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Mini Cooper 2022 review: SE Electric

Does going electric make Mini's iconic Cooper better or worse? (Image: Tom White)
  • DrivetrainFull electric
  • Battery Capacity32.6kWh
  • Battery typeLithium-ion
  • Range233km (WLTP)
  • Plug TypeType 2 CCS
  • DC charge rate50kW
  • AC charge rate11kW
  • Motor output135kW/270Nm
  • Efficiency16.8kWh/100km
Complete Guide to Mini 3D HATCH

“That Mini out there isn’t electric is it?”, says one car-person relative of mine, as he admires its fetching colour scheme. I wonder how to tell him it is and, actually, it’s one of the best Minis money can buy as a result.

Mini raised some eyebrows when it launched an electric version of its third-generation Cooper in 2020 with a very limited driving range and tech from BMW’s left-of-centre i3.

It seemed to fly in the face of what the brand historically stood for, with its lightweight and generally low-tech ethos.

Plus, this electric version comes surprisingly late in the Cooper’s model cycle, with combustion versions of this generation having been on the market for well over five years.

Despite that, my time with the Cooper SE was revealing. I think it unites a lot of appealing characteristics to make for one of the most overlooked, certainly one of the best-to-drive EVs on the market and somehow, loses nothing from the iconic Cooper S formula. Stay with me to see why.

The SE leans into Mini's lightweight ethos. (Image: Tom White) The SE leans into Mini's lightweight ethos. (Image: Tom White)
 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Mini Cooper SE costs from $61,479, and our car in the higher ‘Yours’ aesthetic trim package actually wears an even higher before-on-roads price-tag of $62,828.

There’s no getting around the fact that’s a lot of cash for a three-door hatch. Even hot hatches in this size-category are significantly cheaper.

But in the EV space it doesn’t look so bad when lined up against the Mazda MX-30, which has a similar range, or this car’s outgoing BMW i3 cousin which cost a whopping $71,900 before it was discontinued in 2021.

However, range is a weakness. With a 233km range, the Mini is essentially confined to city limits, while for a significantly lower MSRP you can be hopping in a trendy Tesla Model 3 or stylish Polestar 2 which both offer north of 450km of driving range – enough for most inter-city trips.

I suspect the intention is for this Mini to be best kept as a second car for darting around town in a fuel-free manner and not as a primary mode of transport. Even so, the pricing makes it a tall order for a niche customer.

Regardless, the standard equipment is decent, as the now ageing third-generation Mini has been significantly augmented with better tech over time.

This version comes with 17-inch ‘Tentacle’ alloy wheels. (Image: Tom White) This version comes with 17-inch ‘Tentacle’ alloy wheels. (Image: Tom White)

This version comes with 17-inch ‘Tentacle’ alloy wheels (I like these a LOT more than the dorky standard ‘Power’ wheels on the electric version), leather ‘lounge’ seats with a leather steering wheel, an 8.8-inch widescreen multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto), a wireless phone charger in the fold-down armrest, digital radio and built-in sat-nav, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control (feels overkill for such a small cabin), and a heat pump (helps regulate the battery temp and support the car’s electrical features).

Featuring a 8.8-inch widescreen multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay. (Image: Tom White) Featuring a 8.8-inch widescreen multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay. (Image: Tom White)

There’s also a head-up display and a quaint 5.5-inch digital instrument cluster to support the driver. All Minis get LED headlights and tail-lights, complete with the Union Jack pattern, which is either a fun attention-to-detail piece or dangerously close to Austin Powers levels of self-parody, depending on who you ask.

What do you miss out on? Not much. The seats are manual adjust which is rare at such a tall price, but otherwise there’s a decent active safety suite, and Mini even throws in a Type 2 to Type 2 public charging cable as well as the standard wall socket version.

There are more good things to say on the topic of charging, too, but we’ll leave that for the relevant part of this review.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Cooper SE, at least in this ‘Yours’ trim, is iconic Mini. Like the concurrent Fiat 500, the Mini is one of those cars which does ‘modern classic’ so well it’s hard to tell how old it is underneath.

The commitment to the core shape of this car is admirable, but to me this is a particularly rare case of everything clad in black working brilliantly.

The little green bits which hint at the electrified nature of this variant contrast so well, and are much more subtle as a flourish on these ‘Tentacle’ wheels than they are on the somewhat ham-fisted ‘Power’ rims which normally come with the SE.

This extends to the inside of our test car, which also had black seats and black headlining to match the black dash.

Again, normally this would be a recipe for undue claustrophobia, but in this Mini it just feels right.

The seats are more comfortable than they look, and adjust for a low-slung and sporty feeling arrangement. The dash is a little clumsy, though, with its lumpy design and plethora of material choices, perhaps shaped more for style than to induce a feeling of spaciousness.

I’m still not a particular fan of it, but when you combine it with things like the toggle-style buttons and Union Jack imprints in the tops of the front seats, there’s no question Mini is committed to unique styling.

