A green Mini
Mini faced a big challenge. An entirely new version is not yet ready, but the platform of the existing model (from 2014) is not designed for electric drive. It is designed for a large internal combustion engine with a small fuel tank, and certainly not for a small electric motor with a large battery.
To solve this problem, Mini made the existing model a bit higher, creating more space for batteries in the bottom. However, this led to a new problem: batteries are heavy and the four-door version (with extended wheelbase) would sag. Similarly, the loss of the roof's load-bearing capacity would mean the convertible would not be sturdy enough to provide the safety and driving pleasure the manufacturer seeks. This is why the Mini Electric is only available as a three-door.
Little has been changed about the design of the three-door, although the model was modernised during the latest facelift in 2018. The Mini still has the cheerful and sprightly look, while many other electric cars have lost character in the pursuit of a modern look. Moreover, in green with brown interior, the test car looks chic and, above all, very British.
Space and equipment
The interior layout is still based on the 1960s original. Most functions are controlled by rocker switches and at the centre of the dashboard is a large round clock. However, that round clock has long since ceased to serve as a speedometer. In fact, behind the steering wheel is a display that shows the speed and other data for the driver. The central round clock therefore houses the display for the infotainment system. Mini has not bothered to make a round screen and therefore uses only a fraction of the available surface area. Therefore, the lettering and virtual buttons are often awkwardly small.
The Mini F56, as this model is called internally, has been gradually modernised and is therefore up to date when it comes to luxury and safety features. However, many things that are standard with other brands are options with Mini. The manufacturer therefore behaves as a "premium brand" and that is not entirely unjustified. The build quality, materials used and the distinctly solid feel are all well above average for a car in this segment.
Front legroom is good, headroom just adequate. Rear space is minimal, but that is true of most cars of this size. The boot is of average size and charging cables can be neatly stowed in a large compartment under the load floor. Despite the fact that an electric motor is much smaller than an internal combustion engine, Mini has not seen fit to create a second luggage compartment ("frunk") under the bonnet.
As mentioned earlier, Mini retrofitted an existing model with electric drive. As the manufacturer did not want to take space away from the interior, the Mini Electric is fitted with a relatively small battery. There is no choice in batteries: the Mini Electric always has a battery with a capacity of 40 kWh, giving a theoretical driving range of 225 km (140 miles). That is significantly less than the range of its direct competitors, especially when the price is taken into account.
That limited range is explained not only by the small battery, but also by the powerful electric motor. To give the Electric the lively character the Mini is known for, performance was chosen over range. Indeed, in standard mode, the car is smooth. In sport mode, the Mini Electric is downright quick and eager. Moreover: power is readily available, leaving behind much stronger cars at the traffic light sprint.
To save energy, a "green" and "green+" mode are available. These still allow effortless driving, although the latter also switches off the air conditioning. Almost regardless of speed, the Mini Electric is very quiet, which is noteworthy because design was obviously going before streamline.
Parent company BMW practically invented single-pedal driving, which is why the Mini Electric is set for single-pedal driving as standard. That means: the more abruptly the throttle is released, the stronger the speed decreases (recovering energy!). The brake pedal is used only in emergency situations. Unlike many other electric cars, the Mini's driver does not feel like he is constantly fighting a resistance in single-pedal mode. Instead, one notices how well the car rolls, as if the wheels are just a little "rounder"!
Of course, single-pedal mode can be switched off, but even then the Mini Electric continues to recover some energy when releasing the accelerator to improve efficiency. Moreover, an orange light on the selector lever then lights up to indicate that this is not a good idea.
With a moderate driving style, the test consumption over a route with inland roads and motorways was 13.4 kWh per 100 km. This is more economical than Mini promises and is partly explained by the ideal weather conditions (warm and no wind). Owners report much higher long-term consumption and therefore a range of around 185 real kilometres (115 miles) on a full battery.
Retrofitting an existing car with electric propulsion is already a big job, disguising its weight is an even bigger challenge. Especially since Mini has a reputation to uphold when it comes to lively handling.
In this case, the small battery is actually an advantage! In addition, a firm and sometimes downright harsh suspension was chosen in combination with direct steering. That way, the car responds smoothly to driver commands. Thanks to that quick response combined with strong engine, the Mini manages to disguise its weight perfectly. Handling is therefore confident and driving pleasure at least as great as in the variants with a less green powertrain.
Is the Mini Electric as playful and desirable as the conventionally powered variants? Definitely! However, because Mini retrofitted an existing model into an electric car, there was only room for a small battery. Since the battery is the most expensive part of an electric car, one might expect the Mini Electric to be offered inexpensively, but the opposite is true. The Mini Electric is more expensive than competitor electric cars, which offer more space and/or luxury in addition to greater range.
And Mini puts only one thing in return: fun! The test drive shows that the fun is so great that many are therefore happy to put up with the high price or limited range. The fun starts with the looks, putting a smile on the driver's face even before the first metre has been driven. When driving calmly, one notices how refined the Mini has become over the years in terms of build quality, equipment and handling. Of course, its greatest appeal lies in its lively handling, as this green Mini also manages to charm everyone with it.
- Successful design
- Lots of driving fun
- Feels solid and strong
- High price
- Small range
- Bombastic sound standard audio system