What Car? says...
The Mini Electric – like a Georgian-style country house that’s just been built – takes appealing retro aesthetics and gives them a thoroughly modern twist.
In fact, while the Mini has its roots in the Fifties, this version of the car has the heart of a Generation Z eco-warrior. As the name suggests, it runs on electricity, and yet – with 181bhp – it's more powerful than the petrol Cooper S hot hatch.
By electric car standards, the Mini Electric is attractively priced, managing to undercut a lot of its rivals. However, before you rush to put down a deposit, it’s worth bearing in mind a couple of things.
Firstly, one of the reasons the Mini Electric is temptingly priced is that it doesn’t have a very big battery, and the official range between charges is only around 145 miles. You won't even get that far in real-world driving, and don't expect Tesla charging speeds when you do need a top-up.
Secondly, squeezing the battery under the rear seats has reduced the amount of space in the back compared with a petrol-powered Mini (and there wasn’t a huge amount to begin with).
Does that make the Mini Electric less recommendable than similarly priced alternatives, such as the Honda e, the Mazda MX-30, the Peugeot e-208 and the Renault Zoe? Read on over the next few pages of this review and we’ll tell you all you need to know.
When you've decided on your perfect new car, make sure you pay a fair price by checking the free What Car? New Car Deals pages. You could save a lot of money without any haggling and you'll find plenty of new electric car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
One of the great things about electric cars is that they have just one gear, meaning seamless acceleration is on tap the instant you squeeze the accelerator pedal. That makes the Mini Electric feel even zippier than it is.
How so? Well, while its official 0-62mph time of 7.3sec means it’s much faster than the Honda e, the Peugeot e-208 and the Renault Zoe. It even feels quicker than the petrol-powered Mini Cooper S (although on paper it isn't).
As with most electric cars, it harvests energy to feed back to its battery when you lift off the accelerator pedal. The process – known as regenerative braking – is fairly aggressive on the Mini, making the car slow down quite quickly as you ease off. You can reduce the effect in the settings, but annoyingly, it resets to the default when you switch the car off and on again.
The brake pedal delivers good response and feel, though, which means that – unlike in many electric vehicles – it’s easy to judge how much pressure to apply in order to slow down smoothly.
There's a choice of four driving modes: Sport, Mid, Green and Green Plus. Sport sharpens up the accelerator response and gives you more of that instantly responsive electric-car feel. Green requires you to push the accelerator pedal much harder for a good burst of acceleration, encouraging you to drive more efficiently.
It's relatively agile by electric car standards, feeling darty and changing direction without much body lean, and it certainly feels sportier than the e-208 and the Zoe. Sadly, the steering doesn’t give you much warning when the front tyres are about to lose grip – something that happens sooner than you might imagine, especially when it's been raining. That spoils the fun a little.
Ride comfort isn't a big strength, either. It jostles you around along beaten-up urban backstreets and thumps over expansion joints. Having said that, the car settles well enough at higher speeds, and it's not as though the electric Fiat 500 or the Zoe offers a particularly smooth ride. If ride comfort is a priority, the e-208 is a better bet.
Although official figures state that the Mini Electric is capable of up to 145 miles on a full charge (it varies slightly depending on which alloy wheels you go for), you’ll have to drive very gently and avoid motorways to coax it anywhere near that far. You’ll also need to hope for warm weather because cooler temperatures reduce how long the batteries last.
In our winter Real Range tests the Mini managed 113 miles. On the same day in the same conditions, the ORA Funky Cat kept going for 130 miles, and on a previous winter test the Fiat 500 achieved 118 miles.
More positively, the small battery means the Mini Electric is relatively light, and that helps with efficiency. Indeed, it's one of the most efficient electric cars you can buy.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Mini has an upmarket image and the interior in the Electric lives up to that, with plenty of soft-touch plastics on the dashboard, as well as solid-feeling knobs, switches and stalks. It looks great, too, with a cheerful, retro design – and thankfully, once you’ve got used to one or two quirks, that doesn’t compromise usability.
The driver's seat is comfortable, supportive and has a wide range of adjustment, and the 5.5in digital screen behind the steering wheel (in place of conventional instrument dials) makes it easy to see how much charge there is in the battery at a glance, as well as how fast you’re going. The digital instrument panels in some rivals show a greater variety of detail and are larger, but the Mini covers the basics.
