MINI Electric 3 Door Review
Hectic Electric

Words and Photos by Clifford Chow
9 Dec 2020
 

Just like the petrol-driven 3-Door models, the Electric drives very much like how a MINI should. Its quick steering and stiff suspension does help to deliver the Go Kart-like handling MINI is known for.

MINI fires its first electric salvo, and it is the 3 Door hatchback, the car the brand is built around... and I am writing this with a bit of sadness. As there is a greater push to go electric, MINI as we know it will eventually shift to an all-electric range. And while the band has had a good run with petrol (and some diesels), change is a constant that we all have to accept, like it or not. We have to accept that will lose some of the mechanical character that the brand has painstakingly built over the decades.

But I do go back to the subject of ‘change’. While we are unable to hang on to certain things. In MINI’s case, the eventual loss of the internal combustion engine, there are those who may be keen to be the first to embrace change. So if you are one of the few who do look forward to change, perhaps embracing change with a little bit of style might be just your cup of tea.

The 3 Door hatchback is the car MINI is built around. Iconic in shape, and in my opinion, the one with the best seating position, in relation to where the wheels are located. Therefore, you can easily see why MINI had introduced this as their very first EV.

Notable additions to its styling sees Energetic Yellow trim, dotting the exterior of the car, from its grille, wing mirror covers and even the surrounds of the rims. The closed grille is unique to the car, and helps with reducing wind resistance. Interestingly, MINI had even gone all out to fashion the Electric’s rims to resemble UK 3-pin plug sockets… a major hint of its electric drivetrain; if you are not convinced enough.

Apart from its funky styling elements, the MINI Electric does sit 18mm higher than its 3-Door petrol-powered sibling; this is to accommodate the battery under the floorboard. In most cases, you cannot tell the difference in height, unless you are parked beside another MINI. The MINI Electric is essentially decked out in Cooper S trim, meaning that design elements like the faux hood scoop are retained.

Inside

The interior is a visual treat of elliptical shapes, ranging from air-conditioning vents, switchgear and also the fancy lit bezel that surrounds the 6.5” infotainment screen. There are Energetic Yellow accents that adorn the dash and the gearshift lever… just a reminder that you are in their new EV. If you are familiar with MINI interiors, you will be quick to notice the larger digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, that replaces the analogue one found in most of their cars.

The front seats, which have side bolsters are designed to keep you in your place, and adjustable thigh cushions that render added support, points to a car that is intended to be driven enthusiastically. The 3 Door is quite a personal car, so do not expect heaps of space for those who are seated at the rear, though adults will do fine for short journeys.

The MINI Connected app, which is quite a recent addition to their cars, adds even greater connectivity, where users can benefit from seamless integration between the car and their mobile device. Daily routines can be input into the app, and ideal departure times worked in, based on real-time traffic situations. Drive information can also be displayed on your mobile device, meaning that it can help you reflect on how you can be a more efficient driver.

Just like a regular 3-Door MINI, you still get 211 litres of cargo space, a hidden compartment below the boot board, and up to 731 litres with the rear seats folded.

The Drive

In-place of an engine, the MINI Electric gets a 184hp motor under the hood, and to fuel it, a lithium-ion battery, that is located in the vehicle floor, between the front seats and also under the rear seats. For those who are concerned about the range, MINI claims that you are able to clock up to 270km on a full charge; or the equivalent of about five back-and-forth trips to town from either end of the island, before having to plug the car in. In reality, I feel that this is significantly less, since most drivers, given its performance will want to give their car the beans.

As an EV, we expect the MINI to deliver immediate acceleration; and it did deliver with ease. There was even quite a bit of torque steer, as the front wheels bit into the tarmac for grip, and you can even get the driving wheels to lose a little grip on the run, with a quick stab of your right foot. From rest, the MINI Electric clocks 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, 0.6 seconds short of the petrol engined 3 Door Cooper S, and 0.5 seconds quicker than the 3 Door Cooper model.

Just like the petrol-driven 3-Door models, the Electric drives very much like how a MINI should. Its quick steering and stiff suspension does help to deliver the Go Kart-like handling MINI is known for. There is however, less feedback coming from the steering wheel, and to this extent, I would still pick the Cooper S in the same body shape, with its 2.0 turbocharged engine, paired with a real transmission; where I would enjoy the emotional build-up of the revs anytime, over this EV. And I will one day certainly miss the familiar roar of the engine up-front, and the popping exhaust with each gear change.. something that I have come to enjoy from a MINI.

My personal rant aside, MINI’s new EV is still a seriously well-built offering. The suspension however, coupled with those runflat tyres does seem a little too firm for my liking. But overall, there is quite a bit of entertainment you can milk from this premium hatch, with its punchy performance, and sharp handling. I must say that it is quite surreal exiting a bend, hard on the accelerator pedal, with just the accompanying near-silent whiz of the electric motor, and some chirping of the tyres.

There are two regenerative modes you can choose from, intended for scavenging energy during slowing down, back into the batteries. The heavier regenerative mode is intended for you to drive the car with one foot, meant to be operated in a smooth fashion. This would take some time getting used to for most, since it is set to brake the car harder when you lift off. If you are one of those who has a habit of pumping the throttle (if you actually do this in your current car, please change your driving habits), instead of depressing it smoothly, you will soon find your passengers and yourself feeling nauseous rather quickly.

However, I would have liked if MINI had also provided the option for the regenerative braking to be completely turned-off, so that you can opt to coast along long unobstructed stretches. On our roads, this would usually mean late night drives, where traffic is sparse. That said, the MINI Electric is intended for an urban environment, where traffic is more of a start-stop affair, and where the regenerative braking does its best work.

Our Thoughts

Even as Singapore slowly becomes more EV friendly, it will only still be more logical for now to buy an EV, only if you have your very own charging point. Those who stay in gated communities, or better still, have their own driveways will benefit from this, since the car comes with a 11kW wall box when you purchase it. Charging takes around 3.5 hours.

While companies like Shell, which has 10 EV friendly stations that offer quick charging facilities you have to accept that charging an EV is not like filling up your fuel tank, which can take all of just 5 minutes. Shell’s 50kW fast charging station will load your battery to 80% from near zero in around half-an-hour. If you are fortunate like me, there was a mall within walking distance from the station, where I could do many frivolous things, like buying a pot which now sits forlorn in a cupboard somewhere. 

There are also some free charging stations dotted around our island too, but if you are going to spend just an hour away, these low energy chargers will offer you probably just enough juice to make it home at best.

But if you do have a place to mount a wallbox of your own, the MINI Electric could be the car for you, especially if you are one to embrace going electric... and you will never need to stop by a fuel station ever again.

In Summary

We Like

Handles and entertains just about how you would expect a MINI should.

We Don't

Unable to completely shut off regenerative braking.

Verdict

If you have the means to embrace going electric, and want to, the MINI Electric delivers an entertaining driving experience, and it costs about the same amount of coin as offerings from the Koreans.  If a 5 Door hatchback does become available in the future, it will be even more practical... And you can expect more versatility and passenger space from future Clubman and Countryman models if MINI electrifies them.

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Engine

Engine Type Inline 3
Power 184bhp
Torque 270Nm
Power to Weight 134.8 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 7.3s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 150 km/h

Misc Technical Data

Drive Type FF
Steering Electric

Measurements

Body Type 3 Door Hatch
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(3982 x 1727 x 1443) mm
Wheelbase 2567 mm
Kerb Weight 1365 kg
Boot Capacity 211 L
Boot Capacity (folded) 721 L

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Discs