Is an electric Mini your next autocrosser?

Steven Cole
By Steven Cole Smith
Nov 22, 2023 | Mini, Review, Cooper SE | Posted in News and Notes | From the June 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Courtesy Mini

Say, have you noticed those gasoline prices lately?

You haven’t?

Then you must be reading this magazine at your dentist’s office. Research suggests the vast majority of our readers drive and thus must have noticed gasoline prices–even if it’s for their own amusement. And those amused people would be electric car drivers.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s entirely logical that when the first number on a gallon-of-gas sign at your local station nudges toward a 5, you’d turn to the only ready escape from petroleum. 

Here’s a possible alternative: the two-door Mini Cooper SE Hardtop, which hasn’t undergone a price increase since it was introduced as a 2020 model at $29,900 plus $850 for shipping. And that’s before the federal tax credit of $7500 and any state credits that might apply. That puts the price close to the base Mini, which costs $23,400, up $500 for the 2023 model year.

The additional savings, per the company’s math before the recent gas spike, compares the SE with a Cooper S sporting the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 30 mpg combined. Based on 10,000 miles driven each year, with premium gas at a you-wish $3.30 a gallon and electricity at 15 cents per kilowatt, you could save $1850 over a three-year period. You can adjust that with your own math at whatever premium gas costs when you’re reading this. Likely it’s north of $3.30.

There are a couple of downsides with this electric car. One, of course, is that the SE has to be plugged in, and if you’re an apartment dweller that may be an issue. The other is that after you plug it in, you can expect only 110 miles of range from its 28.9 kWh battery–definitely on the low end for inexpensive electric cars.

The Nissan Leaf, the only electric car less expensive than the Cooper SE with a starting price of $27,400–or $28,425 with shipping–advertises a 149-mile range with the standard 40 kWh battery, or 226 miles with the optional 62 kWh battery. We recently tested a Hyundai Kona Electric, and it had an impressive 237-mile range at full charge.

That said, the Cooper SE’s performance is pretty sporty. The front-wheel-drive electric motor pumps out 181 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque. Mini claims the SE’s top speed is 93 mph and that it can go from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, though Car and Driver clocked it at 6.1 seconds.

At a recent Mini program, we spent some time in several 2022 Cooper SE models, which differ from the 2023s only in very minor color and interior trim changes. You will not be surprised to hear that an inordinate amount of our time was spent on an autocross course. The location of the battery pack places the extra weight down low, and that center of gravity played well on the tight little circuit.

The two-stage regenerative brakes took a little getting used to, as did the impressive off-the-line launch and the rush of the one-speed automatic transmission, but it sure makes gear selection simple. The Cooper SE was as go-kart tossable as a regular Cooper, especially with enough laps around the track to get comfortable with its all-electric quirks.

On the road, its ride may be a little better than the base Cooper, certainly smoother than the Cooper S. Steering is precise, and brakes are quite good once you’ve become accustomed to their progression. 

Weight is about 3100 pounds–not bad for a battery-powered car. The Nissan Leaf S weighs 3516 pounds, but it’s quite a bit bigger overall than the Cooper SE with a length of 176.4 inches.

The biggest problem with the Mini Cooper SE Hardtop might be finding one. We did a nationwide search on Mini’s site and found a comparative handful of electric models. We suspect that until gas prices drop to more reasonable rates, the few SE models that are out there might carry a healthy dealer markup.

All that aside, we like the electric Mini. If you can live with a 110-mile range and have a place to plug it in, we suspect you will, too.

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SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/6/22 11:37 a.m.

I didn't know this existed!

wspohn SuperDork
5/6/22 11:37 a.m.

The Mini used to be a cute and very useful and economical small car. They had an 80" wheelbase, and weighed approx. 1400-1500 lbs.  It got great fuel mileage.

The new Cooper Clubman has a 105" wheelbase, and is the size of a small SUV, weighing 3600 lbs. (but you are right, getting the battery powered version down to c. 3100 lbs is indeed a laudable accomplishment).

I don't think that the new ones really merit the use of the 'Mini' description any more.....they should probably just label it a BMW X1.

SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/6/22 11:50 a.m.

In reply to wspohn :

I don't care what they call it or what it weighs. I like driving mine. 

ProDarwin MegaDork
5/6/22 11:52 a.m.

Is an electric Mini your next autocrosser?

Were you going to provide any information about its autocross performance? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/6/22 1:19 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

This was a first drive at the press intro. Hopefully soon we can run numbers. Initial indications, though, show that it’s fun and in the ballpark. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/6/22 1:32 p.m.

I'm not sure what to think about the non-symmetrical wheels.  

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/6/22 1:41 p.m.

Max charging rate is 50 kW, so it's not a great road tripper. The Mini site says 80% in 36 minutes (sounds about right for that battery size), and 80% is 88 miles. This is the sort of thing people are worried about when thinking of taking an EV on vacation, and it's real in some cases.

If you are looking at an EV, take a look at that charge rate. Of the other cars mentioned in the article, the Kona can charge at 75 kW and the Leaf can hit 100 but requires the CHAdeMO format which is rapidly becoming obsolete. The Bolt, which should probably have been mentioned, is at 55 kW. These charging rates only matter if you use more than your rated range before a long stop (such as an overnight).

Good price point, and the MINI has some style on its side with minimum dorkiness. That'll help bring some people over.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/6/22 2:00 p.m.

One question that always has to be asked about short range (and thus likely compliance) EVs: are they available everywhere? The Kona Electric mentioned in the article is only available in 12 states. Is the Mini available everywhere?

Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
5/6/22 2:06 p.m.

Mileage sounds comparable to the i3

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
5/6/22 2:45 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Nothing a set of RFP1's won't fix.  But yeah, those are pretty awful looking wheels.

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