Now that the BMW iX SUV has debuted, the diminutive Mini Cooper SE, BMW Group’s first fully electric car might be kicked to the sidelines but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still relevant.
This is my second go in one and it remains my favourite Mini to pilot and also one of my favourite electric cars.
There are a few changes to the ’22 model year, but they aren’t SE specific and apply to the entire Mini lineup: a new grille, new bumpers, piano black trim, redesigned side scuttles, and standard union jack taillamps. On the inside, you’ll find a new steering wheel, a new centre instrument design, new air vents, and an updated infotainment system.
The bits that make it go, like the 32.6 kWh battery pack and motor carry over unchanged. Power from the electric traction motor is rated at 188 hp and 199 lb-ft and it drives the front wheels exclusively.
Astute readers will note that that’s about the same as a gas-powered Mini Cooper S and it certainly feels plenty powerful from behind the wheel.
Maximum range goes up by a whopping 6 km to 183 km total but it’s not due to finding more juice in the battery pack or from software changes but rather differences in testing standards.
With just under 200 km from a fully charged battery, the Mini Cooper SE has the lowest range out of any EV currently available but it’s also one of the least expensive and you shouldn’t discount it.
If you live in the city and primarily use your car for running errands or visiting friends the Cooper SE will be enough for most days.
In a city like Toronto, where Level 3 fast chargers are plentiful, you could get away with never having to plug in at home overnight. A good thing considering that most condos here leave residents with few options for charging EVs.
Hooked up to said fast charger, a Cooper SE will charge at a rate of up to 50 kW, which means you can go from 0-80 per cent battery in about 35 mins.
Those are verifiable figures too, especially in the warmer months where it actually hits that 50 kW number.
My routine would be to deplete the battery to about 20-30 per cent and then hook up to a charger for about 20 mins. In a typical week for me, I would have to do this maybe twice.
Driving in the city is also where an EV is at its most efficient and the mini Cooper SE is no different. A surprisingly strong regenerative braking system allows one-pedal driving and also helps recuperate energy that would otherwise be lost.
Driving last year during the colder winter months, I was able to get roughly 170 km from a charge. This time around, thanks to much warmer temps, I was easily able to beat the range estimate and get around 230 km to a charge.
I also had a moment of range anxiety when I tried to connect to a fast charger and it wasn’t working. The app told me it was, but it was no bueno in reality.
With a distance of 40 km to the nearest fast charger and only about 60 km of range showing on the cluster I had little choice but to take the risk and drive there, hoping I wouldn’t run out of battery somewhere on the shoulder of the 401. I didn’t, and in fact the Cooper SE made it to the charger and showed that I could have still gone another 40 km.
Sure there were other much slower Level 2 chargers around but with my kid in the back and not wanting to spend hours in a random parking lot I decided to take my chances and I’m glad I did.
There’s a “Green Plus” drive mode that I didn’t use because we needed the AC on, but had I done so, it would have netted us an extra 10 km of range.
Finding out that the Cooper SE averaged 15 kWh/100 km and was one of the most efficient EVs I had driven to date, came as little surprise.
But it’s not all about being as green as possible. This is still a Mini Cooper after all and it still has an “S” badge on the grille, which means that it’s just a fun as you think it is. Use the “Sport” drive mode and the Cooper is genuinely quick with instantaneous torque that comes on stronger than any other Mini out there.
It is still just as nimble and light-hearted in the corners too, with that feeling that you could fling it into a bend with as much commitment as a third-grader flinging a booger out of their nose.
This might not be the car to take the family to the cottage or to drive across the country with your chums, but most wouldn’t do that in a gas-powered Mini.
If you’re a young urbanite who embraces green tech but still likes to have fun, the electric Mini might just be your perfect set of wheels.