If you’re not a fan of fuel prices, and you’re not sure about the leap of faith to an EV, then it’s time to branch out. Be brave and do something wild. Buy a MINI. In this case, the 2022 Cooper SE. It’s not a bad candidate for your first electric vehicle.
That’s a good thing too because MINI is going all-electric within the next eight years. The German car maker’s plan is to foster sustainability, without compromising the ‘go-kart’ driving experience. The new model isn’t scary either, it’s all very eccentric, as you might expect from this brand.
The only initial feelings of unorthodoxy stem from the massive sundial-like display surround (with ‘visual boost’ lighting that progresses around the ring as you adjust certain in-car features), the chrome race-inspired toggles, and quirky layout.
Electrification aside, you still hop in, ‘turn the ignition’, put it in drive and pull away, like any other hatch. It has a boot, not the greatest in capacity but alright for a few enviro bags, and back seats, not with greatest leg room but alright for two vegans.
Relax, we’re only kidding. Sort of. The in-car experience is augmented by features you’d normally bank on in a small car exceeding 50 grand, including the 8.8-inch infotainment display, with more vibrant graphics for 2022.
Dual zone climate settings, ambient lighting, wireless Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth audio, and drive modes can all be controlled through this interface via touch or using the manual dial. Wireless charging is also standard.
Driver assistance now includes lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The head-up display also contains speed limit information from the traffic sign recognition system.
There’s a high-resolution reverse camera, or the car can park itself using the parking assistant. A new digital instrument cluster will take the EV convert a little getting used to. Aside from basic driving information, the 5.5-inch unit also displays an E-power gauge.
This is used to indicate available battery power under acceleration, and a charge indicator for the regenerative braking system. As you’d imagine, it takes more adjusting to the sound of silence, and expectations about how long you can go.
Likewise, you’ll wonder how long until you can set off again, using the throttle, and, perhaps unique to the SE, lifting off again. With the 32.6kwh battery you can, relative to your driving behaviour, achieve a range of 233km.
This certainly isn’t BMW i8 range, nor is it better than a Nissan Leaf. Bear in mind though that it was enough for us to scoot around Sydney city looking for a place for lunch, and then proceed all the way to Newcastle without anxiety.
Nothing about the SE really says long haul tourer, so there’s no point expecting it have the range of one. If you are looking to go further, we suggest plotting every fast charger on the navigation system.
From a 50kw/h fast charger (maximum charge capacity for the Cooper SE), you’re in business. We managed nearly dead empty to 80 percent in a touch under 35 minutes, consistent with MINI’s claimed 36 minutes, and pretty decent overall.
The key to charging at home is to avoid complacency. Put it on charge when you pull in the driveway, don’t casually stumble down after dinner to hook it up. Despite our expectation of around 16 hours, a 10A residential outlet took over 17 hours.
One way to keep a closer eye on things is to make use of the MINI App to set charge schedules and receive alerts when charging has finished, or just live in the city. It’s in this latter scenario that the Cooper SE is pretty much the easiest car in the world to drive.
Cruisy, predictable, accurate, and light on its feet. It’s a slightly uncomfortable turn of events that the Cooper SE feels happy in the shade of office blocks. Meanwhile it hides the secret of also being pretty quick.
On an open stretch of road, it’s cheeky fun playing around with rolling launches at different speeds. Everyone bangs on about the instant torque pull in EV’s, but there is an extra element of surprise from a sprint in the MINI.
Producing 135kW and 270Nm, the electric motor drives the front wheels through a single-speed automatic transmission and can take you from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds – just shy of the time achievable in the petrol variant.
Acceleration noticeably bottoms out at speeds lower than what you’d hope for but still higher than what we can talk about here. Top speed is 150km/h. The regenerative braking system will take a few drives to get comfortable with.
It’s dual mode, so you can back it off a bit by flicking another toggle and selecting low. High regeneration is the default, and although harnessing a lot of kinetic energy, the car pulls up hard. We can’t emphasise this enough.
With a Ford Ranger up your bum on the M1, he’s probably going to think you’re brake checking him just by lifting off. So be mindful of that. At lower speeds the system will easily bring the car to a complete stop too.
It’s quite the unique driving experience overall though, and while it doesn’t feel fun to drive in an authentic Cooper kind of way, it is enjoyable, in and of itself. The floaty numbness of an EV hasn’t been completely eradicated, but it will surprise you.
Much like the acceleration, you’ll be left grinning at how tight you can keep it through a bend. Through chicanes you get a more palpable experience of the lower centre of gravity created by the battery pack placement, and lack of a combustion engine.
Furthermore, you build respect for the steering responsiveness and firm ride when going full rally. Any evocation of a Mk1 Monte Carlo winner is wishful thinking, but we can safely say there’s still plenty of zest.
You can set your preference for both energy usage and performance by choosing from three drive modes, Green, Mid and Sport. The SE maintains distinguishable Cooper S styling, while a range of trim and colour options let you create a bespoke exterior look.
Pricing starts from $55,650 before on-road costs.
Our test vehicle was supplied by MINI Australia. To find out more about the 2023 MINI Cooper SE, contact your local MINI dealer.
This article first published on Exhaust Notes Australia: https://www.exhaustnotes.com.au/2023-mini-cooper-se-car-review/