Unplug and play: the electric Mini is in Singapore

The Mini Cooper SE is now in town, but at S$163,888 with COE, it’s a costly ambassador to all-electric motoring

UPDATE: Looking for a local test drive report of the Mini Cooper SE? We’ve got it here!

SINGAPORE — The Mini Cooper SE officially goes on sale in Singapore today, and it’s a special occasion: it’s the day the brand’s first electric car hits the market.

That makes it 61 years to the day that Mini itself was born. On August 26, 1959 the British Motor Corporation rolled out the Morris Mini-Minor and its twin sister the Austin Seven Mini.

Those original cars are now iconic, and Mini will be hoping the same becomes true of the Cooper SE.

What’s under the bonnet?

A full electric vehicle (EV), the Mini Cooper SE ditches an engine for a 184 horsepower electric motor that drives the front wheels.

In turn, that’s powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that lives under the floor and the rear seats. (The car sits on 18mm taller suspension to put the batteries high enough above the road surface.)

Mini says the layout means there’s no compromise to cabin or boot space. The Cooper SE still seats four people and the boot is still 211 litres large (or small). That expands to 731 litres when you drop the rear backrests.

How far will it go?

With 28.9kWh of usable capacity (of out 32.6kwh gross capacity) from the battery pack, the Mini Cooper SE has a range of 242 to 270km. It consumes 14.8kWh to 16.8kWh per 100km on average, depending on whom you ask.

As with combustion cars, range is highly dependent on how heavy your right foot is, anway. Four driving modes — Sport, Mid, Green and Green+ — tweak the power delivery between sinner and saintly, but you probably won’t use that last one because it switches off the air-con compressor.

How fast is it?

The top speed is limited to 150km/h and it hits 100km/h in 7.3 seconds. Mini takes pains to point out that 0 to 60km/h takes just 3.9 seconds, implying that the Cooper SE should be a hoot to drive in town, where the ability to pounce on traffic gaps counts for a lot.

As with other electric cars, maximum torque is available as soon as you step on the pedal. In this case, that’s 270 Newton metres.

Incidentally, Mini says the Cooper SE has an external sound generator to warn pedestrians of its presence at low speed.

What’s the charging situation?

You can go low and slow (meaning with Alternating Current) at up to 11kW or hard and fast (with Direct Current) at 50kW.

AC charging will take an empty battery to 80 percent in two-and-a-half hours. If you stop at a fast DC station you can do the same in 35 minutes.

Shell has 10 fast chargers around the island so far and the Mini will help you find them; they’re part of the ChargeNow network that BMW operates, along with more than 100 Greenlots charging points around the island.

These show up on the navigation system, thanks to the Mini ConnectedDrive suite of connectivity services. The car also tells you if the chargers are available and how much they’ll cost to use. 

We done drove the electric Mini, yessir! Check out our review from early this year

Because the Cooper SE has a 4G connection, the companion smartphone app lets you switch on the car’s air-con remotely. Literally a cool trick, that.

But how can anyone tell I’m driving a sweet, sweet electric car?

I say yellow, you fool, I love you. C’mon join the joyride…

You don’t need a magnifying glass to spot that this is an electric Mini. There’s a closed-off front grille, for starters. It has a decorative bar in a colour Mini calls Energetic Yellow, which also covers the wing mirror caps.

Yellow is a recurring colour in the cabin, where you’ll find it on the floor mat seams, the cockpit fascia and the Start/Stop switch (normally bright red).

Also look out for a Mini Electric logo, which appears on the charging port cap, the tailgate, the front grille and the side scuttles.

If the 17-inch wheels look vaguely familiar, it’s because they took inspiration from the three-pin plug in your house.

If you’re eagle-eyed enough you might have spotted the adaptive LED matrix headlamps. That’s one feature to help justify the price gap between this and the petrol Cooper S.

And what might that price gap be?

The Cooper SE retails for S$163,888 with certificate of entitlement; S$4,000 more than a Cooper S. The price includes a Wallbox AC charger and installation.

The electric Mini also comes with Driving Assistance. That entails using a camera to read speed limit signs and to set a safe distance to the car ahead. It’s the only Mini here to come with the safety system.

Still, the price is high for a small car. Yet, no one buys a three-door Mini Cooper S hatch for practicality or value for money anyway, so why should they for a Cooper SE?

READ MORE > Our list of the best electric cars in Singapore today (and the worst!)

There’s the novelty of the EV experience, of course — the typical electric car’s silence and responsiveness make combustion cars feel outdated. It’s cheaper than BMW’s own i3, but electric cars from China and Korea are cheaper still, while offering more space and range. That suggests the Cooper SE is best suited to people who stand where Mini fandom and EV curiosity overlap.

Such a group is, fittingly, likely to be pretty mini itself. “We have to be realistic,” says Kidd Yam, the head of Mini Asia (below). Minis are expensive to begin with by virtue of their premium positioning, he points out.

“If there’s a small group of customers who currently drive a Mini or BMW or another car, who suddenly say, ‘Okay, maybe it’s time to switch (to electric) now,’ we give them an option,” Mr Yam says.

The Cooper SE is, he adds, is a Mini first and electric second. That gives it a familiar form and familiar face, and makes it a familiar jumping off point from fossil fuels to cleaner motoring. This is one electric car that’s been exactly 61 years in the making.

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about the author

Leow Julen
CarBuyer's managing editor is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 25 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.