2022 Mini Cooper electric review, road test
When you think Mini, you think of lightness, agility and driver engagement. All the attributes you don't associate with an electric car. But Mini has gone ahead anyway and launched the electric Mini Cooper SE, showing that the march towards electrification leaves little room for sentimentality. Has this change diluted the essence of this car? We decided to find out by putting the Mini electric to the test via an old cliche, at a go-kart track.
2022 Mini Cooper electric driving impressions
Although the Mini has grown quite a bit over time, it's still a compact car in the larger scheme of things, dimensionally similar to something like a Swift. So at the Ajmera Indikarting track in Mumbai, it doesn't feel out of sorts with its surroundings. You can pick your lines through the tight, winding circuit and the additional 145 kgs over the similarly powerful Cooper S isn't too difficult to manage if you are judicious with the throttle. A sensation helped by the trick dynamic slip traction function, reworked here to work with an electric powertrain. The 184PS feels more than adequate in this situation, largely with the instantaneous 270 Nm of electric torque at your disposal.
There's genuine old-school feedback from the wheel as you turn in, a typical Mini trait that has stayed intact with this shift. With just the right amount of heft, these sensations are quite hard to find in the current age of electric power steering set-ups. The wheel will even squirrel around in your hand just that bit as the Mini Electric tries hard to put down all its electric torque in the sportier modes. This ties in with the crisp handling characteristics of the car. Although the Cooper SE's body is 18mm higher off the ground, the centre of gravity has lowered by 30mm. Most of the added weight from the batteries has been packed in the structure judiciously in the central tunnel and below the rear seat through the T-shaped pack. So the electric Mini still has little lean and changes directions with a kind of decisiveness that is typical of the brand. Sure it can't match the pure light-footedness of a lighter traditionally-powered Mini, but the EV is still one of the more engaging ones you can buy in India right now.
But if you are in the market for something like the Mini electric, everyday performance is probably equally interesting to you. Our tested 0 to 100 kmph time of 7.1s easily beat Mini's claim by 0.2s(slower than the sub-7s Cooper S) but more useful are the rapid rolling acceleration times. The electric Mini is a proper hot hatch as our mid-1.0s times show, made even more effective by the seamless electric power delivery. Usefully, performance only tails off well past 100 kmph, so the hatch will always have more than adequate punch to deal with any kind of traffic situation you might face. Panic braking performance could have been better though, although in the real world the regen helps cover for this deficit well.
Also likeable is the Mini's ride. The fairly stiff suspension setup paired with the 17-inch wheels for the low 45-profile tyres does mean that the hatch can feel jittery over our undulating city streets. But despite this, the Cooper SE soaks up small bumps and potholes with its model-specific suspension components taken from the Countryman. Only bigger potholes and ditches pass through into the cabin. Also fairly commendable is the way the Mini electric tackles our speed-breakers. Ground clearance has been reduced to 128mm from 143mm in the petrol-powered Mini, but the short wheelbase ensures the hatch doesn't scrunch over regular-sized speed-breakers. You do need to criss-cross over the larger ones but even this isn't to a large extent.
The range limitation will prevent you from doing too many intercity trips with the Mini, but if you do plan out such a trip, the Cooper SE is great on a highway cruise too. The ride settles further and little wind or tyre noise leaks into the cabin. The direct steering also adds to the confidence the car gives you.
2022 Mini Cooper electric range, battery, charging
The Mini Cooper SE is based on the same front-wheel-drive UKL architecture as the other Minis and the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. This and the car's small footprint has limited battery size to a usable 28.9 kWh (gross 32.6 kWh). But it must be said that Mini has done its bit to extract the most from this lithium-ion pack. The electric Mini seems to be largely pitched as an urban machine and in this scenario, our tested 222 km city range is quite impressive considering the hardware. The highway range is a more uncertain 180 km though.
