric (2020) like to drive?

We’ll tackle one of the biggest issues concerning electric car buyers first: the MINI Electric’s range. It can officially cover up to 145 miles between charges, and that could easily drop to little more than 100 miles in the real-world where there’s stop-start traffic and bad weather requiring the use of headlights and an energy-sapping heater.

On the face of it, that’s pretty poor when the cheaper Peugeot e-208 can cover 217 miles from a charge while the Renault Zoe can do 245 miles. But MINI’s done its market research and reckons it’ll be sufficient for many buyers. More than 1.5 million UK households have a second car which never does more than 100 miles a day. The average commute is 26 miles, too, meaning the MINI Electric will make more sense for a lot of people than you might expect.

The MINI Electric uses the same 32.6kwh battery and 184PS electric motor as the BMW i3, albeit powering the front rather than rear wheels. In typical electric car form, it’s pretty rapid, covering 0-62mph seconds in 7.3 seconds - half a second slower than a petrol Cooper S.

It feels quicker than that, though, particularly around town. As with any other electric car, there’s no waiting for the revs to build or the automatic gearbox to drop down, as soon as you hit the accelerator it surges forward with next to no noise. It’s fun, exactly as a MINI should be.

The steering is superb, as we’ve come to expect from MINI, and the Electric’s low centre of gravity means it feels extremely agile. This is an electric car for people who enjoy driving. However, MINIs are generally on the firm side, and the extra weight of the batteries means it’s extremely harsh on broken British back roads. Potholes thump through the car, particularly with the 17-inch wheels of our test car. You might want to consider opting for the smaller 16-inch alloys if ride quality's important.

Drivers can choose from two levels of regenerative braking. With this in the more extreme mode, it’ll slow down quite heavily as soon as you lift off the accelerator, pumping energy back into the battery and meaning you’ll barely have to use the brake pedal around town.

There are also four driving modes, ranging from Green+ (which increases range by reducing throttle response and even limiting comfort functions such as the air conditioning) to Sport, which increases the weight of the steering and offers rapid power delivery. Obviously, which mode you select will probably come down to how keen you are to reach your destination…

Charging is easy, taking around 12 hours using a three-pin socket, or a smidgen over three hours using a 7.4kW home wallbox. Using public chargers, you'll get around 80 per cent charge in two and a half hours using a 11kW AC public charger, or 36 minutes using a 50kW DC rapid charger, such as those found at motorway service stations.