MINI has joined the race to full electrification and the better part of a decade spent in development is finally bearing fruit with the latest MINI Cooper SE, identified by its unique wheels and yellow wing mirrors. Although MINI is by no means the first – Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 come to mind well before – MINI is arguably the most suited nameplate to abscond the petrol engine in favour of a foundation of batteries.
This is partly because MINIs are famously good at covering short distances between point A and point B and scything through traffic with go-kart handling – traits that are enhanced by an electric powertrain. And whereas other brands find it difficult to coerce buyers into their electric models, MINI’s loyal customers have always been slightly unconventional in that regard and therefore more likely to embrace new technology.
Based on the three-door MINI it has a 96-cell 32.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the vehicle's floor and driving the electric motor. It’s rapid enough to just about hang with the Cooper S models up to most sane speeds but will do so in near silence and with zero pollution.
As with all electric cars, the Cooper SE is amazingly athletic around town thanks to instant power the split second you squeeze down on the accelerator. It’s an addictive feeling that goes well beyond the mere novelty factor and makes petrol cars of the same size seem rather antiquated by comparison. Another characteristic that dictates a lot of the experience is the regenerative braking: every time you lift off the throttle, electricity is harvested back into the batteries as the car decelerates. Weird at first but it does mean that the Cooper SE can be driven for a large part of time by leaning on and off the accelerator and rarely touching the brake pedal.
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