The Mini Cooper SE is a fun EV with some catching up to do

A two-door Mini Cooper being electrified sounds like a wonderful, “why didn’t we think of this earlier” type of idea, and Mini undoubtedly agrees.

Since the limited release of the Mini E in 2009, the company has been experimenting with the idea in an effort to determine the practicality and appeal of an all-electric Cooper.

The Mini Cooper SE is a completely electric version of the venerable two-door hatchback from the automaker, and it was created in response to technological advancements and consumer demand. It is a first step toward the brand’s recently set goal of being entirely electrified by 2030.

In conclusion, although the Mini Cooper SE is a cheery vehicle with the fun performance fans have come to expect from the brand, retrofitting an outdated hatchback with an electric motor won’t get it very far in 2022.

Nuts and volts

The third-generation Cooper or Hatch, as it is called in various countries, which made its debut barely two years ago, is the basis for the Mini Cooper SE, a fully electric variant. The cheery two-new door’s electric internals have taken the place of the combustion system.

Cables pass through the transmission tunnel, the battery replaces the gasoline tank, and the drive unit takes up the most of the engine bay.

The Mini is equipped with an electric motor that powers the front wheels and produces 181 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque in place of the usual turbocharged engine.

It is about on par with the Cooper S and its turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine when compared to the other Coopers in the range. A 28.9 kWh battery powers the SE and gives it a range of around 114 miles after a full charge. According to Mini, the Cooper SE can charge up to 20% per hour on a level 2 charger and up to 80% of the battery in around 35 minutes when using a level 3 DC fast charger. Basic residential outlets have a 2% per hour output limit.

The tech

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The Mini Cooper SE is equipped with the essentials in terms of built-in technology. The primary interface for drivers and passengers is an 8.8-inch touchscreen. The navigation features are housed here, and Mini offers real-time traffic status displays for the latter. The Cooper SE contains pages of options that may be sorted through to adjust a variety of little functions, according to someone who is experienced with other vehicles in the BMW family. Everything is organized using a “live widget” structure, which appears as large, vibrant images that can be accessed by swiping a finger over the screen. If Apple CarPlay appeals to you more, it is an option as well.

There is an adaptive cruise control system and lane departure alerts for safety and driving assistance. Even the front collision detection system monitors both vehicles and pedestrians.

The UX

Since it was updated and re-released in its current, BMW-produced version, nu-Mini has always taken care to highlight the Cooper’s sporty qualities. As a result, it is very driver-friendly in many basic aspects.

The driving position, to begin with, is considerably roomier than it looks to be. The driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat are both closely moulded to the joyful plaything they are sat in by the cockpit. Behind the steering wheel is a straightforward display for the driver that just shows the bare minimum of data in order to reduce clutter. Two gauges, in addition to the current speed, show the condition of the charge, how it is being used, and if it is in a regenerative mode. Drivers will spend the most of the journey eyeballing this between these two readouts and the fluctuating range estimations, sometimes too much. They are thankfully reminded to glance up by a big red image that appears on the same display when they are close to another car thanks to the always-on collision detection.

The speedometer’s former home on this Mini’s circular dashboard display is still there. In the age of omnipresent infotainment displays, it seems more rudimentary than ever. It pays respect to this distinctive feature of the original Mini. The piano black buttons fill the empty space left by the 8.8-inch touch screen, which fits like a square peg into a round hole. Although the widget UI is properly vibrant and upbeat, it sacrifices easy navigation. Sometimes, the best way to reach a given function without using up valuable travel time is not always obvious.

The other physical controls, such as the switches that resemble aeroplanes and the HVAC dials, are huge and heavy. It’s uncommon with these since everything is organized in a sensible, practical manner that you are looking for the input you want at that particular time. This is good since operating a Mini SE is an engaging activity.

On the go

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The Cooper SE is a little, manoeuvrable vehicle that packs a lot of personality while maintaining brisk performance, but it isn’t quite as tiny as the original Minis. When you combine it with an electric vehicle’s improved torque delivery, the automobile will eagerly dart about like a Pikachu from Pokémon.

Mini representatives are keen to mention how the vehicle handles like a “go-kart,” and they have a point.

The Cooper’s performance is responsive and never seems like it will be too much of a hassle, maybe more so than ever before owing to an electric engine. Although the car’s 7-second sprint from 0 to 60 mph won’t get anybody hot under the collar, its ability to swerve into traffic jams or curves is impressive. Its torque is also readily accessible.

The Cooper SE seldom goes off course, and how this landing relies on the driver. Others will be content that the vehicle keeps inside its boundaries while thrill-seekers may crave a bit loose-wheel squirreliness.

The Cooper SE has four built-in driving modes. The EV’s default “Mid” mode strikes a compromise between efficiency and engagement, giving power when a heavy foot is applied to the throttle while preserving as much battery life as possible otherwise. “Green+” performs this while also turning off some of the creature comforts for maximum power-saving, while “Green” does this while also limiting available acceleration energy and softening the pedal’s input. “Sport” increases the throttle sensitivity while providing the maximum amount of power, naturally at the price of battery life.

All of this is to imply that while employing these modes, your mileage may very well vary. Each one significantly alters the car’s dynamics. Additionally, there are always two levels of regenerative braking in use. The Cooper SE begins in a more aggressive mode by default that enables one-pedal operation, but it may be changed to a less efficient and more natural mode.

These types of modes are often available, but the Mini’s limited range of around 100 miles has a significant impact on the driving experience. This little range makes it simple to find oneself making adjustments again and over.

Also Read: Lucid launches new EV performance brand with a three-motor $249,000 sedan

This is how an average travel looks like: You aim to cruise in Green mode as often as you can, sometimes switching to Mid when traffic builds up, since no matter what mileage estimate the Mini shows in Mid, it will always be a more appealing and calming one in Green. Because that means even a little moment of whimsy costs a precious amount of the decreasing charge, sport is constantly there in the background as a highly indulgent indulgence. In the meanwhile, adjusting the regen switch is usual to balance comfort with extending the mileage.

Although it is true that most people don’t drive more than 100 miles a day, even with a reliable home charging system, the fear of running out of gas reduces the enjoyment of the vehicle.

The future

We have a general notion of what Mini has in mind for EV development going forward and are aware that Mini’s parent firm BMW intends to make Mini entirely electric by 2030.

Patrick McKenna, Department Head for Mini Product Planning, provided TechCrunch with some explanation as to why efforts seem to be burning slowly toward a deadline that is drawing near.

The mechanics of the transition are still being worked out, but strategic flexibility—the ability to continue selling internal combustion and battery electric vehicles—is what we’ll be concentrating on in the coming years, McKenna told TechCrunch.

The internal combustion F56 hardtop and the [Cooper SE] use the same assembly line, said McKenna. We can construct the autos close to one other thanks to [this flexibility].

It makes sense from a production perspective to be able to fulfil two distinct client types, but this approach is intrinsically constrained. The biggest problem with the Cooper SE can’t be fixed physically until there are improvements made to the battery’s efficiency. It’s uncertain if this will occur anytime soon given that the engine was taken from the now-discontinued BMW i3.

There are many things to like about the Cooper SE, particularly if you enjoy Mini’s whimsical aesthetic. Even if you’re not, you can’t deny how effectively the company manages to keep its vehicles continuously enjoyable to drive.

However, the conversion of the current vehicle to an electric vehicle and its modest range make it difficult to market, especially at a time when stylish BEVs with sufficient battery life are more common than they were even a few years ago. Although Mini has an all-electric future in front of it, its current efforts seem a little behind the competition. Mini is a brand that significantly draws inspiration from its history to inspire its look.

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