A perfect urban runabout.
THE GOOD
  • Quick and agile
  • Low running costs
  • No compromise in interior space
THE BAD
  • Pricey
  • Limited range
  • Extra weight
2020 Mini Cooper SE 3-Door Review

If ever there was a car that lends itself to the brave new electric future, the perennially fun and funky Mini is it. The 2020 Mini Cooper SE 3-Door arrives in March in three trims – $39,990 Classic Line, the $44,990 Premier Line and the $47,990 Premier+ Line. With a 177 km range, it stakes its claim as a green urban runabout – a notion that fits neatly into the accepted Mini ethos. A day in southern Florida reveals the new juiced-up Mini 3-Door to be quick, agile, and as roomy as its gas-powered siblings.

Styling: 8/10

The 3-Door body style is the purest expression of the Mini brand, and here in top-tier SE Premium, it gets the very cool asymmetrical 17-inch “Electric Corona” wheels. While base models ride on 16-inch five-spoke grey alloys, all SE trim levels sport LED headlights, LED Union Jack taillights and electric-yellow mirror caps with a matching yellow grille bar. For the less adventurous, opting for grey instead of yellow accents is a no-cost choice. Either way, the 3-Door Mini is irresistibly cute no matter how you slice it.

Safety: 8/10

Standard with the SE is Driving Assist, a safety suite that includes adaptive cruise control, front collision warning with mitigation braking, pedestrian warning and city braking, and high-beam assist. What you can’t get is blind spot warning or rear cross-traffic alert – two safety systems that prove their worth on a day-to-day basis. Lane-departure warning is also not on the menu.

The standard LED headlights provide excellent illumination, and the low-speed pedestrian audio warning makes parking lot manoeuvring a safer proposition. I’ll also give points for the intuitive and generally non-distracting iDrive interface

Practicality: 7/10

No one buys a Mini for its practicality, but the big plus with this fully electric Cooper SE is that, unlike many EV versions of production gas-powered vehicles, there is no loss in cargo or passenger space. The T-shaped 32.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack (warrantied for eight years or 160,000 km) lives under the floor – the only concession to its existence being a slightly higher (18 mm) ride height. Cargo space remains at 211 litres behind the 60/40 split back seat, and 731 L when it is folded.

Hurting the Mini Cooper SE’s practicality is its somewhat limited range of “up to” 177 kilometres. Fine for around town errands and average commutes, but not so good if weekend-away jaunts are on your list.

User Friendliness: 9/10

Well, there’s nothing more user friendly than a small electric car – at least the driving part. Hop in the SE, push the green toggle on the dash to wake it up, pull back on the electronic shift lever for drive, push the accelerator and whoosh… you’re off. The Mini gets a version of BMW’s iDrive interface, which means a plethora of real knobs and buttons to control most vehicular functions. This is a good thing, but sadly rare these days. A smartphone app allows for remote interior climate conditioning, car status monitoring, charge functions, and remote activation of headlight flasher, horn, ventilation, and door lock/unlock.

It’s hard to put “user friendliness” and “EV charging” in the same sentence, but having said that, the Mini SE will draw power from a 110V outlet or 240V dryer socket (cables supplied) if conditions dictate. More realistic options are a Level 2 wallbox (0–80 percent charge in four hours) or 50 kW Level 3 DC fast charger (0–80 percent charge in 35 minutes).

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The 2020 Mini Cooper SE’s power consumption lands mid-pack among battery-electric vehicles on sale in Canada. According to NRCan, the Cooper SE uses 18.2 kWh per 100 km in the city and 20.9 kWh/100 km on the highway. The agency also provides synthetic “gasoline litre equivalent” values of 2.0/2.3 Le/100 km city/highway.

This is comparable to the larger Nissan Leaf S, rated at 17.8/21.5 kWh/100 km, city/highway, with 363 km of range; though Mini shoppers may be more likely to consider the Volkswagen e-Golf, which comes in at 17.4/19.9 kWh/100 km, city/highway, with 198 km of range. The BMW i3s, another small luxury EV, is rated at 16.8/20.6 kWh, city/highway, with a range of 246 km (319 km if equipped with the range-extending gas engine).

