The 2020 Mini Cooper SE: A second chance at an electric Mini

The 2020 Mini Cooper SE: A second chance at an electric Mini

Can you imagine the original Italian Job with an electric mini? I can’t so I’m going to watch it again tonight and mute the car scenes.

In March this year the all new Mini Cooper SE went on sale after beginning production in November of 2019. I had mixed feelings about this because although I prefer the classic Mini, I will admit the new Mini that BMW started making in 2002 is a cute and cuddly little beast and it’s also fun to drive, however there was a downside under the hood. The BMW engine that has been in the Mini is very unreliable, anecdotally at least, I have plenty of friends who bought these big Minis and they’ve spent more time with Mechanics than the have on the road.

So removing that horrible engine and replacing it with one of their tried and tested electric motors which they’ve worked on since the i3 was released seems like a clever solution. Although I still have my doubts because this isn’t the first electric Mini, in 2009 BMW built hundreds of Mini E’s and leased them to some of their best Mini customers for testing in 2010. It was a pretty terrible go at it, although the motor was rated for 205 bhp and 220 lb-ft of torque, it was limited to 95 mph and had a 0-60 time of 8 seconds. Even worse than the performance figures were the range, it only had 100 miles of combined city/highway range and then would take 3.5 hours to recharge even on a fast charger. You might be thinking, ah but that’s fine for just running around the shops for the day with the kids? Sure, if you had back seats, the batteries were so big that BMW removed the back seats to fit the batteries in at the back, meaning it was a two seat hatchback, pretty useless for the family.

Now exactly ten years on, BMW has decided to give it another go, so how does it look for them this time around? Is this a solid second chance, come to jesus moment for them? Well lets start where it counts, price. This car went go on sale in the USA (50 states, minus California due to a regulatory issue) for $29,000 which after all grants and tax breaks makes this a sub $20,000 car. In terms of price, they are on to a winner.

In terms of range, not so much, this car will cause some serious range anxiety as its only rated at 110 miles of range. On that one it doesn’t seem like they’ve learned any lessons in the past ten years.

When it comes to reliability, they’ve done the smart thing and used the drive train from the i3, which means it should be pretty good in terms of reliability. It’s also pretty good on interior equipment and has all of the basics like key-less entry and air-con covered. Oh and this time around it has back seats as the batteries are now floor mounted. Speaking of the battery, it will fast charge to 80% in 35 minutes. It seems then that BMW has learned some lessons from its past.

Let us end on performance, I know most of you think it’s not important when it comes to this electric mini, however I disagree as they’ve given it John Coopers name, so it better be quick. It also should be as it’s electric. It’s top speed is only 93 mph but I’m not going to give it much of a hard time for that as this will feel quick in the places where this mini is likely to be used. I will however give out about its 0-60, which is 6.9 seconds, now that is 1994 Ford Escort Cosworth RS territory (that was 6.6 seconds) so it is by no means slow but this is an electric car. Why isn’t it faster?

I’ll do a full review when Coronavirus ends and I can get my hands on one.

2 Comments

  1. Panama City Jack

    The 0-60 time is what it is (others have measured 6.4 s) because the tires/drivetrain can’t readily handle any more torque (just ask any early BMW i3 owner who snapped a half-axle). The range is what it is because a bigger battery would not only be significantly more expensive, but also considerably heavier (and thus not Mini/go-cart like).

    Nearest competitor price-wise to the Mini is a Chevy Bolt. It’s a bit quicker and can go twice as far on a charge, but weighs ~600 lbs more, doesn’t handle nearly as well, and has a really cheap interior. Despite such scrimping, Chevy reportedly loses money on every one they sell.

    Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona, Kia Nero, Kia Soul EVs go about as far as a Bolt, are nicer on the inside, but cost significantly more and/or are only sold in select states. Tesla 3 is in the same price range (or more), is quite quick, handles well for a nearly 2-ton sedan, but is built like all Teslas, e.g., with a rear bumper readily torn off by driving through a moderate puddle at speed.

    Speed, range, weight, cost…until the energy density of batteries improves, compromises will have to be made, and the only who can legitimately fault Mini for their choices are their shareholders.

    • Jason Hassett

      All very good points and makes sense, I think as a low price entry to the Electric Market and given the Mini’s looks and target market, it’s a great way to compete for BMW. Plus it removed the BMW engines…which I hate haha!

      Thanks so much for reading and supporting the Site Jack, I really appreciate it 🙂

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