The Mini is one of those cars which does ‘modern classic’. (Image: Tom White) The Mini is one of those cars which does ‘modern classic’. (Image: Tom White)

This is particularly true of the huge round centre panel, which in its original incarnation used to house the speedometer, but now houses a multimedia suite.

The positioning of the screen doesn’t feel entirely right for the driver to use as a touchscreen, and the software is overcomplicated at best, and downright painful to use at worst.

Thankfully, once you’ve managed to get the wireless Apple CarPlay working, you’ll be forced to use it less often.

This is beginning to sound overly critical, but the context is this car isn’t designed to feel spacious or function seamlessly. It’s designed to be a statement all on its own.

When you combine the unmistakable exterior presence with this particular colour scheme and wheels, the whacky interior falls into place to make for one somehow completely charming package.

It has so much charisma I found myself constantly forgiving, or at least overlooking, its flaws to enjoy it as an experience – just as intended.

How practical is the space inside?

Does anyone buy a car called a Mini for practicality? I hope not. How does this little hatch line up with the segment or the EV market, though?

The answer is still not well. Even compared with design-led cars like Mazda’s MX-30, the Mini is smaller again, having hardly any boot space (211 litres to be precise) and only four seats. Even then, the rear two seats are difficult to access and no good for adults.

There’s a handy space under the boot floor for charging gear, although as the Cooper uses run-flat tyres, there’s no spare.

The Mini has hardly any boot space. (Image: Tom White) The Mini has hardly any boot space. (Image: Tom White)

It is worth noting this electric version doesn’t actually lose any room compared to the standard combustion variants.

As driver-focused as this little car might be, it’s hardly a better story up front, as the Cooper SE trades away practicality to stay true to its retro design.

The Mini holds 211 litres to be precise. (Image: Tom White) The Mini holds 211 litres to be precise. (Image: Tom White)

The driver's seat is comfy, low, and sporty, clasping your sides nicely and I like the trim a lot. But, as mentioned the space feels quite claustrophobic due to the proximity of the A-pillars and up-close dash features.

Functionally, the dash layout is a little awkward, with the small digital instrument display being partially obscured by the wheel in my driving position. The exaggerated centre screen panel and other trimmings feel as though they close in what little space is available, particularly if you’re tall and have knees.

The rear two seats are difficult to access. (Image: Tom White) The rear two seats are difficult to access. (Image: Tom White)

There’s hardly any cabin storage on offer, either, with a small wireless charging bay in the armrest console, a tiny bay below that for loose objects, two small cupholders with another small bin in front of the shifter, and tiny pockets in the doors.

To make things worse, the two-door Cooper design has enormous doors, making it hard to slide in and out of in tight parking spots. Ironic given how easy it is to park this compact car in the first place.

What are the key stats for the powertrain?

This electric Mini takes the best bits from BMW’s late i3 hatch, and one of those is its electric motor. With 135kW/270Nm on tap, it’s a punchy little thing, and in a package this small it feels energetic.

There’s a single-speed transmission with an integrated front differential, and this version of the Cooper will sprint from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds.

The motor also uses a particularly aggressive regenerative braking profile, which is strong by default but can be adjusted down by the driver.

This Mini has 135kW/270Nm on tap. (Image: Tom White) This Mini has 135kW/270Nm on tap. (Image: Tom White)

It can also make use of an array of drive modes: 'Sport', 'Normal', 'Green', and 'Green+' (which maxes out regen and won’t let you use the air-con!).

I spent the majority of my time in the car using Green or Normal modes, with a stint in Sport. It was nice that each mode seemed to give the steering and accelerator response a distinct but not overtly artificial character.

How much does it consume? What’s the range like, and what it’s like to recharge/refuel?

The Cooper SE draws its power from a 32.6kWh Lithium-ion battery pack, one of the smallest of any mass-market EV on sale today.

This grants it an official combined cycle range of 233km on the realistic WLTP testing protocol, but you can expect a real-world range of around 200km. My car was reporting around 180km at 100 per cent charge.

It has an official combined cycle range of 233km. (Image: Tom White) It has an official combined cycle range of 233km. (Image: Tom White)

The WLTP-rated energy consumption for the SE is 16.8kWh/100km, and I saw 14.0kWh/100km. That's better than the 16kWh/100km I’m getting from my MX-30 electric long-termer, but still not as adept as the smaller Hyundai electric offerings.

I drove it around with regen maxed out aside from a stint on some back roads in Sport mode which dials it back a little. As the battery is very small, expect every little change in road conditions or regen usage to have a bigger effect on the range remaining.

The Cooper SE has a single European-standard Type 2 CCS charging port on the rear driver’s side. For a car with such a small battery, the Cooper charges very fast which helps make it more convenient to use.