These figures are all in the same ballpark, though the Cooper SE is notable for having the second-shortest range out of all battery-electric vehicles in Canada for the current model year, ahead of the 2020 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range (151 km).

Features: 8/10

Mini claims the Cooper SE has the highest level of standard equipment of any car in its lineup. The Classic gets 16-inch alloys, driver assistance systems, two-zone climate control, a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Navigation with ARTII, heated front seats, and four drive modes (Sport, Mid, Green, Green+). Also included are LED headlights, acoustic pedestrian protection, and a new oval digital instrument cluster. Here at the launch, we drove the top-spec Premium+ rolling on 17-inch wheels and featuring leather, dual sunroof, park distance control, 8.8-inch touchscreen, Harman Kardon sound and head-up display. Canadians will be disappointed with electric Mini’s lack of a heated steering wheel.

In an attempt to make the purchase of the 2020 Mini Cooper SE easy, buyers won’t be confronted with the usual laundry list of options and package upgrades associated with Mini and BMW products. The trim levels are all-in packages – there are no stand-alone options, although you can personalize via no-cost choices pertaining to interior and exterior trim selections and upholstery materials that span black leatherette for Classic, Cloth/Leatherette or Punch Leather for Premium, and Lounge Leather (black or light grey) or Cloth/Leatherette (light grey, dark grey) for the Premium Plus.

Power: 8/10

So how does the Mini experience translate to the electric future? Quite nicely. The Mini has always been about responsiveness and agility, and with the instant 199 lb-ft of torque underfoot, this Cooper SE bolts like a kerosene’d cat from any speed. Zipping through traffic is a breeze, you’ll be a champ at the stop-light grand prix, and highway cruising is relaxed, effortless, and quiet. The zero to 100 km/h dash is done in 7.3 seconds, and the SE has a top speed (limited) of 150 km/h.

Comfort: 7/10

The roads here were generally smooth, but over the few rough patches I encountered, the Cooper SE showed the typical firm Mini ride, with some pitching and jarring over particularly blighted tarmac. Hardly a deal-breaker, as the overall level of refinement and mechanical calm afforded by the electric drivetrain spell comfort in capital letters. The front leather buckets in this Premium+ are excellent, and back seat accommodations are perfectly suitable for smaller adults.

Driving Feel: 8/10

Isn’t driving feel what the Mini is all about? Along with terminal cuteness, of course. Other than the sense this electrified Mini feels a tad heavier (about 150 kg more than a Cooper S with automatic transmission), all the dynamic attributes of the brand are intact. Steering is sharp and direct, and what corners I did find down here in southern Florida were dispatched with ease. Non-run-flat performance tires are standard issue. The electric drivetrain actually plays into the Mini’s handling, as it makes for better weight distribution and a lower centre of gravity (by 30 mm). As noted earlier, the instant and smooth delivery of power make the Cooper SE a fun and formidable urban warrior.

Value: 6/10

Mini has priced the Cooper SE 3-Door quite aggressively, and with its all-in pricing, what you see is what you get. Yes, there are similarly priced EVs with more range and more functionality, but those who like Minis have always been ready to pay extra for this premium-positioned lifestyle icon. And once within, the cabin’s high quality and unique design give this little electric hatch a sense of occasion.

The Verdict

We range-obsessed North Americans will probably take issue with the SE’s modest “up to” 177 km rating (Natural Resources Canada), although the more lenient European system gives it 235–270 km. Nonetheless, the Cooper SE is an urban runabout, and hence lines up nicely with the average daily use of a Mini which the automaker says is around 45 km. It’s a niche within a niche, and it will be a rare sight on our roads. But as a newcomer to the family fold, this volting, bolting Cooper SE 3-Door is a legitimate Mini – arguably more so than the larger crossover offerings – and bravely carries the brand into the electric future.

A perfect urban runabout. 1/28/2020 6:01:00 PM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 135 kW
Engine Cylinders N/A
Peak Horsepower 181 hp
Peak Torque 199 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 18.2/20.9/19.4 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb; 2.0/2.3/2.2 Le/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 211 / 731 L seats down