Mini Cooper SE is a balance between comfort and style

This electric car does win when it comes to design, performance and looks, but the hatchback may not score as much as a family car simply because of its limited cabin space

April 25, 2022 11:52 am | Updated 06:24 pm IST

The iconic British brand, Mini has introduced its first-ever, all-electric offering based on the popular two-door Cooper hatchback, christened ‘Cooper SE’. Does this Mini EV offer a sporty performance while retaining the Mini’s legendary go-kart-like driving manners? We find out.

Mini has delegated a 32.6kWh battery pack (28.9kWh net capacity) to power its electric motor, which puts out 184hp and 270Nm of torque, 8hp and 10Nm lesser than the internal combustion engine (ICE) Cooper S. The instantaneous responses from its electric motors in the real world, however, more than make up for its performance deficit on paper. There is not a multi-speed gearbox nor is there any turbo lag to tackle, and, as a result, the Cooper SE zips ahead with all the motor’s ready torque transmitting to its front wheels. Adding drama to its fuss-free acceleration is a hint of torque steer and some tyre chirping under hard acceleration, before the ESP regulates wheelspin.

There is a Green+ mode to enhance the range, but, it turns off climate control, and hence, is not a setting owners are likely to dial. The Sport mode makes the accelerator a tad sharper, compared to the Mid and Green modes, which feel reasonably quick on their own. The absence of a growling intake and a booming exhaust does not captivate your aural senses like its ICE version, but the Cooper SE’s ability to whizz past traffic in complete silence is a very unique experience.

And each time you decelerate, its battery converts some of the kinetic energy into electrical energy and recharges its battery. There are two levels of regenerative braking to speak of — retardation in the first level feels natural and it will shed speed gradually; the second level is aggressive and the reduction in speed feels similar to strong braking. Both modes allow for one-pedal driving, wherein the car will even come to a complete halt without the need to depress its brake pedal.

The Cooper SE is derived from BMW’s UKL platform, which also underpins its ICE siblings. The electric version gains 145kg compared to the 3-door Cooper S hatchback on account of its heavy T-shaped battery which is placed beneath the cabin. Its weight balance now shifts towards the rear as its electric motor is actually lighter than the combustion engine. The placement of the battery further reduces the Mini’s center of gravity (CG) by 30mm; so this shift in weight balance and a lower CG have made it even more chuckable than the already go-kart-like ICE Cooper S.

The quick ratio steering is one of the most direct and communicative electric power steering units out there, which allows you precise control, and this car pivots around its axis with finesse. The 17-inch wheels do a better job of bump absorption than the Cooper S JCW riding on low-profile 18-inchers, and it does not feel as skittish as the JCW over mid-corner bumps either. That said, its short-travel suspension is properly stiff and the car will crash through broken roads and potholes. On account of its short wheelbase and stiff set-up, it will cross most speed breakers without scraping its underbelly, and what is reassuring is the fact that Mini has raised the ride height by 18mm; the battery pack is protected by a solid base plate to save it from any untoward incident.

On a full charge, this 28.9kWh battery will lend a drive range of around 160-180km. And that is actually a shame because this Mini is such a hoot to drive that you will yearn to take it up to your favorite hilly sections and explore great twisty roads. Using a 3-pin home charger, will slow charge the Mini’s battery in a snail-like 15 hours. Opting for an 11kW wall box makes a huge difference to charging times, and in just two-and-a-half-hours you can replenish 80% of the battery, with the remaining 20% taking an hour more. It also supports 50kW DC fast charging, which takes around 36 minutes to charge the battery from 0-80%.

There is little to tell a Cooper SE apart from the internal combustion engine (ICE) version; the design is unmistakably Mini, and that is not a bad thing. The closed-off grille-area and the vertical air-inlets on the front bumper with the green number plates give its identity away. Unique to the Cooper SE are yellow ‘S’ badges on the front grille area, fenders and boot; it also gets yellow outside mirror housings, a yellow lip for the alloys as well as an electric logo on the boot. The funky-looking 17-inch alloys are inspired by a typical British three-pin wall socket. At the rear, it retains the Union Jack tail-lamps and a roof spoiler, and the bumper is cleaned up in the absence of muffler tips. 

Like its exteriors, its interiors are all too familiar with high quality bits in funky designs and shapes. The front seats are sculpted, but those with healthier body frames will find the seat bolstering a bit excessive. Its low seating goes well with its sporty persona, and visibility due to its upright windscreens and low window line, is excellent. The digital readout for the speedo and the level of charge reading are straightforward, and even the information imparted on the infotainment screen is limited, thus leaving geeky owners longing for more EV-related data. The rear seat is best left unused due to the lack of room for adults, however, folding it down liberates a cavernous 731-litre cargo area that will be handy during airport runs.

The 3-door Mini Cooper SE is not a car targeted towards the masses; with two doors, limited cabin space and limited battery range, it is quite impractical as a primary, family car and many may scoff at the idea of spending ₹ 47.20 lakh, ex-showroom, on this electric hatchback even if it flaunts the iconic ‘Mini’ badge. But affluent individuals, with multiple car garages, who are looking for a compact electric runabout, are likely to gravitate to the chic Cooper SE’s proposition.

This all-electric Mini sports the right attitude, oozes individuality, and it retains the legendary go-kart like driving dynamics. In addition, it also boasts of green credentials and zero tailpipe emissions. With just 160-180km of driving range from its small battery, the Cooper SE will be limited to the city, but its beauty lies in its ability to infuse excitement into every commute, and it will leave owners grinning ear-to-ear at the sight of every corner. It is not perfect, but for the sheer thrills it delivers, and as a secondary car, the Mini Cooper SE deserves serious consideration.

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