PRICEY MINI OR CHEAP BMW i3?

MINI

DANIEL GARDNER

MINI ELECTRIC

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

 IF CARS WERE beer, Toyota would be a slab of easydrinking draft. Tesla would be a craft sour in 310.5ml cans, and Holden would be in a basket at the end of the counter covered in stickers. Mini, however, would be a small-batch XPA.

Like a 5.9 percent fruity ale, the company’s cars serve a select audience that’s willing to pay a premium for something that stands out at the posh end of affordable, and unsurprisingly its first fully electric model is no different.

At $54,800, the Cooper SE is about $25,000 more than the entry three-door variant, which is a significant jump, and if with a $15 already bit more. of the has fuels by electric From Suzuki tried to pull the same stunt $46,000 electric Baleno, you’d probably turn your nose up at it like a pint of Carlton Draught. But Mini is in the business of asking a little more in exchange for a little bit And the new offering is a version iconic and charming hatch that been freed from the bonds of fossil a 32.6kWh battery and an motor driving the front wheels. 

From a practicality perspective, the electrified Mini is little different to live with than any other three-door Mini. If you’re not perturbed by its odd forward view, tiny boot and all-but-nonexistent rear seats, then you shouldn’t be put off the Cooper SE either.

Its T-shaped battery doesn’t intrude into cabin or boot space and its interior is fitted out to the standard you would expect from the brand. It’s the same story on the outside with just a few yellowy-green highlights and a flat grille to whisper the SE’s underlying secret.

But perhaps the cleverest part lies under the skin. You’d never guess, but the Cooper SE borrows most of its orange parts from the $70,000 BMW i3 (there’s a clue in its odd digital instrument cluster) and that means similar performance and range.

230km between charges is more than adequate for a majority of Mini duties, and 0-100km/h acceleration in 7.3 seconds is on a par with the petrol Cooper, but the Mini is most joyous when up to speed. The instant electric punch feels more potent than off-themark, and the delightful eagerness to change direction is largely thanks to its electrification, not in spite of it.

The SE’s weight distribution is more balanced than the combustion models and, even though it was jacked up by 15mm for clearance under the battery, the centre of gravity is still lower. It’s also one of the lightest EVs on the market at 1365kg. Only the carbonfibre i3 is lighter. Beefed-up suspension is choppy in every setting but tolerable, and with Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber the intention is fun not just frugality.

Think not of the Cooper SE as an expensive Mini, but as a very cheap BMW i3 with less divisive looks and a decidedly hoppy finish.

DANIEL GARDNER

Model Mini Cooper SE hatch

Motor Single (front axle)

Battery 32.6kWh lithium-ion

Max power 135kW @ 0rpm

Max torque 270Nm @ 0rpm 

Transmission Single-speed reduction gear 

Weight 1365kg 

0-100km/h 7.3sec (claimed) 

Economy 18.0kWh/100km 

Price $54,800 

On sale Now

PLUS

Lively dynamics; unique EV positioning; unspoilt Mini styling

MINUS

Bouncy ride; weird instruments; awaiting a JCWE