Transformed. That’s how Autocar is describing the all new J01 electric MINI Cooper SE in an early preview drive. Select European publications had an early drive in the J01 electric MINI Cooper in Germany recently and came away impressed with the reimagined electric MINI. While these were very early prototypes, the words positive, impressive and even transformed show just how good this new electric MINI Cooper SE could be.

Autocar’s review captures the new car well so we’re going to focus on what they found first. And what they immediately were impressed by was the steering.

The steering is transformed. The engineers say they’re still working on dialling in some on-centre feel, but it already felt pretty good to me. The leaden feel and limp turn-in that characterises many versions of the current Mini has been banished completely. It’s now actually quite light, even in Sport driving mode, feeling natural and delicately letting you know what’s going on.”

Autocar reports that the steering is just 2.2 turns lock to lock and is a direct rack with a fixed ratio. That along with the improved steering feel should go a long way in helping to create more consistent feedback and turn-in characteristics.

As we’ve reported previously power output is 215 hp with a WLTP range of 250 miles for the Cooper SE.

Electric MINI Cooper review

The chassis is another clear point of major improvement; “The chassis backs up the fast steering with grip and response, even on winter tyres in cold and wet conditions. The nose darts into corners in a way that the old car’s never did. You can easily load up the front end and then bring the rear out to play at will.

It’s also in the fine tuning of the electronics and power management where there are big improvements. According to Autocar; engineers have put a lot of work into the traction and stability control systems, and it shows. Leave everything on and the systems will carefully mete out power to maintain traction while smoothly intervening to maintain the agile handling while keeping the rear axle firmly in line.”

Electric MINI Cooper review

But it’s DSC Sport mode that really impressed as Autocar explains; “it maintains the traction and nips at the individual brakes to subtly rotate the car into corners. It lets you play with the balance of the car and even encourages it, while still keeping an eye out to make sure that things don’t get out of hand.”

Autoexpress came away impressed by many of the same points but called out the brakes as some of the best they’ve ever felt in an EV; The best news, though, is the natural feel to the brake pedal, which is quite rare in an EV. The new MINI’s stopping power feels entirely linear and natural, giving us the confidence to hit the power and then brake heavily as we head into corners.

Interestingly MINI had a current generation F56 Cooper SE on hand as a benchmark. Again here’s Autoexpress; “First, MINI put us into the current-generation Cooper SE on the circuit and that still manages to put a smile on our face. But swapping into the new car instantly brings more performance, bags of grip and – whisper it – an unexpected ability to drift.

Electric MINI Cooper review

Their take was that “body control feels a touch tighter than on MINIs of old (and it was already pretty good), while the steering still needs to be a touch quicker, especially when you let the rear end step out.” The latter is reportedly one of the last refinements MINI is still making in tuning.

Finally they end their driving impressions with this point; “MINIs have always been about fun, but the new model feels like fun. There’s a greater focus on the driver, but not to the detriment of comfort.”

Electric MINI Cooper review

Early Design Impressions of the J01 Electric MINI Cooper SE

Autoexpress had a chance to speak with lead Exterior Designer Thomas Sycha who talked about the differences this car has over the F56 and the forthcoming ICE F66;

Electric MINI Cooper review

“This new car has a more aerodynamic form. The droplet shape is ideal aerodynamically with a wider rear.” Even the wheels are flatter and more aerodynamic, with more space for the bigger brakes that are important for power regeneration in an EV.

“There are two characters to MINI. The engineering simplicity of Alec Issigonis and the emotional side of John Cooper. This new model covers both those bases.”

MINI Exterior Designer Thomas Sycha

While differences in stance and overall shape are hard to pick out in photos, they are more obvious hands-on. According to Autoexpress; even in camouflage, the more athletic stance of the Cooper is clear, with its wider rear and narrower glasshouse. That doesn’t mean there’s less room inside, though. It’s still not massively spacious, although we’d say there is a fraction more legroom and headroom in the back than before, with the boot roughly the same size.

electric MINI Cooper review

The J01 Electric MNI Cooper SE Interior

Both authors commented on the new interior design. Gone is the digital display cluster behind the wheel. In its place is a circular OLED display that houses most functions. Having experienced BMW’s take on housing functionality like heated seats and drive modes in a display we’ve been very concerned how MINI’s approach would pay off. But early returns look a bit more positive. Here’s Autocar’s take;

As much as I like chunky old-school controls, I must admit that it looks quite cool and seemingly works okay, even running very buggy prototype software. Like in a Tesla, you quickly get used to looking slightly right for the speed, plus a head-up display is optional.

Just below the circular screen are traditional toggle switches include on/off, gear selection, power modes, audio volume and what MINI is calling ‘experiences’.

The seats are all new as well. Sadly the adjustable thigh-support is gone. The seats are slightly wider but reportedly more ergonomic with an adjustable armrest now attached.

The steering wheel is also heavily revised and is 20 mm smaller in diameter and has gone back to a two-spoke design with a strap acting as a third central spoke. And that strap theme continues inside in other places.

Chrome is gone as MINI has replaced with with a ‘vibrant silver’ that they say is fingerprint proof for those who are a bit Type A.

“We have fingerprint-proof buttons, too,” Sycha tells us proudly, “and the inside is chrome-free – we have a new ‘vibrant silver’ colour that we’ve used all over the car.” The revised MINI logo in the centre of the wheel is proof of that; it’s flatter, two-dimensional and not as shiny as before.

electric MINI Cooper review

Launch Dates and Pricing

Pricing and availability is a bit murky but here’s what we know. The first version of this car will be made in China via. joint venture with Great Wall Motors. That car will be sold in Asia, Europe and the UK. By 2027 production will have expanded to the Oxford UK plant which will likely coincide with the J01’s launch in the North American market.

J01 MINI Cooper (BEV) / ChinaStart of Production
J01 MINI Cooper E11/2023
J01 MINI Cooper SE 11/2023
* Unconfirmed by our sources

Pricing is still TBD but expect something very close to current MINI Cooper SE figures.

There’s no question it’s too early to reach any conclusions yet. But for a prototype drive this is as positive as you could imagine. Not just in the way it drives but the way it stays true to what has made the brand so successful for over 60 years.

We’ll have much more on the J01 electric MINI Cooper SE throughout the year. But if you want even more information now, head MotoringFile’s J01 Section.