The Mini Cooper goes electric, but is the Cooper SE the right formula for Singapore?
Photos: BMW, Günter Schmied
MIAMI, FLORIDA, USA
This is the new Mini Cooper SE, the first fully-electric Mini model that you will be able to buy in Singapore come the third quarter of this year. Mini says that the Cooper SE will cost similar to the petrol-powered Cooper S, which means a price tag of around $160,000 or so including Certificate of Entitlement (COE), give or take.
It’s a car that will likely appeal to those of the younger persuasion, given its typical Mini looks matched with an eco-friendly electric drivetrain. Externally, the Cooper SE is only differentiated from a regular 3-door Cooper S by its bright yellow/green door mirrors, special EV-only grille, unique badges, and a pretty funky wheel design.
The interior continues the yellow/green theme with the colour making an appearance on the seats, dashboard, and dials, while the Cooper SE also gets bespoke designs for its gear selector and instrument panel. Otherwise, the car is as Mini as you can get.
On paper, the Cooper SE’s specs don’t look particularly impressive. Range is quoted as between 235 to 270 kilometres on a full charge, which is not exactly spectacular given that the similarly-priced Hyundai Kona Electric can get almost 50 percent more range. Top speed for the Cooper SE is also rated at just 150km/h, meaning it stands a far way apart from its regular Cooper S sibling in terms of outright performance.
READ MORE: A slightly less chic, but longer range EV for a similar price? That’s the Hyundai Kona Electric for you
On the flip side, the Cooper SE does boast fairly reasonable recharging times. Mini quotes various timings to fill up the electric Mini, but from an 11kW Wallbox it takes about 3.5 hours to go from 0 to 100% charge. From a 50kW DC fast charger, that time goes down to 1.4 hours.
Having said all that, you have to properly examine the use case scenario for a car like the Cooper SE. This is a car that’s designed primarily for urban journeys. Chances are, someone who owns one of these will be a city dweller, and the car will likely hop from carpark to carpark, from home to work, taking in shops and restaurants in between. If you’re planning a long distance driving holiday, then the Mini is clearly not the car for the job.
It also does explain a little why Mini chose Miami as their launch destination for the Cooper SE’s international test drive. Despite its image as a summer beach paradise, Miami is really a traffic hell-hole, with its constantly congested roads that is more stop than start. We barely broke past 45mph (about 70km/h) throughout our test drive route, save for a short spell on the highway when we gave it the beans as we were running late to our destination (thanks to heavy traffic naturally).
In those situations, the electric Mini does make much more sense. You don’t drive the car like you would a Cooper S, as it doesn’t have quite the same sort of zippy character of the regular car. Initial acceleration is brisk as you’d expect from any electric car with near instant torque, but the lack of performance coupled with the extra heft from the batteries are clearly noticeable as the Cooper SE starts to pull you back a little when you try to build up speed.
The ride too is fairly firm, not quite as harsh as the hardcore JCW, but slightly more intrusive than a standard Cooper S thanks to its stiffer springs that are required to cope with the added weight of the electric drivetrain and batteries (the Cooper SE weighs nearly 1.4 tonnes).
Our test route was a leisurely drive from downtown Miami to Fort Lauderdale (a distance of about 35 miles, or 56km) with no real opportunity to explore the car’s handling chops properly, but initial impressions would suggest that the electric Mini would probably not quite have the same sort of lithe, go-kart sensation as the regular car, although we’d probably reserve final judgement when we get the chance to drive the car properly.
That said, we come back round to what, or more specifically who, this car is for. As mentioned, the Mini Cooper SE is probably meant for those whose driving patterns are confined strictly within city limits only, and it is in this vein that the car makes the most sense for cities like Singapore. There’s a clearly defined target customer base for this car, and they would put style and eco-friendliness as priorities over practicality and drivability.
In that sense, it is very Mini, in that Mini Cooper owners don’t buy their cars to transport their family around (for that you’ll get a Countryman). They are typically young singles or couples, who work downtown and don’t usually make long journeys. The Cooper SE adds the green element into the mix, enhancing its appeal to the ‘woke’ generation who are concerned about their environmental impact on the world.
It is a limited use case for sure, but it is one that suits probably a good proportion of folks here in Singapore. And for the money, there’s few other choices that provide the sort of chic urban style that the Mini Cooper SE offers.
Mini Cooper SE
Electric Motor 184hp, 270Nm
Battery Lithium ion, 32.6kWh
Charge Time / Type 3.5 hours / Wallbox (11kW)
Electric Range 235-270km
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Top Speed 150km/h
VES Band / CO2 TBC
Agent Eurokars Habitat
Price $160,000 with COE (estimated)
Availability Q3 2020