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Mini Cooper SE hatch 2020 launch review
Old-school meets tomorrow in Mini’s electric-powered Cooper SE hatch.
The all-electric Mini Cooper SE Hatch is the second electrified Mini to launch in the past year, following the Countryman plug-in hybrid that arrived in October. The concept of an all-electric Mini is a no-brainer – it’s a small, fun-to-drive three-door urban runabout that spends most of its life in cities where, for now, EVs are best suited. Its driving range of 233 kilometres trails other smaller EVs, but that hasn’t put off potential buyers. Mini Australia says pre-launch interest in the Cooper SE has been strong and it has sold out its allocation for 2020.
What do you get for the price?
Priced from $54,800 before on-road costs ($59,900 driveaway) the electric Mini is $4400 pricier than the three-door John Cooper Works and about $5000 more than the similarly sized Renault Zoe EV. The Cooper SE is well specified for the pricetag. Just some of the standard features include wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay, 8.8-inch display with sat-nav and voice recognition, unique 5.5-inch SE digital cluster, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, head-up display and more. The only options are the four exterior colour and roof combinations. You can choose from silver, black, green and red with either a contrasting or body-coloured roof. The Cooper SE is differentiated from its petrol-powered siblings by two different alloy wheel designs, a closed-off front grille, Mini Electric badges and signature Mini Electric yellow flourishes.
How safe is it?
The Cooper SE is fitted with safety gear including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, cruise control with braking function, forward-collision warning, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera and speed-limit detection. It retains the four-star ANCAP rating of the regular Mini three-door hatch.
What’s it like inside?
The only interior giveaway that this Mini is different is the SE-specific instrument cluster and yellow touches. Otherwise it’s typical Mini. It looks and feels premium and has bucketloads of charm. Old-school touches like the switches on the centre stack add to the appeal, and the modern infotainment system is easy to navigate. It is a three-door and room in the second row is tight, but Mini has managed to maintain the same boot space as the petrol models – 211 litres with seats up and 731 litres when folded.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powering the Cooper SE is an electric motor outputting 135kW of power and 270Nm torque, along with a 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery. It is front-wheel-drive only and uses a one-speed automatic transmission typical of an EV. It is 145 kilograms heavier than the petrol models and rides 18 millimetres higher to help protect the underfloor battery pack. Mini says it can dash from zero to 100kmh in 7.3 seconds.
Is it efficient?
The driving range of the Cooper SE is 233 kilometres on the WLTP standard. The Renault Zoe’s current range is 300 kilometres. The Mini also trails the range of slightly larger EV offerings such as the Nissan Leaf (270 kilometres) and Hyundai’s Kona Electric (449 kilometres).
We started with a full battery and drove 112 kilometres for the first driving leg, which sapped the battery by 50 per cent, leaving us with 84 kilometres of range left. About an hour on a charger in a hotel carpark added 35 per cent charge to the battery. In fairness, judging EV energy consumption at a media launch is challenging. You cover various road conditions and speed limits and are on the road for several hours. A daily commute would likely result in better efficiency.
Mini says the Cooper SE can charge to 80 per cent battery capacity in 36 minutes using a 50kW DC charger, while plugging it in to your household socket will fill it to 80 per cent in a little over three hours.
How does it drive?
Mini promised to keep the go-kart handling of the regular hatch with the electric version and boy did they deliver. It handles as well as its petrol stablemates, offering loads of grip when you lean into a corner. Some seriously wet conditions in the Dandenong Ranges challenged that grip but any slippage was quickly reined in by the stability control. The Mini’s ride quality is on the stiffer side but it’s never uncomfortable.
It’s not quite as quick off the mark as the sprightly Mini John Cooper Works, but the instant torque ensures you leave other cars behind at the lights. The adjustable regenerative braking helps recoup some of the energy.
We detected some road and wind noise but that’s made more noticeable by the lack of engine noise. It does, however, have an EV ‘sound’. BMW Group Sound Designer Renzo Vitale – a former musician and composer – helped create a unique noise that the SE emits at low speeds to alert pedestrians and cyclists to its presence. It sounds almost orchestral and very cool.
Should I buy one?
The Cooper SE makes a lot of sense as a city car, providing you have access to a charger. It’s not a car you’d pick if you go on lots of long road trips, but it shines on twisty roads. It’s another great addition to the growing ranks of EVs in Australia. If you value fun, individuality and environmental credentials, it could be the car for you.