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Electric Mini Cooper SE review: Watts up

The electric Mini Cooper SE may not be practical, but it's impossible to drive one without smiling.

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The Mini's 184 horsepower electric motor makes it a wild ride, pushing so much instant torque to the front wheels that it makes the steering wheel jerk in your hands, which only makes you giggle and hang on tight.

BT_20200911_MOTORMINI11_4236738.jpg
The Mini's 184 horsepower electric motor makes it a wild ride, pushing so much instant torque to the front wheels that it makes the steering wheel jerk in your hands, which only makes you giggle and hang on tight.

Singapore

IF you've ever wished that electric cars would just hurry up and get here, the Mini Cooper SE has the "hurry up" part sorted.

It zings to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, which doesn't sound super fast, but it covers the first 60km/h of that in only 3.9 seconds, so trust me, it's as lively and determined as an angry bee.

Of course, electric vehicles (EVs) are already here, and two car dealer groups seem particularly determined to hasten their adoption. The first is Komoco, which has sewn up the B2B market with the Hyundai Kona Electric. Then there's Eurokars Group, whose bet on EVs looks broader and more consumer focused.

Its MG brand sells the excellent ZS EV at mainstream car prices, while the Porsche Taycan, set for a virtual launch here on Sept 22, has the posh end of the market covered. Between those two, the electric Mini zips merrily along.

At S$166,888 (inclusive of certificate of entitlement and a wall-mounted charger), the electric Mini isn't cheap, and it certainly isn't practical if you have a family, but the same is true of the Mini Cooper S, its petrol sibling.

Anyway, in our part of the world a Mini hatch is often someone's second or third car, according to Kidd Yam, the head of Mini Asia. "Mini, on the whole, is not for everyone," he told The Business Times. "We are quite targeted in our market segments."

But maybe the salient point is, if you can look past the Cooper SE's small size, you're in for some big fun.

Like all the three-door Minis, it goes after bends like Casanova went after women. And while it zigs and zags with happy abandon, it zooms pretty well, too. The 184 horsepower electric motor makes it a wild ride, pushing so much instant torque to the front wheels that it makes the steering wheel jerk in your hands, which only makes you giggle and hang on tight. If driving this doesn't make you smile, then nothing will and you may as well snip your driving licence in half.

What people really want to know about electric cars is how far they'll go on a single charge. Not very, is the short answer for the Mini. On paper it'll cover up to 270km, but I'd like to see anyone hit 200km without a sweat. That's actually enough for more than half a week's solid motoring, but this is really a car that only makes sense if you have reliable access to charging.

The range is short because there simply isn't much space for batteries in a Mini. The Cooper SE's lithium-ion cells live under the floor and rear seat (the car is jacked up by 18mm as a result), so at least they don't impinge on cabin and boot space.

Batteries are heavy things though, so the Cooper SE is nearly 150kg heavier than its petrol equivalent even though it doesn't have a piston engine or a gearbox. The extra heft means it isn't quite as agile as a Cooper S. Also, the rear springs feel like they came out of a lorry, so it's even less comfy than a regular Mini.

On the plus side, it does feel like a futuristic thing, particularly when you boot it up and it makes an electronic whoop while the digital instruments come to life. It's also connected to the Internet, so you can use your phone to get its air-con running and pre-cool the cabin before you climb aboard.

Doing this while the car is plugged in is better for range than driving off with a hot cabin and having the air-con run off the battery, yet I mainly did it to impress the wife. This is a woman who was indifferent when I repaired our washing machine without blowing up the house, but who thought I was a wizard when I opened the Mini's door and cold air wafted out.

Whether or not you live for wifely approval, shortlist this car if you have room in your life for something more fun than practical. Mini Asia's Mr Yam describes the Cooper SE as a "Mini first, electric vehicle second". Both of those things are responsible for its appeal.


Mini Cooper SE

Electric Motor 184hp, 270Nm
Battery Lithium ion, 28.9kWh
Charge Time / Type 3.5 hours / Wallbox (11kW)
Electric Range 242-270km
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Top Speed 150km/h
Efficiency 16.8-14.8kWh/100km
Agent Eurokars Habitat
Price S$166,888 with COE
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