Miami, Florida, USA – Miami. The image of sunny skies, sandy beaches and glorious weather comes to mind. But the reality of Miami is anything but that kind of dreamscape that pop culture has ingrained in our collective consciousness.
We arrived for our international test drive on one of the coldest Miami days in nearly a decade, with blustery winds, intermittent heavy downpours and temperatures dropping down to 6 degrees Celsius. And to think we’ve flown over 20 hours from Singapore for this. Climate change anyone?
Furthermore, downtown Miami is a constant clustered gridlock, almost like any other bustling city you could think of. Sure there are plenty of exotics to spot, but even they aren’t immune to bad drivers and constant road construction resulting in unnecessary congestion.
Perhaps it is actually a fitting locale to launch the electric MINI Cooper SE then. After all, this is a zero emissions city car for zipping around town in, so in quite a lot of ways it fits in to those kinds of situations. You won’t go fast, you won’t go far and you only have small tight spaces to manoeuvre. Sounds like the perfect conditions for any MINI.
But this is not just any MINI. This is the first electric MINI you can actually buy. The MINI E from a decade ago was only offered on a lease programme in selected markets, but BMW has taken the lessons from that to properly study the use case for urban electric cars, and develop as efficient a product as it can for its lineup.
(We first see the all-electric MINI at the 2019 International Mini Meet HERE)
As much as we like to complain about range for electric vehicles right now, the truth of the matter is that most city-dwellers hardly drive long distances on a regular basis. I mean, sure if you do well over 300km every day on your regular commute, then an electric vehicle is probably not for you yet. But you’ll also probably be dead from exhaustion from all that driving.
If you live in the city though, like quite a lot of us do, then chances are your driving patterns would amount to something like “home-work-shopping-home” or something along those lines. At worst that would tally to around 100km or so in a moderately-sized city, but more than likely it’s probably around half that.
In that respect, the MINI Cooper SE’s range of between 235 to 270km sounds just about right. It’s not the most impressive figure, especially when compared alongside other EVs like the Teslas, but the reality is that it is indeed more than enough for most people.
Think about it. A typical electric MINI owner is likely to be a young millennial, with no kids. He goes to work, perhaps he can get the car charged there. After work, he’ll probably head out to town for a night out. Maybe he can get some charge there too. And then he heads home.
Depending on his residence, he may be able to recharge his car then as well. On the weekends there should be more than enough range to go about whatever millennials do in their free time (horse riding or surfing or taking Instagram shots at whatever new trendy cafe has just opened up). Manage your usage patterns well and you’ll probably won’t run out of juice.
Now that we’ve addressed the range question, we come to the other part: does the Cooper SE drive like a MINI? Truth be told, given our limited route in Miami traffic, it’s a bit hard to make a definitive judgement. But any electric vehicle will inevitable have its compromises, most notably weight, and the Cooper SE is no exception.
Off the line, the car does feel somewhat zippy, helped by the instant torque from the electric motor. But somewhere around 60km/h or so, you start to feel the car's weight holding it back, and acceleration notably slows. The Cooper SE is not a fast car, with top speed only rated at 150km/h, but again, since you’re going to be mostly using it in the city, you probably don’t need to go that quickly anyway.
Our test drive route took us a mere 35 miles (about 56km) from downtown Miami to Fort Lauderdale, mostly in stop-start traffic, and there were no real twisty roads to explore the car’s handling prowess. Maybe the Cooper SE will handle as well as a regular MINI, or maybe the heavy batteries will hamper its agility, we don’t know, but hopefully we’ll find out once we get a proper test drive later this year.
But the key thing is that the Cooper SE tries its hardest to be as much like a regular MINI as possible. It looks like a standard MINI, save for the bright green design highlights on the grille and mirrors, and the battery packs like under the car, and don’t intrude on boot or interior space. Other than having to plug the car in to recharge, and the near silent running, the Cooper SE is as MINI as you can imagine it to be.
If you think about it, the Cooper SE is pretty much the perfect car for this generation of ‘woke’ millennials. It’s chic and stylish, and produces no emissions, so you can say that it’s very much a trendy vehicle that helps you do your part to save the earth. And we should applaud MINI for its efforts, because we certainly don’t want to experience even more freezing cold Miami nights.
PHOTOS BMW / Günter Schmied
MINI Cooper SE
Electric Motor 184hp, 270Nm
Battery Lithium ion, 32.6kWh
Charge Time / Type 3.5 hours / 11kW Wallbox
Electric Range 235-270km
Top Speed 150km/h