Test Drive Notes Library
- Drives like a Mini. Those who love the Mini love it either because a) it’s cute, or b) it’s fun to drive. Or both. And if anything, the electric version of the Mini is even more fun to drive. With the heavy, T-shaped battery placed down low in the car’s frame, the center of gravity is even lower than in a gas-powered Mini. That makes it handle even more like a go kart—albeit a quieter go-kart.
- Peppy. The electric motor delivers about 180 horsepower, or as we say in the real world, plenty. Add the immediate torque you get from an electric motor, and, basically, there’s no waiting. It feels appropriately powered for a fun, zippy car. The handling improvements and quickness of the electric drivetrain clearly improve the Mini Cooper.
- Quiet. We drove the Cooper SE for a week, and we didn’t miss the sound of the exhaust.
- Great interior. For two people and a dog. Seriously, this is not a car that will serve everybody’s needs. If you’ve got two kids, heck, if you got one kid, skip it. The back seat is there, but you don’t want to make any kind of regular use of it. Better to fold it down and let your Shitzu have the run of the place. But if you normally drive by yourself, or with one other person, this is a fun car with an unusually creative interior. It’s part steampunk, part video game, part 1940’s airplane. It’s not a mature, family car. But you don’t want one of those anyway, do you? The new, digital instrument cluster is bright, clear, and an improvement over the traditional gauges. We just wish the cluster didn’t move up and down along with the steering column when you adjust its height.
- Comfortable for two. The Mini Cooper SE actually sits a tiny bit higher than the gasoline Mini Cooper, despite its lower center of gravity. That makes it just a tad easier to get in and out of. OK, half a tad. Once inside, the cabin is cozy, but not claustrophobic. The windshield is set so far forward that the space appears bigger than it is. The seats are well bolstered and reasonably comfortable.
- Easy to park. When you drive the Mini in a city, you experience the elation of being able to fit in a parking space that a Toyota Corolla had to pass on. That feeling never gets old.
- Price. While electric vehicles can be pretty pricey, the Mini Cooper SE is quite reasonable. The decently equipped base model starts a sesame seed below $30K. And that’s before federal and state rebates. So you’re talking low $20’s. Our test car came loaded with the $7,000 “Iconic” package, which includes a head up display, premium sound, navigation, active headlights, and a bunch of comfort and convenience features. At $37,750, that still means an actual cost of somewhere in the $30,000 range after rebates.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Range. We like everything about the Cooper SE, except its range. A little over 100 miles. That’s so 2015. Actually, it’s not much different than the experimental Mini E released back in 2008. With cars like the Nissan Leaf and Kia Niro now offering range comfortably into the mid 200’s, all but eliminating the concept of range anxiety, Mini is stuck in the past with what is limited to a commuter car. Why? Mini is not exactly teeming in investment money from parent company BMW due to modest sales, so they’re stretching what they’ve got as long as they can. On the shelf was the BMW i3’s last generation drivetrain. “We’ll take it!” They try to make up for it by pricing the car below some of the above mentioned, more-modern battery-electrics. And, of course, it’s more fun to drive, too. But it limits the car to a “second car” for most people, or a car for people who commute short distances, and live in a city, where a 40-mile trip is never required on the spur of the moment. It’s a fun car to drive. And if it had a 250 mile range, it’d be a spectacular car.
- Lacking some safety. While the Cooper has forward collision warning and city-speed automatic emergency braking, you can’t get blind spot warning, or highway speed automatic emergency braking. That’s a bummer in 2020.
- Firm ride. While the Cooper SE is great fun to drive on a twisty road, the ride is on the firm side. So if you live in pothole-ville, consider that.
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