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, so seamless acceleration is on tap the instant you squeeze the accelerator pedal. It’s this that makes the 181bhp Mini Electric feel even nippier than it is.
In fact, not only does its official 0-62mph time of 7.3sec mean it’s much faster than a Renault Zoe, Honda E or even a Seat Mii Electric, it feel quicker than even the petrol-powered Mini Cooper S hot hatch (even though it isn’t quite).
Like all electric cars, when you lift off the accelerator pedal the Mini harvests energy that would otherwise be lost to feed back into the battery. This process, known as regenerative braking, slows the car down quicker and with a bit more of a jerk. You can choose between two different strengths of regeneration if you feel the sensation is a little too strong, but reducing the effect will mean less charge going back into the battery. The braking effect naturally intensifies when you press the brake pedal, but, unlike in many electric cars, it isn’t hard to judge how much pressure to apply in order to slow down smoothly.
There is also a choice of four driving modes: Sport, Mid, Green and Green Plus. As their names suggest, Sport sharpens up the accelerator response and gives you more of that instantly responsive electric-car feel, while Green slows down the power delivery and ramps up the regenerative braking. Unless you’re sitting in stop-start traffic, though, this mode feels restrictive when trying to make progress.
The Mini has always been known for its low centre of gravity, which helps it to be nimble and agile around winding roads. That’s even more true of the Mini Electric, which carries much of its weight even lower down, due to the positioning of the heavy batteries. As a result, it’s more agile than a Zoe or Mii, changing direction more eagerly and with less body lean. The Mini also has sweeter steering than those cars, giving you a good sense of connection with the front wheels.
The main thing you’ll notice about the Mini when you get it onto the open road, though, is its firm ride. In fact, it jostles you around whether you’re negotiating beaten-up urban backstreets or taking on undulating country roads; every pothole or sunken drain cover is betrayed by a pronounced jolt. We’ve only tried the Mini on 17in wheels though; 16in might soften the blows a little bit on our broken British roads. That said, it isn’t as though the Renault Zoe has an especially comfortable ride, either.