Performance car of the year 2022 Finalist: Mini Cooper SE
135 kW and 275 Nm and good for 100 km/h in just on 7 seconds with about 217 km of all-electric range? Sounds familiar? Indeed, you’ve probably heard it all before. So if you’re thinking BMW i3, you are quite correct. But wait — this is a Mini? Right. Which makes it the lovechild of an i3 and a Cooper S. Meet the Mini Cooper SE. E for electric. It is otherwise identical to the petrol Cooper S, bar a few badges. And wheels that have some of us wondering how they ever balance them!
LOVE CHILD OF I3 AND COOPER S
This is basically an economies of scale thing. One that BMW clearly hopes will make up for all those expected runaway i3 sales that never happened. Its chassis is all Mini Cooper. But its drive bits are all BMW i3. So, depending how you cut it, Mini has dumped the i3’s complex carbon shell and stuffed its innards into a conventional Mini Cooper S. Or did BMW shoehorn its i3 hardware into a more conventional Mini body? You choose.
Either way, mating a Mini with an i3 seems to have been a far more intricate project than you may imagine. For example, they managed to pack all those battery cells into the Mini’s three-door shell in such a manner that neither cabin room nor boot space were compromised in any way. The electric car is has precisely the same space as the petrol one. Impressive.
There’s nothing they could do about the weight though. The fat electric Cooper SE packs an extra 145 kg. It’s not all bad news though. The electric car’s mass is distributed further aft and spread more evenly along, and sat an inch lower in the car. So it’s better balanced. Which is good news for road holding and even a plusher ride. In short, it’s chuckable despite its noticeably extra heft. Easy to drive too. Once you’re used to the brake regeneration you can toggle to adjust.
SE IS JUST AS QUICK AS PETROL COOPER S
The heavier electric Cooper SE’s single motor delivers precisely the same 135 kW to the front wheels that its petrol sister does. But it’s no slower. It handily beat Mini’s claims to run a snappy 6.7 second 0-100 km/h sprint, just a tenth off the petrol automatic we last tested. Thanks to instant electric torque and the i3’s clever predictive traction control. Just a tenth shy over 400m, although its already running out of speed by then.
The other Mini Cooper SE bugbear is its total lack of performance beyond 85 mph. Around where it also devours its already limited driving range at an even more alarming rate. Speaking of which, 217 kilometres range is horrible. Mini says more batteries would make it heavier, take longer to charge and eat up cabin space too. And that the average Cooper S travels 300 km a week, so SE fits the bill well enough for owners to hardly notice it’s even electric.
A home lead charges Cooper SE’s half full battery overnight and an optional wall box charges from empty in four hours. Or fast-charge station will see you zero to eighty percent in half an hour. We almost managed Cooper SE’s 217 km claim on a warm day with maximum regeneration on a full charge. So if you adhere to that 28 mile a day Cooper S average, you may even manage a week on a charge. But push it and you’ll struggle to get a few days out. And take a generator to the track day.
A COMPELLING LITTLE EV. WARTS & ALL
The Mini Cooper SE is a compelling ‘little’ EV in its own right. It’s more effective where its performance really matters, produces zero local emissions and even suggests a hot hatch future beyond the electric vehicle curtain. Never mind, it’s the cheapest electric car in South Africa right now. And a most interesting option for drivers brave enough, and who live in that 40 kilometre a day bubble, a most compelling one. Warts and all.
PERFORMANCE CAR OF THE YEAR 2022 FINALIST: Mini Cooper SE Motor: 135 kW 275 Nm electric Drive: Direct FWD TESTED: 0-100 km/h: 6.75 sec 0-160 km/h: - 400m: 14.9 sec @ 148 km/h 80-120 km/h: 4.18 sec 75-100 mph: - CLAIMED: VMax: 151 km/h Fuel: 0 l/100 km use phase CO2: 0 g/km Warranty/Service: 2y unl/5y 100K km LIST PRICE: R686K
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