Car Reviews

2020 MINI Electric review

The Mini Electric First Edition has arrived in Australia, here’s our first-drive review.

Not only is Australia beginning to see a proliferation of electric cars land on its shores, but there are also now quite a few priced in the ‘affordable EV’ price point around $50,000. That’s cars like the Hyundai Ioniq – Australia’s cheapest EV – the Nissan leaf – one of Australia’s veteran EVs now in its second-generation – and this all-new Mini.

Thing is, this Mini is a three-door and has the lowest driving range of the lot of them.

It is, however, a very nicely constructed and quality feeling machine. And it will have plenty of brand appeal to some. It rolls down the line at Mini’s Oxford plant in the UK and is based on the Mini Cooper S. Rather than being a new electric platform car (like the Leaf), it’s replaced the normal petrol driveline bits with a battery and motor.

That makes it a familiar car with an unfamiliar lack of sound and ownership experience. You plug it in often at home and never visit a servo, and don’t bother thinking of long-distance trips. But it’s also one of the most enjoyable Mini’s to drive.

How much does it cost?

Pricing is set at $54,800 before the on-road costs, or $59,900 driveaway. It’s almost a $15k premium over the Cooper S, and around $5000 more than the Ioniq or Leaf. It is cheaper than the Hyundai Kona EV or Tesla Model 3, but they’re larger cars with much longer driving range.

As with most Minis, standard equipment is good. You get leather trim seats, heated front pews, very unique and aerodynamically sleek 17-inch alloys, 8.8-inch infotainment screen with sat nav and Apple CarPlay, 5.5-inch digital driver’s display, head up display, wireless phone charging, 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera.

Safety comprises of AEB, airbags, and electronic stability and traction controls, but there’s a lack of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, which is a distinct omission considering rivals in this price range offer them.

What’s the interior like?

If you’re familiar with the Cooper, then the Mini Electric won’t be anything new. It’s a nice compact cabin, with quality upholstery on the seats and slick piano black elements throughout. The central piece is a circular infotainment system that’s rather unique and it looks good too – nice graphics, quick to use (via touch, though there’s a rotary controller) and clear even in bright sunlight. That’s likely because the vision out of the Mini, though fine, is a little tighter due to its styling and short stature, so not much glare shines through the glasshouse.

The rear is pretty tight and no surprise given it’s a three door. The front is much better, with good legroom and shoulder width between the seats. Comfort from the seat padding is supportive and there’s an armrest that can be shared.

New to the Mini Electric is a digital driver display dash measuring 5.5-inch across. It’s suitably high-tech looking and while there are 12.0-inch units in some new cars, the smaller display fits in very nicely to the Mini’s proportions. It also shows the current charging status through when plugged in. The head up display is ok, but it’s not projected onto the windscreen and uses a little plastic flip-up screen instead.

What’s the electric motor like?

The main thing to know (and be comfortable about) is this Mini has a 233km driving range. That’s due to a small battery 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery which fits underneath the floor in a T-shape. It’s a logical solution to fitting a battery into an ex-combustion vehicle’s platform. Energy is delivered to a single front-mounted electric motor producing 135kW and 270Nm of torque to the front wheels.

With acclaimed 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds the Mini Electric feels predictable zippy in use, and not just to the usual 60 and 80km/h speed limits. It’ll overtake fast at those speeds and continues onwards to a bout 110km/h before the gusto gives up. That’s more than enough for the predicted city-bound use most Mini’s will be subjected to.

What’s it like to drive?

While Mini says the range is 233km (WLTP tested), the car knows better than to simply state the maximum range at all times. Instead, it will monitor current conditions – like if it’s cold and you’re using the heater and heated seats – and adjust the range. For us, our fully charged test car said we had 129km range when we hopped in, a testament that whoever had been driving it last was giving it the full beans.

We proceeded to cautiously make our way up Mount Dandenong in Victoria – a hard test on an electric vehicle’s batteries in itself – and realised that there was plenty of range in reserve once the car figured it wasn’t being wrung by the neck.

