Is the Mini Cooper SE the right car to start your electric journey? Dhruv certainly seems to think so.
The Mini Cooper SE is smaller than a sub-4 metre SUV and has a real-world range of 130 – 160kms. Its rear seats are hardly usable, and its boot is the size of a matchbox. Plus, it costs around ₹55 lakh (on-road). Now, if I tried to sell you one at this point, you’d call me crazy, flip the page, enjoy the fact that the Mini looks like a million bucks, and move on. But by now you must have guessed that there is more to the Mini Cooper SE than what I have mentioned thus far. So, if curiosity has gotten the better of you and you want to know what makes the Mini Cooper SE a perfect city runabout, well, read on…
If Looks Could Kill!
One look at the Mini Cooper SE is enough for you to say goodbye to common sense. The timeless Mini design is at the core of the collection of lines and curves that come together to give the Cooper SE its unique look. The blocked-off grille, neon yellow insignias (reserved for electric Minis), the two-door body style, and, my personal favourite, the ‘aero-wheels’ are enough to turn you into an admirer. The Cooper SE will turn heads everywhere, without fail. That’s not all, the Mini Electric has a great presence on the road too. Just flash your lights and the car ahead, regardless of whether it’s a hatchback, a sedan, or an SUV, moves out of your way quicker than you can say ‘please’. Imagine making a Fortuner move out of your way with a Mini – it’s something, isn’t it? It’s to do with the fact that the Mini looks completely different from anything else on the road and has a distinctly unique presence. And since there are so few of them, you can’t help but notice it when you encounter one on the road.
Rich Man's Alto
Now, let’s face it, the Mini Cooper SE’s price tag puts it out of reach of the many and into that of a few. And while that’s true, the Mini’s value lies not in its price tag but, among other things, its compact dimensions, which make it a perfect city car. Let’s be honest, parking spaces are always scarce, especially in crowded metropolitan cities. So, the fact that the Mini can tuck into most nooks and crannies of the city actually gives it an edge over gaudy SUVs, which seem to be quite popular these days. And, you’ll appreciate the Mini more in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Its go-kart-like handling, small dimensions, and zippy throttle response are all perfect for darting into those gaps that notoriously disappear in the blink of an eye. Plus, the fact that everyone around you will be drooling over it will only make things better.
Another feature of the Mini that you will love in city traffic is the regen modes. The far-left toggle switch on the centre console allows you to switch between the High and Low Energy Conservation modes – the two regen settings. The High setting will take some getting used to, but once you are familiar with it, it works wonders in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just lifting off the throttle is enough to come to a stop. In fact, while driving the car, I often found my front axle parked on top of the speed breakers. The regen was strong enough to bring the Mini to a complete halt even when I momentarily got off the throttle to go over one. The Low mode works best in flowing traffic when you are cruising above 35 – 40km/h. During the three days that I spent with the Mini Cooper SE, around 60 – 70% of my braking was taken care of by the regen of the electric motor. That said, it did take me a couple of drives to get fully used to it.
In terms of handling, especially round corners, you will reach the edge of your confidence before you reach the limit of the Mini’s chassis or tyres. Its go-kart-like handling is superb, but you do find yourself being a little more cautious in long-sweeping corners. What got me nervous time and again was hitting a bump mid-corner, and I am not talking about potholes, but small undulations in the road. The Mini has a stiff suspension setup to counteract the weight of the battery. While the battery is under the floor, meaning that the centre of gravity is actually lower than the regular Mini, its weight sends a reverse force through the chassis, which, for a second, makes the Mini light on its feet. It’s not a feeling you want to encounter when you are doing 60km/h on a cloverleaf exit. The heavy steering (in Sport mode) actually makes things a little harder. The ride quality is inherently firm, and, depending on your age, you will find it anywhere between slightly annoying to back-breaking.
Drives Like a…
…truck! That’s what I would have said, if I had driven the Mini only for a few metres, for the simple reason that it feels heavy. But, then, that’s not the whole story. Once you start rolling, the weight magically disappears. The drive experience is super refined, given that it’s an electric car and all, and you do feel a little disconnected. But considering that it’s a city car and not a corner carver, I’d say, that’s a good thing.
There are four drive modes – Green+, Green, Mid, and Sport. Green+ is out of the question, as it turns off climate control, but, then, it increases the range by about 15%. Green is better, but Mid is the setting I liked the most. First of all, it offers the same range as Sport mode. You get all the ponies to stretch their legs, and the steering stays relatively light. In Sport mode, the throttle gets sharper, and if you have a sloppy right foot, it might feel jerky too. The steering weighs up unnecessarily, and the dials turn red. That’s it. The top speed of the car is capped at 150km/h.
So, where does all this leave us? You see, the Mini isn’t perfect. It’s flawed. For the price it demands, it lacks premium features like electronic seat adjustment or ventilated seats. The steering could’ve been lighter, and an addition of at least 50kms to its range would be nice. But if you will only drive it in the city, you’ll hardly use the missing features, and the steering can be toned down by selecting the Mid mode. As for the range, well, did I mention that the portable charger that you get with the Mini Cooper SE for emergencies can charge the battery from 0 to 100% in just 10 – 11 hours? That’s around 10% of the charge or 15kms of range per hour. On the other hand, DC fast charging can give you 120kms of range in just 36 minutes.
So, it seems that all of the Mini’s flaws can be somewhat overlooked. And if you do that, you get the opportunity to drive a car that looks like a million bucks, draws attention like a supercar, and costs relatively less than one.
- Mini Cooper SE
Motor: Single Motor / Front-Axle
Battery: 32.6kWh Li-ion
Range: 270kms (WLTP)
Price: ₹50.90 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: It stands out on the road and the fact that only a limited number of units are sold in India makes it super exclusive!