On the slower but more readily-available AC chargers it will charge at a max rate of 11kW which will see a charge time somewhere in the range of three and a half hours, while on a fast DC charger it will get to 80 per cent charge from 10 per cent in 36 minutes.

AC chargers it will charge at a max rate of 11kW. (Image: Tom White) AC chargers it will charge at a max rate of 11kW. (Image: Tom White)

The 11kW AC inverter is particularly welcome, as with a battery this small, it means you can realistically rely entirely on AC charging which is an increasingly common feature of council parking locations.

No other car with a battery this small offers AC charging this fast, and it’s convenient to avoid the need to seek out a DC charger for a full juice every once in a while.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Despite being a few years old now, the Cooper SE comes with a suite of active safety items, including city-speed auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection and forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go function.

While these items are decent, the standard has really moved on now, requiring items like blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The Cooper features ISOFIX child-seat mounting points and top-tethers for the rear two seats, as well as the standard array of six airbags. It also has the useful inclusion of front and rear parking sensors.

The Mini Cooper three-door only wears a four-star ANCAP safety rating, and it is to an antiquated 2014 standard. It’s worth noting this rating only applies to combustion variants, leaving us with another unknown for this electric version.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Mini, like its BMW parent, persists with an off-the-pace three-year and unlimited kilometre warranty promise. This includes roadside assist, and the battery components are covered by a separate industry-standard eight-year and 160,000km warranty.

Minis have ‘condition-based servicing’ whereby the car will decide when to send you back to the workshop, so intervals could be variable.

 The Mini has a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise. (Image: Tom White) The Mini has a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise. (Image: Tom White)

A ‘basic cover’ service program will set you back just $940 for four years, or $1280 for six years, which includes a vehicle check, fluids, and an air conditioning filter.

The more comprehensive ‘Plus Cover’ which has location-based pricing will also include brake pads and discs and wiper blade replacements where required.

What's it like to drive?

The Cooper SE not only nails the Mini brief of feeling “like a go-cart” on the road, but to me this car particularly proves electric vehicles can have distinct and engaging characteristics.

Immediately, all the Mini cornerstones are present. This car feels low-slung, firmly sprung, with heavy and direct steering ensuring you really feel the road.

Few electric cars have come close to something so engagement-oriented. The Model 3 is firm and fast, but somewhat removed from the road with its unusual cabin and heavily computerized steering, while Mazda’s MX-30 is a similarly lightweight and engaging EV, just with the ride height and pleasantries of an SUV.

This car particularly proves electric vehicles can have distinct and engaging characteristics. (Image: Tom White) This car particularly proves electric vehicles can have distinct and engaging characteristics. (Image: Tom White)

The Cooper has more the personality of a track-ready hot hatch. It leaps into action with the responsiveness of its electric motor, and the steering tune gives it a dart-like feel in traffic.

The firm ride won’t be for everyone. It’s a little hard on the day-to-day, and its lack of wheel travel compared to, say, an SUV gives it more trouble balancing out bigger bumps and corrugations which can get unpleasant in the cabin.

Carving up a curvy road on the weekend, though? There’s no EV better than this bar Porsche’s Taycan, and even then, you’ll need one hell of a road to make the most of it.

The tightly-wound little Mini simply comes alive in the corners. Anyone who doubts electric vehicles can still be fun needs to drive one of these before they settle their mind.

The downside? While the Mini will put a smile on your face, the electric drivetrain here feels a bit like cheating. No transmission and an instantly responsive regen brake makes it all too easy to carve corners without the need to even take your foot off the accelerator pedal.

And having the weight so far down in an already low car makes it stick to the road like glue. You never really feel like something can be done wrong in this car.

While it’s so much more fun than most electric cars, it’s still missing the engagement of the need to grab a gear yourself.

On the topic of regeneration, the Mini’s aggro little motor will slow you down as quickly as it can accelerate, and in Green mode in particular it can be driven as a ‘single pedal vehicle’ around town.

You have to watch its bite, as a minimal release of the accelerator will bring you to a halt. This is good for economy though, and you’ll need it to make the most of this little hatchback’s short range.

  • DrivetrainFull electric
  • Battery Capacity32.6kWh
  • Battery typeLithium-ion
  • Range233km (WLTP)
  • Plug TypeType 2 CCS
  • DC charge rate50kW
  • AC charge rate11kW
  • Motor output135kW/270Nm
  • Efficiency16.8kWh/100km
Complete Guide to Mini 3D HATCH

The Mini Cooper surprised me. I didn’t expect this little car to be electrified with such success. It’s fun to drive, easy to charge, and aside from its range, which is naturally limited by its size, the remaining drawbacks are no different from the rest of the Cooper range.

Who is the Cooper SE Electric best suited for? Probably a buyer who is looking for a second car to use primarily as a runabout who also happens to love the art of driving. Few EVs fit that bill so well.

$62,825

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Score

3.5/5
Price Guide

$62,825

Based on new car retail price

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