The 2021 Cooper SE is Mini’s second contemporary e-model after the Mini Countryman Plug-In Hybrid. In the UK, these two models account for 19% of Mini’s global electrified sales. At the beginning of 2020, the car accumulated 90,000 reservations before its debut. In excess of 11,000 Mini Cooper SEs have been shipped to dealers from Mini's Oxford, England production plant and delivered to customers.
To be historically correct, an early e-Mini came out in 2009. At that time, the UK company produced 450 copies of a "lease-only" Mini E, a pure electric with a 100-mile range. Considered a "pilot project," the vehicle's 573-pound battery pack had 5,088 lithium-ion cells that looked slightly larger than AA batteries. They took up most of the back seat and cargo area. A one year lease was $850 per month – a fortune compared to today's lease amount standards. And the battery pack took 24 hours to recharge using a regular 120 volt wall switch. But there were enough takers to make the company think there was a bright future for Mini electrics. 11 years passed before a "proper" Mini was manufactured. The 2021 Mini Cooper SE pure electric is the result of what can be considered an elongated research and development period.
Why did it take so long for the British automaker to produce the SE electric? The short answer is that the OEM went through some difficult times and lacked the financial resources. With BMW's purchase of the company, those resources were made available, along with BMW's commitment to pursuing electrified vehicles. Mini models share many components and platforms now with BMW models. This creates profitability and flexibility. BMW’s new entry-level X1 shares its platform with MINI, saving money for parent company BMW and increasing profits. Both brands have loyal followings, but BMW believes it will be an easy choice for MINI customers to transition into BMWs when they’re ready to move up to a larger, more expensive car. BMW is also looking to bring in a younger crowd, which often starts off with MINIs, then moves up to the BMW 2 and 3 series. It’s usually smaller companies that benefit from using a larger, more prestigious company’s resources. In this case, both brands are mutually profiting from the relationship.
The Cooper SE uses a motor taken directly from the BMW i3S, but the e-motor powers the front wheels instead of the rear wheels. The motor produces 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. It allows the car to achieve 37mph in 3.9 seconds, 62mph in 7.3 seconds, and a top speed for a limited time of 93.2mph. This isn’t as fast as the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf Plus or Kia Niro EV, but it’s close.
What the Cooper SE electric has that these cars don’t is a great center of gravity and weight balance, and a firm suspension, which provides excellent traction control. With its small, 12-module battery mounted in a T-shape pack between the front seats and under the rear seats, a 58/42% front-to-rear weight distribution, a low-to-the-ground center of gravity and Goodyear Eagle F1 ultra-high-performance tires, this car offers the positive handling experience that driving enthusiasts are looking for.
Using a BMW drivetrain is a good idea, but the car’s 32.6 kWh battery size produces an EPA-tested range of just 110 miles. Which makes it perfect for navigating city streets and parking in spaces that larger cars can’t get into. But this isn’t the best “road car” for a long trip, unless you’re willing to stop more often and charge the battery.
Regarding charging: the battery can Quick Charge to 80% at kWh in 36 minutes. A 220V charger can power-up the battery in around 4 hours. Test drivers say using a 120-volt outlet takes between 9 to 14 hours. The Mini SE electric comes with a TurboCord that works with both 120 and 240 outlets.
After a $7,500 Federal tax credit and a California State rebate check of $2,000, the Signature trim MINI SE, can be had for around $20,000. Which is far less than Bolt, Leaf Plus and Niro EV. Meaning; if you don’t have far to go, the MINI SE electric may be the cheapest, most fun-to-drive, most stylish EV to get your there.
The 2021 Mini Electric hardtop 2-door comes in 3 trims; Signature, Signature Plus and Iconic.
Signature’s MSRP is $29,900 and comes with standard features including LED Headlights and taillights, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay, Mini Navigation, Active Driving Assistant, Remote heating and cooling, Remote charging and a digital display cockpit.
The Signature Plus MSRP is $33,900. The EV includes the standard features from Signature and adds a panoramic moonroof, power folding mirrors, auto dimming interior and exterior mirrors, a universal garage door opened, Parking Distance Control (rear), and a Harman-Kardon Sound System.
Iconic’s MSRP is $36,900. The EV includes the standard features from Signature Plus and adds a Mini Yours leather steering wheel, Park Distance Control (front and rear), Parking Assistant, MINI Head-Up display, an 8.8” touchscreen navigation system, Wireless charging and Cooper SE specific floor mats.
The Mini Cooper SE electric is a different kind of EV; it’s predicated on the assumption that not all e-mobility drivers need 200 miles on a charge. Many electric vehicle drivers fall into this category. This EV works well as a second commuter weekend/city car; a 1-2 person household car; an empty nester car; and a college student car. Equally important to remember is the www.fueleconomy.gov claim that over 5 years, the vehicle will save $3,250 in fuel costs compared to the average vehicle. And you’ll spend only $600 annually in charging fees. There’s also the peace of mind that comes with MINI’s battery warranty of 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Passengers occupying the back seat may feel claustrophobic on short, medium or long trips, as the area is a bit cramped. Though MINI deems this a 4-passenger car, it really works best for one driver and one passenger sitting in the front, moving the seats back.
Despite its drawbacks, there are car buyers and leasers who will love the Mini based on its legendary British heritage aesthetics and fun driving characteristics alone. They won’t worry about its spec sheet, right?
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