Visibility is surprisingly good, even when looking back over your shoulder, due to fairly slim pillars, and the Mini’s compact shape makes it easy to judge the car’s extremities. As such, it’s not a difficult car to park, and you get rear parking sensors and a reversing camera on Level 2 trim and above. Range-topping Level 3 and Resolute Edition models add front sensors.
The Mini Electric has an 8.8in infotainment screen, with Bluetooth, a DAB radio, sat-nav and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. The system is controlled by twisting and pressing a small wheel between the front seats, a method that’s considerably less distracting when you’re driving than using a touchscreen. The graphics and screen quality are impressive, and are about as good as it gets in a small car.
If you go for Level 3 trim or the Resolute Edition, you'll also get wireless phone-charging, a more powerful Harman Kardon sound system and a head-up display.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Mini Electric is available only as a three-door (there’s no electric equivalent of the Mini 5-door Hatch). That means getting into the back requires a bit of contortion. Once you’re in, there's less head room than in the regular petrol model because the battery’s position means the rear seats have had to be mounted higher.
The reduced head room is more noticeable with Level 3 trim or in the Resolute Edition because the standard-fit panoramic sunroof drops the height of the ceiling. A six-footer will need to cower, and the stingy knee room will stop passengers slouching forwards to straighten their neck.
Put simply, if you plan to carry adults in the back quite often, the Honda e, the Peugeot e-208 and the Renault Zoe are all better bets, and all seat five people, against the Mini's four. The larger, but similarly priced, MG4 offers even more room.
Boot space is exactly the same as in a petrol Mini 3-door Hatch. That means you’ll squeeze in more luggage than you would in the Honda e, but the Zoe is still a far more practical choice. We could only fit a paltry three carry-on suitcases into the load bay below the parcel shelf. A two-level boot floor comes with Level 2 trim models and above, and a 50/50 split-folding rear seatback is standard across the range.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
If you’re a company car driver, the Mini Electric makes even more sense because benefit-in-kind tax is so cheap on electric cars (and is set to stay that way until at least April 2025). You’ll be saving thousands in company car tax compared with equivalent petrol, diesel or even hybrid car alternatives.
Charging the 28.9kWh (usable capacity) battery from empty to full takes around four hours and 45 minutes using a normal 7kW home wall box. A 10-80% top-up can be grabbed in around half an hour from a 50kW public CCS charger. You can also plug in to a regular three-pin domestic socket, although a 10-80% charge will take around 15 hours.
There are three trim levels to choose from: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3, on top of a range-topping Resolute Edition.
Level 1 is fairly basic, but does get cruise control, climate control, automatic lights and wipers and a heat pump for more efficient warming of the interior.
We think Level 2 trim makes the most sense, because it adds keyless entry, power-folding door mirrors, heated front seats and various parking aids. Level 3 adds a panoramic sunroof and leather seats, while the Resolute Edition goes further with the bespoke styling touches.
In typical Mini style, there are plenty of customisation options. You can choose from a range of wheel styles, exterior paint colours, roof colours, mirror caps and upholstery finishes within the price of each trim level.
So, is the Mini Electric reliable? Well, the model itself wasn’t included in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but Mini as a brand did rather well, claiming joint third place with Mitsubishi out of the 32 brands rated.
The news isn’t quite as good when you look at safety. The electric version hasn’t been specifically tested by Euro NCAP but the Mini Cooper it’s based on was last appraised in 2014 – so long ago that its four star (out of five) rating has now expired. At least you get a reasonable amount of safety equipment with every trim, including automatic emergency braking (AEB).
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Although official figures state that the Mini Electric is capable of up to 145 miles on a full charge (it varies slightly depending on which alloy wheels you go for), you’ll have to drive very gently and avoid motorways to coax it anywhere near that far. Watch our winter Real Range video for more information.
Level 2 refers to the trim level of the Mini Electric. Level 1 is cheaper, but comes with less equipment, while Level 3 offers more standard kit for a higher price.
The Mini Electric wasn’t included in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but Mini as a brand claimed an impressive joint third place out of the 32 car makers.