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2020 MINI Cooper SE Hardtop Electric Review By Larry Nutson

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The first all-electric MINI


By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

MINI has plans for a realignment of its model range, with a clear focus on drivetrain technologies. “The future core portfolio of all-electric vehicles will include the MINI 3-Door Hatch, a new crossover model in the small-car segment and a compact crossover model,” MINI recently said in a statement. 

The 2020 MINI Cooper SE 3-door hatch is the automaker’s first all-electric model. In response to over 15,000 hand-raisers, in December 2019 MINI USA announced that consumers could place their order for the all-new battery electric MINI Cooper SE for delivery starting in March 2020.

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With a price tag starting at $29,900 the SE has an EPA-rated driving range of 110 miles per charge from a 29.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. The SE qualifies for the Federal EV tax credit of $7,500 along with available State EV incentives.  MINI says in some cases, qualified consumers can get a MINI Cooper SE below $20,000.

I recently spent a week living with the 2020 MINI Cooper SE driving around on battery power going about doing my daily routine. The White Silver metallic SE I drove was equipped with the $7,000 Iconic trim which brought the price to $36,900. MINI also offers a Signature trim for $4,000 additional, or a total of $33,900. Destination charge is $850.

I’ve had previous experiences driving a battery electric vehicle (BEV) around my Chicagoland home. I quickly realized that in a densely populated city I actually don’t drive many miles going about routine business and household matters. There is little to no concern over driving range. Much of what I do is within a 5-mile radius.

And actually, you can get more than 110 miles from a full battery charge through the wonders of regenerative braking. The MINI Cooper SE comes standard with a two-mode regenerative braking system to help maximize the recharging of the battery while also meeting your personal driving style preference. Driving from stop sign to stop sign puts charge back into the battery using the car’s inertia as you decelerate. The higher level of regenerative braking lets you drive with one foot since the MINI can be brought to a gentle stop by the system.

I don’t have access to an EV charger or even a 120v plug in the secure parking lot I use. However, a short 10-minute walk from my home is a supermarket with two free 240V Level 2 charging stations. I simply plugged in, walked home and then returned in a couple hours to many more miles of driving.

The MINI Cooper SE comes standard with Level 2 AC Charging at up to 7.4 kW, which allows for a 100% charge in as little as 4 hours, as well as Level 3 DC Charging at up to 50 kW, which allows for charging at public stations in as little as 40 minutes to achieve an 80% charge.

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The MINI Cooper SE drives like an electric go kart. It’s a true performance car that retains all the fun-to-drive attributes of a MINI. The front-wheel drive electric motor generates 181hp and 199 lb.-ft. of torque enabling the MINI Cooper SE to go from 0 – 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and achieve a top speed of 93 mph.

The SE sits a bit higher with an increase of 18 mm (0.7 inch) to accommodate floor mounted battery packs. The Goodyear Eagle F1 205/45R17 tires mounted on SE-specific Power Spoke wheels provide plenty of grip.

By the way, tire pressure is important for proper handling and also for good efficiency. Too low tire pressure will result in lower driving range on an EV. Check tire pressure monthly.

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The interior of the SE is just like most every MINI. With seating for four, the front two are decently roomy but the rear two are for occasional use by small folk. Premium features such as heated front sport seats with adjustable thigh support, power-fold outside mirrors, moonroof, Harmon Kardon premium audio, Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, navigation and head-up display all made for driving pleasure in my Iconic trim SE.

In spite of the small rear seat, open the rear hatch and fold down the 60/40 split-folding rear seat and there’s a decent amount of cargo room.

You can check out the MINI Cooper SE and the entire MINI model range at MINI says the SE base price is unchanged for 2021.

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Overall the 2-door SE Hardtop drives like every MINI. With its low center of gravity and the Eagle F1 tires it handles with confidence. There’s plenty of zip and strong acceleration. The premium finish of the cabin makes for lots of comfort. The compact outside dimensions make it a perfect city-car. The average daily commute across America is 16 miles. Most folks would be okay with the MINI’s 110 mile range. If you can charge both at home and at work you are golden.

There’s a lot yet to be done across the U.S. to provide the EV charge station infrastructure needed to make life easy with a BEV and similar to going to a gas station. EVs work very well in large densely populated cities. However, many city residents live in multi-unit dwellings (MUD) and therein lies a need for convenient charge stations. Curbside charging is also a need to support all the on-street parkers.

We’ll get there.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy