The MINI Electric doesn’t make sense at all, yet it makes so much sense. Allow me an explanation. Or two.
That conflicting line was exactly my thoughts upon returning the MINI Electric Resolute Edition, and here’s some background and context. Every car is made for someone, even if that person isn’t me, and it’s essential to consider it from the target market’s POV – put yourself in his/her shoes, basically. Those words were drilled into this rookie by his first editor many years ago, and it has been my approach with car reviews since.
A car is a tool first, enjoyment second. It’s something to get you around with minimum fuss, and the MINI Electric struggles to perform that basic task. Now that statement has nothing to do with the way it performs, which is good – more on that later – but with it being an electric vehicle with a claimed 232 km WLTP range. That’s below 200 km per charge in the real world.
The MINI is a small car that was designed for an internal combustion engine, so they did all they could by stuffing a 32.6 kWh lithium-ion battery (28.9 kWh usable) in the floor pan to make it an EV. Small car, small battery, short range – that’s the MINI Electric.
In fact, this car has the shortest range among all EVs officially sold in Malaysia – even the Neta V from China, the cheapest battery-powered car in the market at RM100k, has a claimed range of 380 km (NEDC) from a 38.54 kW battery. Only the Honda e, peddled by some grey importers, has a range this small (220 km). Coincidentally, both are cute, compact city cars.
With that laid out, here’s how my weekend with the electric MINI went, in condensed form.
Photographer Pat passed me the MINI on a Friday evening with 70% charge, estimated by the trip computer to be good for 110 km. Half a day of running around doing my weekend things and I had to charge it on Saturday evening with the meter reading 19%, 31 km left.
I live in an apartment and have to rely on public charging, which – if you live in the Klang Valley – isn’t as inadequate as many naysayers make it out to be. I ‘refuelled’ at Gentari at Sunway X Park in Petaling Jaya, using a 180 kW DC fast charger. MINI and I were the only moving things there and topping up to 82% cost me RM30.39. With Setel, drivers who are transitioning to electric don’t even have to download new/various apps – just ‘Setel it’ like you would at a Petronas station.
Now with 82% charge, it was safe to roam again with a whopping 165 km of range. From there, I went to Bukit Jalil for Honda’s Gen H event and on Sunday, made a trip to Rawang to see my folks.
A MINI Electric going to Rawang (a 70 km round trip from my KL base) is akin to a fish out of water, when you consider the car’s limited range and the lack of public chargers in that town. It may be ‘just Rawang’, but away from the safe confines of the Klang Valley, I felt vulnerable – it was a measured drive where every 1% counted.
Monday came along and it was time for the MINI to go home. Thing is, BMW’s HQ is the furthest out among car brands, all the way in Cyberjaya. I started the car and saw 31% and 52 km on the dash. Cutting it close, yes, but it looks like my like parsimonious ways will now pay its dividend, in the form of avoiding charging two times in one weekend!
I made it to Cyberjaya and handed back the keys with 17% and 30 km of range remaining. The feeling was a mix of relief and a sense of achievement; the latter compounded by my average electric consumption of 11.9 kWh/100km, which my EV sifu Hafriz Shah says is very good. In total, I drove 160.8 km over the weekend.
It was highly likely that 150 of those kilometres were done in Green mode to consume less charge, with the remainder in Mid mode. On the ends of the scale are Green+ and Sport, which I didn’t use apart from trying it out – the response in Green is already muted, but it’s OK for my normal driving. Mid is plenty fast, with a huge silent surge of torque typical of EVs; sense of speed amplified by the MINI’s small size.
Although I patted my own back in completing a difficult mission (by test car standards), the overarching feeling was that this is not how a MINI should be driven. The Sport mode’s emblem is a go-kart, and that cheeky cue says it all – a MINI is a fun little thing, and it should be driven in a carefree manner, not electric hypermiling in Green, for goodness’ sake.
So, the MINI Electric and its sub-200 km range is impractical and near unusable as a daily. You can consider it as a filler for that toy car slot in your garage perhaps, but there are sexier options out there. EVs are, by and large, measured by range, and every other contender on sale today has it beat in that department. A tough one to recommend.
That should have been the review, but remember the part about putting myself in a would-be customer’s shoes?
It should not have been like that, and indeed, it would not be like that at all if I had home charging. How far I could go would still be limited by the MINI’s below average range, but with 200 km in the bag every single day, this cutie would be the perfect city car.
Perfect? Yeah. EVs come in all shapes and sizes these days, with the kind of range that makes them perfectly usable as daily transport. Personally though, I think EV characteristics are best suited to city cars. The instant torque is great for point/shoot cut/thrust driving, and with zero tailpipe emissions, you’re not adding to air pollution, which is the worst in urban centres. Small range from a small battery? 150 km is enough to cover most daily commutes.
And what best embodies a point-and-shoot compact city car? The Fiat 500 and MINI come to mind. Small, easy to drive and park, fun and nippy – the latter now made even more potent with electric response. It’s the familiar size and fun augmented with new-found instantaneous response.
The MINI has never been a laggard, but even high performance ICE versions can’t match the Electric in the immediacy and impact of its torque delivery.
That heavy hand fits MINI’s natural hyperactive character like a glove. Today’s MINI might be closer to a luxury exec in manners than the rowdy original BMW effort from Y2K, but for present day standards, the third-generation hatch is an eager pup – thick rim, quick steering, fast reflexes, sharp turn-in, negligible roll, tenacious grip once you’re in the corner – it’s all still there.
Along with ride that’s on the firm side. Not a bad thing in this instance, just part of the car’s unique character, and still very much usable as a daily without being annoying. Speaking of daily, if you haven’t been in a MINI for some time, refinement is decent these days, and we’re not even talking about the electric ‘silence’ yet. Without a doubt, the essence of MINI – fun – is not harmed at all by the switch from ICE to e-motor; on the contrary, MINI + EV is a good recipe.
If you’re sold, the returning Resolute Edition adds to the charm. All the exterior brightwork have been replaced by matte bronze trim or gloss black for the emblems, and it comes in this lovely Rebel Green paint option (black and white also available) with bronze pinstripe decals on the hood. For me though, the best part about this SE is the ‘tablecloth’ pattern fabric seats – so cozy!
With that, I’ve come to the conclusion that the RM211k MINI Electric doesn’t make sense at all, yet it makes so much sense. It all depends on whether you have access to home charging – which nullifies the short range – and if you like MINI in the first place.
No one buys a MINI because it makes sense, they buy it because they like the looks and find it fun. It’s not for most people, and in that sense, nothing has changed in the transition to electric. Whichever way you think you think of the MINI Electric, one of my two reviews agrees with you!
GALLERY: MINI Electric Resolute Edition in Rebel Green
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