As any driving enthusiast will attest, MINIs are truly the Davids in a Goliath world.
The compact car — with its distinctive design, endearing vim, and eagerness to please — makes it one of the most approachable rides out there for both new and seasoned drivers. Most importantly, it was its exhilarating go-kart feel that stole the hearts of people around the world as it took on corner after bend with a zest that few cars of its categories had.
Like every other brand today, however, the MINI has had to rethink its place on the road as a sustainable means of transport, and so the MINI Electric was born — the first-ever electric model from the BMW-owned brand that combines clean mobility with the same riding fun, expressive design, and premium quality. We took the zippy little EV out for a drive recently, and it didn’t disappoint. Here’s what we thought of MINI’s latest baby.
Based on the marque’s iconic 3-Door Hatch, the MINI Electric embodies the essence of a true Mini from the get-go, although there are a few differences that wouldn’t escape a keen eye. Instead of a petrol or diesel engine, the car has an electric motor under the bonnet with its high-voltage battery positioned in the vehicle floor, pushing the car’s height just slightly higher than you’d be used to.
The contrasting roof and mirrors, as well as characteristically wide-set headlights have been kept here, but details like the 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels, an updated grille, and fluoro-green Cooper S badges are there to remind you of the car’s eco-friendliness.
It’s still a nifty little package on the outside, but more than 50 years of manufacturing practice and elimination of weaknesses have resulted in an incredibly spacious car within.
The MINI Electric, like its other petrol-driven stablemates, is a joy to be in. The sports seats for the driver and front passenger come as standard, and all of them are wrapped in Leather Cross Punch in Carbon Black for a sleek, sporty look. Yellow touches inspired by the hatchback’s electric capabilities can be found throughout, from the seams on the velour floor mats to the start/stop button, amongst other features. An anthracite headliner also lends luxury and raciness to the car.
The legroom at the front is pretty decent, but if you’re taller you’ll find it a tad hard to get comfortable at the back. Nonetheless, you’ll be entertained by a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system that provides more than enough oomph in the audio department to fuel long drives. The 5.5-inch digital instrument cluster features important information such as the range available and detailed directions from the navigation system, although the Head-Up Display is also available to display relevant information directly in the driver’s line of vision for enhanced safety.
The standard-fit Connected Navigation Plus includes an 8.8-inch touchscreen in the central instrument cluster too, with the same light ring that can be found in the other MINI models.
The MINI Electric Wallbox can be outfitted at home for convenient overnight charging, but if you’re out and about and need a quick charge, there are ChargeNow services — powered by Shell and Greenlots — conveniently positioned throughout Singapore. This network of charging stations can be easily accessed via the MINI ConnectedDrive in-vehicle navigation console with other details like pricing information and turn-by-turn directions, so you don’t have to panic if you’re running out of juice. The car also comes with a three-phase cable so you’ll be able to use other public charging stations too.
Interestingly, the colour of the digital instrument panel changes depending on the stage of charging: From orange during initialisation, yellow in the course of the charging process, and green when the energy reserves are fully refreshed.
Because the brains of the car have been programmed to optimise your electric driving experience, it’ll suggest not only the fastest and shortest route to your destination, but also a ‘green’ one that requires the lowest level of power consumption. This is based on individual driving patterns too for better accuracy. At full charge, the lithium-ion battery will oblige a range of up to 270km, and should cost around a mere S$8 at the charging points.
We’re glad to say that the MINI Electric — despite weighing 145kg heavier than its petrol variant — still provides an immensely spirited drive. Because the weight bias is further back and spread more evenly along the car, it’s more balanced, which when coupled with the lower centre of gravity is a dream for cornering.
The 184hp and 270Nm generated by the motor is enough to power the car from 0-100kph in 7.3 seconds and onto a top speed of 150kph. This may not be standard Cooper S pace (which will manage 6.8 seconds and 235kph respectively) but it’ll be quite enough for urban combat.
However, the most interesting part of the drive, you’ll find — and this will take some getting used to — is that braking happens automatically. The BMW i3’s ‘one-pedal’ concept has been borrowed here, so lifting the accelerator will cause the car to slow down and funnel the wasted energy back into the battery. Like we mentioned, it won’t be long before you’ll get used to it, but it can also be dialled down a notch via a toggle switch for a lower degree of recuperation efficiency and less stickier braking.
For Greta-approved drives, the Green and Green Plus modes reduce throttle response and even disables climate control to boost your range; conversely, hit the Sport mode and the powertrain perks up immediately. Regardless of which you choose, the car doesn’t — thankfully — inject any fake noise into the cabin, only a quiet hum that makes city driving a rather zen experience, for once.
This MINI is a car perfectly catered to millennials, and we know this because connectivity is at the heart of this EV.
Like the MINI Cooper S Convertible that we reviewed last year, the Electric is synced to the Mini Connected app, which allows users to access the door lock/unlock function remotely, as well as pre-program the car with the preferred air-conditioning temperature according to its driver’s intended time of departure.
If you can’t parallel park to save your life, the guys at MINI have given this one all-round sensors so the car does the nail-biting job for you, and it really is quite magical to watch. Other mentionable safety features include collision warning and pedestrian warning systems — with a city braking function that makes it easier to avoid dangerous situations in city traffic.
Find out more about the MINI Electric here.
(All images: Mini Singapore)