Without a motor noisily labouring away upfront, the drive is rather quiet and calm. Road noise is about the only discernible bustle in the cabin but it’s only noticeable at higher speeds – not when zipping around the burbs. There is a little bit of whine from the electric motor outside too, so people know suspect it’s an EV if not from the unique styling alone. In fact, we had more looks driving around in this thing than some hot rods lately like the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Ford Mustang R-Spec – go figure.

Under brakes, the regenerative energy system brushes off speed quickly and the pedal feel is different to a normal car with discs and pads. But it allows for single-pedal driving, so when you come off the go pedal the brakes automatically engage. You can turn this off, but it helps maximise range by regenerating power often.

The ride feels (though without a direct comparison on test) a bit firmer than the Cooper S sibling it is based on. The dampers and springs are all likely firmer due to the added weight from the battery, but it’s still complaint over most bumps and lumps in the road. And for having some fun, the Mini Electric is about as much fun as said Cooper S.

Although the ultimate performance goes to the petrol model, the Mini Electric is a lot of fun to drive. With torque available instantly in the EV, an electronic front differential and a short wheelbase that eats up tight roads, it feels like a well-sorted go-kart.

What about recharging and range?

Our journey continued down the mountain and into Melbourne, where we stopped to grab a quick recharge. We were down to 58 per cent battery after around 100km driving (including some spirited driving) and used a free 22kW charger for 45 minutes. This gave us a 10 per cent top up in battery capacity.

Included with the Mini Electric is a CCS Type 2 charging plug with 5 metre lead. You use this at public charging stations and a normal house outlet at home (unless you install a wallbox charger at extra cost).

Using the most powerful 150kW fast chargers available, recharging time from 0-80 per cent is 35 minutes. Using a general power outlet (GPO) at home, the same recharge will take overnight.

For drivers who don’t need to travel great distances, the Mini Electric range won’t be much of an issue. If you plug it in when you get home or at work, it should always have enough range for most occasions.

And for many who want a Mini, they’re looking for a car that looks as good as it goes, which exactly what the Mini Electric is.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?


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Noel Morrison
Noel Morrison
3 months ago

How can you honestly keep a straight face when you state the electric mini costs about $50,000, then state it actually costs $60000 to drive away?
Could you please state how long it takes for a typical low powered home charger to to from near empty to 100%.

DT
DT
3 months ago
Reply to  Noel Morrison

“Affordable EV price point” caught my eye immediately, affordable at more than double the retail price of a conventional ICEV of equivalent size and capacity for people and luggage?

The pricing difference would pay for a lot of ICEV services and fuel before the EV reached break even point on cost.

Recharging is ridiculously slow and inconvenient, not a country travel option for me.

Greg Lahey
3 months ago

Noel I think you will find that most cars have a recommended retail price and a drive away price so the author isn’t trying to pull a fast one.
Ideally you don’t actually charge an EV to 100% unless you are planning to use it immediately, it shortens the life of the battery if it is left stored at 100% charge. Also that last 20% of charge is only accepted by the battery at a slower rate than when it is being charged between 10% and 80% which is important at public chargers when you are keen to leave and someone else is keen to start charging.
It is easy to work out how long it should take to charge a battery. To take that 32.6 kWh Mini battery from 10% (3.26kWh) to 80% (26.08kWh) you will need 22.82kWh. A 15 Amp powerpoint can produce 3.6kW so it will take 6 hours and 20 minutes and raise your power bill by about $6 (assuming a 26c/kWh tariff)

DT
DT
3 months ago
Reply to  Greg Lahey

“Fuel” cost should be based on liquid fuel without road maintenance fuel excise/tax or adding the planned EV Road Tax replacement for EV owners road use.

And the cost of battery replacement is a future expense, unlike liquid fuel tanks.

Tom
Tom
3 months ago

The ideal car with that range for driving during lockdown.

DT
DT
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Definitely a town use car, but far too expensive.

Alex Rae

Alex Rae