Mini’s New Electric Hatchback Won’t Break Records.
Now, we mention the i3 donating bits, but Mini engineers stress that it absolutely is not a copy-and-paste job. Here the battery pack is rated at 93.2Ah, and a bit smaller than the i3’s because it’s arranged in a T-shape beneath the floor. The top of the T goes across the rear axle, the straight bit along the spine of the floorpan.
The punchier i3 S donates its power electronics and 135kW/181bhp electric motor, produced by BMW at its Landshut plant. These components are normally located at the rear of the i3 S, but they’re slotted under the Mini’s bonnet, cradled in a frame that even uses the existing three engine mounting points.
And that’s worthy of note. As we’ve already said, the F56 started off as a petrol and diesel-only model, and the Electric has been shoe-horned into the line-up, but rather well. It runs along the same production line, and during a tour of the Plant Oxford factory, it’s interesting to watch the variety of models driving across the finish line, be it JCW, Clubman, petrol, or Electric. It took a lot of planning, but it all just works.
So it still looks like a Mini
It does, and to some that will be hugely welcome; in fact, that’s what Mini was going for. If you want, you can have it like the cars pictured – with bright yellow trim panels and properly cool n’ retro alloys that are shaped like three-pin plug sockets.
But you don’t have to have it like that. Those wheels can be swapped out for other designs, nor is the yellow detailing on the outside obligatory. Minis are funky enough already, so the car arguably doesn’t have to shout about its lack of exhaust; the only mandatory detail is the yellow electric badge and filled-in grille because it doesn’t need to be cooled like a regular ICE model.
Same story inside. It’s a Mini, with its classic circular backlit centrepiece with a screen inside, fat toggle switches and the brand’s sturdy-yet-premium material quality. There are a couple of changes, namely the starter button is yellow, as is the detailing on the shifter and an all-new digital instrument display. The latter will also be available on the hot GP when it arrives later this year and has an odd frosted sheen over the cartoonish graphics. We suspect it’s designed in such a way to neutralise direct sunlight, as it has no cowl, but it just looks blurry.
Come on then, does it drive like a Mini?
Almost. The suspension is tuned to give a similar feel to a petrol Cooper S, but the physics are quite different. It’s raised 18mm compared with a petrol Cooper S to give the battery more clearance, but the centre of gravity is lower because more mass is concentrated lower down.
It also has to account for a significantly altered weight distribution, with comparable weight over the nose to a petrol model but overall mass shifts rearwards from the default 60/40 front-to-rear split to the Cooper SE’s 54/46 due to the battery. Only 16- and 17-inch alloys are offered, because apparently it all feels too stiff on the 18-inch rims a Cooper S can get away with. We drove on the 17s the larger of the two sizes available via the three trim versions, happily named Level 1, 2 and 3.
And what about that electric powertrain?
It’s just enough. Not Tesla fast, obviously, but almost as quick to 62mph on paper as a Cooper S, and capable of 0-37mph in under four seconds. Zippy, with a little whoosh noise as you build up speed. Certainly startled the pickups and glam sports cars at traffic lights at our Miami test location, and more than enough to get going on faster UK roads. In fact, select Sport mode and it has a slight tendency to tug around the road more than you’d expect.
There are four drive modes Sport, Mid, Green and a specifically designed Green that are largely useless. Keep it in Mid or Green. There’s a negligible difference in throttle performance and the additional steering weighting in Sport (given the Electric’s aforementioned number-than-your-average-Mini feel) is needless.