In search of the perfect EV: Life with the Mini Electric

Will everyone agree? No. And that’s why I strongly suspect sales will be slow as a result; as sluggish take-up of the first-generation Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe showed, this sort of range has never been reassuring enough to guarantee a stampede of interest (especially when the aforementioned rivals now offer twice the range for much the same price). But for some people, if not you, unquestionably it will be just fine.

So let’s suppose you can get over the limitations (and if you want to own a premium electric car, you might have to for a good few years, such is the reality of the cost differential between a battery and motor and an engine). Maybe you just don’t drive far every day. Or maybe, like us, you live in or around the edges of a big city, commute 20 miles on a big day and travel maybe 40 to see friends every so often. Maybe, also like us, you own a second, engined car, which is always there to get you where you need to go on the few occasions you need more. Or maybe even another electric car – like a Tesla, Hyundai Kona Electric or Kia e-Niro – that will do 250 miles, or a plug-in hybrid.

If all these things describe you, you’re free to rate the Mini not in the isolation of its strengths of weaknesses but rather the totality of how it fits into your life. And then you will discover that, in execution, the Mini is near-flawless, if at times a little puzzling. What it’s short of, you would expect a Mini to be short of. Space and practicality are inevitably high on that list, although we did bobble around as a tall family of four easily enough. What it has, more strikingly, ranges from the charming good looks through to the ease that comes with driving such a compact car, plus what has always been an interior that makes every time you drop into the low driver’s seat feel like arriving at a party.

Mix in the design flourishes, from the acid-yellow paintwork touches through to the now hastily renamed Corona three-pin plug wheels, and you have a car that oozes appeal.

Unquestionably, the driving experience is also something of an occasion for the uninitiated. The 181bhp, 199lb ft electric motor comes from the BMW i3s and is attention-grabbingly rapid if you shove the throttle from low speed and with one of the sportier powertrain settings selected, although driving like this is, similar to being on the motorway, a surefire way to gobble up range; a single surge takes anything up to five miles off the indicator in the blink of an eye.


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