New 2021 Mini Electric review

Nick Francis

04 May 2021

1/8
The Mini Electric has only been on sale since last year but already it’s been given a facelift, with the rest of the petrol line-up. The changes are mostly skin-deep, so how does the Mini Electric stack up against rivals?

PROS:

+ Great fun to drive

+ Supports 50kW rapid charging

+ More character than most rivals


CONS:

- Limited range

- Cramped rear seats

- Tiny boot


Verdict: The regular Mini’s go-kart style handling makes the perfect marriage to the instantaneous maximum torque of an EV, so the Mini Electric is one of the most entertaining EVs to drive on the market. But a limited range means it only really makes sense for low mileage urban dwellers or as a second car.




2021 Mini Electric: the five minute read


It’s rare a car is updated less than a year after it went on sale – it usually means something was wrong with it. There was nothing seriously flawed about the Mini Electric which debuted in 2020, but if Mini ignored it during the facelift of the petrol line-up for 2021 it would be the odd one out in the range. And it might develop self-esteem issues.


As you would expect then, updates are minor. A tweak and a tuck here and there but little in terms of the driving hardware or chassis. The Mini Electric still squares up against battery powered superminis like the Renault Zoe, Honda E and Peugeot e-208: an increasingly competitive segment.





The most noticeable changes happen at the front of the car, where we see a bigger and lower grille surrounded by black trim and slashed by a body-coloured bar. The signature headlights remain but are now surrounded by black instead of chrome, while the fog lights on the front bumper have been replaced by cooling vents for the brakes.


Customers can now option a ‘Multitone Roof’, in which three separate colours are sprayed only the panel together creating the effect of them bleeding into each other. Mini is proud of the fact that the process means no two Multitone Roofs are the same, and it certainly looks pretty cool.


On the inside the changes are small, the most significant being the new leather steering wheel which comes as standard and hosts functions like voice control and media volume via some attractive-looking piano gloss panels on the spokes.


The infotainment system has grown to 8.8-inches and is basically a Mini-specific version of the BMW iDrive system, which means it’s slick and intuitive with great graphics. The Mini Electric gets a bespoke version of the sat nav which can direct you to the nearest charging point.


Like the standard Mini, things are pretty cramped in the back, you get more legroom in the Renault Zoe. The fact the Mini Electric is three-door only doesn’t help matters, although the front seats have a good range of movement so getting in and out isn’t too tricky.


Again, boot space isn’t any bigger or smaller than it is in the Mini Electric’s petrol flavoured cousins, which is bad news because it can only swallow 211-litres. That’s 100-litres less than the Peugeot e-208 and less than half of the Nissan Leaf’s 435-litres.





The Mini Electric keeps things simple by offering just one battery and motor combination. The electric motor is fed by a 32.6kWh battery and produces 182bhp and 270Nm of torque, which means it will do 0-62mph in 7.3-seconds. It also supports 50kW rapid charging so 80% of charge should be achievable in half an hour…if you can find a rapid charge point.


Out on the road, the Mini Electric justifies its £26,000 price tag (including the government’s £2,500 plug-in car grant). The Mini’s legendary point-and-shoot steering and endless grip in corners was made for an electric powertrain, which marries the surefootedness and eagerness to corner with instantaneous torque and that impressive 0-62mph time.


It’s a hoot, but you’ll be mindful of the claimed 145-mile range, which drops to something closer to 100-miles when you’re having fun. Or it’s a cold day. Or your lights are on.


Yes, like most EVs the Mini Electric’s claimed range should be taken with a huge pinch of salt, and the fact you would be lucky to complete a round-trip from Mini’s Oxford plant to its Swindon factory on a full charge means it still only makes proper sense as a second car, or for those who never do long journeys.


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Extended read…



2021 Mini Electric interior and infotainment


The 2020 Mini Electric didn’t suffer from a lacklustre interior, and this facelift continues the appealing blend of superb build quality, premium materials and a first class infotainment system.


Soft and squidgy plastics meet your fingers everywhere they go, as well as places they don’t usually, such as the top of the dashboard. Piano black trim has been strategically added to places like the infotainment system circular housing and air vents, replacing the outdated chrome styling of the old model.


A new leather sports steering wheel comes as standard that also uses piano black instrument panels to control things like media volume and voice control: it’s a welcome touch which dials up the premium feel of the cabin.


Trims levels are kept simple, with Level 1, 2 and 3, as well as a limited 300-run Collection edition. Upgrading to the £28,000 Level 2 gets heated seats (watch that range), a rear view camera and part leatherette interior. Level 3 adds Harmon Kardon speakers, wireless phone charging, a head-up display and panoramic roof. But it will set you back £32,000 after the government grant.


The upgraded 8.8-inch infotainment system is simple to use and boasts excellent graphics. It’s a tweaked version of BMW’s iDrive and in the Mini Electric can be optioned with a sat nav which pinpoints the nearest charging points.


Apple CarPlay comes as standard on all versions, as does Mini Connected:an app which allows you to check the car’s range remotely and send navigation information directly from your phone.


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2021 Mini Electric practicality and boot space


The Mini Electric is far from the most practical car in the segment. You get more legroom in the Renault Zoe. The fact the Mini Electric is three-door only doesn’t help matters, although the front seats have a good range of movement so getting in and out isn’t too tricky.


While the front of the cabin feels open and spacious it’s limited on storage space. There is a clever phone holder integrated within the armrest but the door bins are tiny and the glove box doesn’t help much either.


Again, boot space isn’t any bigger or smaller than it is in the Mini Electric’s petrol flavoured cousins, which is bad news because it can only swallow 211-litres. That’s 100-litres less than the Peugeot e-208 and less than half of the Nissan Leaf’s 435-litres.


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2021 Mini Electric battery, motor and charging


Just one motor and battery option keeps things simple: a 32.6kWh battery feeds a motor producing 182bhp and 270Nm which means the 0-62mph time is a spritely 7.3-seconds, which feels even faster thanks to the maximum-torque-at-zero-rpm effect of EVs.


The Mini’s claimed 145-mile range is a let-down, not least because in the real world it is more like 100-120-miles. The Peugeot e-208, Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf all offer higher ranges on paper, although the Mini Electric beats the Honda E’s 137-miles.


Thankfully the Mini does support 50kW rapid charging, which means 80% of range can be topped up in around 30 minutes, which isn’t a terrible wait if you’re ready for a comfort break and cup of coffee on the motorway.


On a 7kW home wallbox a full charge takes three hours 12 minutes.




2021 Mini Electric driving


The Mini’s legendary point-and-shoot steering and endless grip in corners was made for an electric powertrain, which marries the surefootedness and eagerness to corner with instantaneous torque and that impressive 0-62mph time.


Damping is always on the firm side but that’s what gives the Mini Electric such agility in corners, and you’ll certainly have more fun behind the wheel than you would in just about any of its rivals.


Four driving modes adjust the dynamics of the car, mainly in the name of preserving range. In Green Plus mode air con and the heated seats are deactivated, while regular Green mode tempers the throttle to conserve power. Mid mode is best for day-to-day stuff, and Sport mode is, naturally, the most fun.


Braking regeneration can also be dialled up. In its strongest setting the Mini Electric effectively becomes a one-pedal car, which makes driving in town that much easier.


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Nick Francis

04 May 2021