The quite effective regen modes are key to the good city range. There are no paddle shifters or a coasting mode, only a low and high regen setting. But this is easily accessed via the dash toggle switch and the system is effective at harvesting quite a bit of energy. In slow-moving traffic, you barely need to use the physical brakes, the high regen mode allowing for one-pedal driving. It can take some getting used to but is a soothing and efficient way to drive once you get the hang of it.
Another useful function is the heat pump. It reuses waste heat from the battery and motor to cool or heat the cabin while drawing less energy from the battery pack. While this will be most useful in colder weather, it does seem to make for an efficient air-conditioning system as the range figure shows. A separate AC system also allows the Mini to come with an auxiliary cooling function that works when the car is turned off for charging. A life-saver for when you need to spend time in the car while it charges.
The hatch is genuinely brisk in its Mid or Sport modes but the Green mode is all you need in stop-go traffic. There's enough performance still on tap and the battery system seems to work most efficiently here. There's even a Green Plus mode, equivalent to a low range mode in other EVs, for when you are critically low in range.
The 50 kW DC fast charging speed is quick enough given the battery's size, getting from flat to 80 per cent in 35 minutes. The 11kW AC charging speed is at par with current norms and takes a convenient 3.5 hours to fully charge the Mini.
2022 Mini Cooper electric exteriors, interiors, features
Unlike some other electric derivates of ICE cars, the Mini electric is quite discreet with its eco-credentials. The only notable visual difference is the blanked-out grille and the striking aero-efficient wheels. Even the electric badging is quite discreet, unlike the neon yellow highlights specific to this model.
So the playful, neo-retro aesthetic of this generation of the Mini remains intact with the electric version. The India-spec car gets the black styling pack which add a sense of sportiness to the looks. But more striking is the typical detailing to the lighting and the dull black badging all around.
Breaking from tradition, the electric Mini is only offered in a single trim with no optional extras. This version is reasonably well equipped although again more attention is drawn to the material and design choices on the inside. The black, grey and yellow etching on the dash is especially tasteful as well as the tweed-like upholstery pattern for the seats and even the dual-pane sunroof cover. Another striking detail is the colour-changing light roundel around the screen housing. The pleasing toggle switches and tactile hard buttons, an increasingly rare feature now, continue to bring with them a sense of occasion.
The 8.8-inch touchscreen is a reskinned BMW unit, although not the latest version, so the graphics are slightly grainy by current standards and Android Auto is still missing. The fixed driver's display is well-placed but we would have liked the range and charge information to have been displayed more prominently. We also would have liked to have seen powered seat adjustment but you do get a sizeable list of comfort features otherwise like dual-zone climate, wireless charging, ambient lighting and a Harman Kardon stereo.
Wider adults may find the front seats to be a bit too close to each other but the seat themselves are great with their comfort and support, helped by the extendable squabs. The rear seat is best left for children and small adults. But more usefully, the T-shaped battery hasn't eaten into boot space, so there is enough luggage space for two adults and their luggage.
2022 Mini Cooper electric safety
We feel the lack of some form of advanced driver assistance system is a miss at this price point, but the Cooper SE does give you a reasonable amount of passive safety equipment. There are six airbags, front parking sensors, a rear camera and TPMS.
2022 Mini Cooper electric price, verdict
Priced at Rs 47.2 lakh before options and insurance, the Mini Electric doesn't exactly have any electric rivals to contend with. There's clearly an appeal to this car, with how quickly the first batch was lapped up. It's almost the perfect second car if you don't need space for four adults. It's quick and rewarding to drive in the way only a Mini can be, there's barely any running cost and it makes quite a statement both inside and out. If only it gave you the freedom to head to your favourite driving road over the weekend.
2022 Mini Cooper electric real-world range, performance
City - 249 km
Highway - 204 km
Overall - 238 km
0 to 100 kmph - 7.1s
30 to 50 kmph - 1.3s
50 to 70 kmph - 1.4s
60 to 80 kmph - 1.6s
100 to 0 kmph - 51.9m, 3.5s
Images by Anis Shaikh
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