Range matters. Or does it? For a small and inexpensive city car powered by an electric engine it’s not quite as important as a four door sedan priced between 80-150k. But nonetheless the Mini Cooper SE will be judged on range. And that range isn’t as high as some would have hoped.
In Europe the MINI Cooper SE was credited with a 146 to 168 miles by the WLTP. But in the US the EPA takes a much more stringent look at range and how it is affected by real-world conditions. Because of that MINI USA expects that the 2020 Mini Cooper SE range will be around 110 miles. That’s revised slightly from the 114 that the company had originally thought would be certified by the EPA. And while the official figure isn’t in, it’s a safe bet that MINI wouldn’t talk numbers (especially lower) if they weren’t pretty certain it would align with the final figure.
Why the Mini Cooper SE Range Shouldn’t Matter (A lot)
The MINI Cooper SE will start at $29,900 when it hits dealerships in early 2020. On the face of it, $29k for a car that gets 110 miles on a charge seems steep. But the more we dig into what the final price vs performance will be, the more we’re convinced that the SE could hit a sweet spot for quite a few looking for an electric daily driver. Especially given that this will likely be a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th car for most owners.
To start with the MINI Cooper SE should qualify for the $7,500 tax credit (which is a credit the buyer claims on their federal tax return). On top of that many states also have tax credits that could be applied in a similar fashion. Added together that $29k price starts to get a lot closer to $20k mark – an incredible deal when you consider the quality of a MINI and the performance of the Cooper SE that we’ve all read about.
What about competitors? The Honda E is a particularly interesting one but one that likely won’t be coming to the US any time soon (and even if it does the MINI beats it on specs). So lets look at a few that are on sale as we speak. The Golf E gets about the same range for $32k. It has two extra doors, a bit more room but doesn’t come as well equipped as the MINI. However because VW reportedly loses money on everyone made, it’s only available it states that mandate some level of electric sales. The Nissan Leaf on the other hand is available everywhere and offers a 150 mile range for $30,885. But its questionable design, poor quality and mediocre driving experience have turned us off both times we’ve sampled them.
Then there’s the long-range champion of the segment the Chevy Bolt. The 238 mile range gets top billing as it kills the competition in this category. How can Chevy offer this in a car starting at $36,620? For one, it’s a loss leader as GM is rumored to lose $8-9k on each one sold. Then there are the materials and driving experience – both of which leave a lot to be desired.
That leaves us back where we started. The more we look at it, the more the MINI Cooper SE seems to hit a sweet spot for those looking at a commuter electric car. The F56 quality is well known, and MINI’s history of great driver’s cars could make it totally unique in the category.
No, it doesn’t have Tesla like range. But this is a small MINI, and it’s natural habitat is urban environments where commutes are short (in miles) and chargers are plentiful.
Electric MINI Cooper SE: The Numbers
The MINI Cooper SE is equipped with lithium-ion batteries delivery a range of 146 to 168 miles according to MINI Global. For the EPA that will likely translate into 110 miles despite the relatively stringent (real-world) WLTP testing show a range of 124-144 miles. So why does MINI quote 146 to 168 miles? Simply put, that’s what the car is capable of when driven sensibly and in ideal conditions. No matter what number you look at the range MINI has delivered (while not taking away interior volume) is impressive. Especially considering the F56 platform was never designed to accommodate batteries.
Perhaps more important than range is how quickly the MINI Cooper SE can charge. The SE can be charged on everything from a normal 120 volt socket to a fast direct-current 50kW charger (the latter allowing an 80 per cent charge to be achieved in just 35 minutes)
Like all electric cars, the SE will have energy recuperation that acts as automatic braking. However, MINI has designed a system that allows this energy recuperation to be variable giving drivers two levels to choose from to tailor their one-pedal driving experience.
Electric MINI Cooper SE: Equipment, Price and Performance
But let’s put all that aside for a moment and remember this is a MINI and intended to be an engaging driving experience rather than an appliance like so many electric cars. While the 0-62 time of 7.3 doesn’t seem all that impressive, the immediacy of the torque and ultra low center of gravity reportedly create a feeling like no other MINI. According to those who have driven the SE, it’s an absolute riot on the track and is likely the most capable around an autocross. This is also due to something called ARB – BMW’s highly advanced traction control system designed for electric cars that features a slip control system positioned directly in the engine control unit making it dramatically faster to react. Combined with with DSC, actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation (say that three times) significantly reduces the power understeer usually experienced with front-wheel drive vehicles, but without control intervention to stabilize lateral dynamics.
The MINI Cooper SE will be well equipped with LED headlamps, 2-zone automatic air conditioning, heating with heat pump technology, auxiliary heating, electric parking brake and Connected Navigation. It will also debut the highly anticipated digital gauge cluster that we’ve been reporting on for years at MF (look for this to make its way to other MINI models by 03/20 production).
Taking the the $29,900 MSRP combined the $7,500 federal tax credit (not to mention the typical state credit), the MINI Cooper SE could easily be a $20,000 car all things considered. Given the performance, standard equipment and all that comes with a MINI that’s an exceptional price that makes the MINI Cooper SE much more compelling than many (including us) expected.
But that’s our take. Let us know your thoughts below.