I drove the electric Mini

The electric Mini Cooper SE  arrived in South Africa earlier than expected and I got to drive it. Mini South Africa have only three cars in the country, which will make its way around dealerships nationwide.

It will go on sale in October and comes in two variants, an S and L at R642 000 and R722 000 respectively. The entry-level is the thus the cheapest or least expensive EV in the country at the moment. As you know know, EVs are taxed unnecessarily higher than it should be; most countries around the world are incentivising citizens to buy EVs but in SA we are being penalised.

Back to the car, as you know I love EVs. The thrill of driving one and taking off each time will never die for me, which is why I’m all about the torque in my current Mini. I like that instant power, which suits my city driving perfectly, zipping around, over taking and back home in a flash.

I had two hours alone in the Cooper SE to go anywhere in Johannesburg; all very Covid-19 compliant but this was not a launch. The car was thoroughly cleansed as I got to Mini HQ, and even the pen I was given to sign forms was still in the plastic.

The Cooper SE has a total output of 135kW (my Cooper S is 141kW), and 270Nm of torque (vs my 320Nm). Both variants have the same specs but the L has other comfort, safety and tech add-ons. It goes from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds and its top speed is limited to 150km/h. In some ways, it’s a small difference between my car, speed aside.

The biggest criticism the Mini Cooper SE has gotten is the low range it offers, which according to the official documents is roughly 217km. Yes, it doesn’t sound like much from a single charge on its 32.64kWh battery, but this excludes the kms you get through regenerative braking.

The car has two settings for this, a high and low; the former is a lot more aggressive and probably an unpopular opinion but I prefer it over the slower coasting one. Mostly because it reminds me of my braking style, lol. My last minute braking is controlled, I just don’t roll forever till I stop.

Also, I think I nailed the one pedal driving on EVs. I hardly touched the actual brakes on the SE. Regenerative braking means when you lift your foot off the accelerator, it brakes and recharges the battery at the same time. A higher setting gives you more power back, which brings me to my next point.

The 217km can be a lot more based on your individual driving style. You can be as efficient as you want to. The car has four driving modes to help you decide: Sport, Mid (default), Green and Green Plus; and whatever you get from regenerative braking – something the BMW i’s currently don’t have.

I drove in green, mid and sport and you can clearly tell them apart. I didn’t actually try Green Plus; I wanted to still have fun on the road, lol. I love driving EVs so the two hours were my best two hours spent in lockdown to date. There was load shedding so it was empty at each traffic light, making taking off just that much more fun.

This car is meant for city driving, as is what Mini is all about. I know this car won’t appeal to a lot of people who still want more range, or to not experience range anxiety, but I didn’t get that with the Mini. I only ever experienced that on the Nissan Leaf; not on any other subsequent EV I drove.

I took a trip from Midrand to Rosebank, Parktown North, Illovo, Sandton and back to Mini head office through Rivonia Road. I took the highway and other roads, to experience a real-world scenario and loved every moment. Yes, I loved the two hours I drove, with a few stops.

I could totally see myself driving the Cooper SE around Joburg, based on my currently driving habits. I average 7000km a year on my current Mini, without factoring the change in a post-Covid world, which I know will be much less going forward.

The distinctive 1NV wheel is exclusive to the L model

Mini South Africa tells me they are bringing 38 units in the country, and Covid19 has affected its numbers and timelines. Pre-orders are open, and if you’re serious, just wait for the three cars on rotation to come to your dealership. Deliveries are in October.

The Mini Cooper SE comes with a home charger that you plug into a regular wall socket to charge overnight, the same way you charge a smartphone.

Stay tuned for my EV article for the Financial Mail.


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