The Mini Electric is the greatest car ever made. No, really, it is.
But only if you live in a city, have a parking spot connected to a charging point, don’t cover more than 45 miles in any given direction and are willing to pay anywhere between £25,000-£30,000 for the privilege of owning a three-door supermini, albeit one with near-hot hatch levels of performance.
But I really do mean what I say: for a niche of people – maybe a very small niche of people – the Mini EV is the answer to all their questions: intoxicatingly desirable, neck-jerkingly rapid, with a lashing of the brand’s self-declared go-kart-like directness, blessed with a hint of sporting prowess (albeit slightly let down by a weight-induced desire to push on if you really try) and oh so cheap and easy to own, thanks to running off the plug. If all my stars aligned, I would buy one in the blink of an eye as a second car and, based on what I’ve learned over the past few weeks and hundreds of miles, probably never look back.
So the question that you really have to ask yourself before buying is not whether you will enjoy it – because all but anyone shopping on the most focused edges of hot hatchdom and beyond should – but how well it will fit into your life. This largely boils down to just three things: whether you want a supermini, will pay the price (which surely most will swap for a monthly lease of about £250), and can live with the 110 miles of real-world range I squeezed from it on a good day or the 80 or so that it proffered on a long, slightly bum-clenched motorway run on a miserably wet and cold day.
Before you shudder, please remember that, for most people most of the time, this will be enough, even if you don’t realise it. Driving statistics are well recorded and prove beyond doubt – or, in many cases, our own perceptions – that the Mini’s range will meet most needs. Yes, there were days I left the Mini at home. But when I took it out, not once was I let down, even if there were a few moments when my unfamiliarity prompted a bead of sweat on my brow.
Will everyone agree? No. And that’s why I strongly suspect sales will be slow as a result; as sluggish take-up of the first-generation Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe showed, this sort of range has never been reassuring enough to guarantee a stampede of interest (especially when the aforementioned rivals now offer twice the range for much the same price). But for some people, if not you, unquestionably it will be just fine.
So let’s suppose you can get over the limitations (and if you want to own a premium electric car, you might have to for a good few years, such is the reality of the cost differential between a battery and motor and an engine). Maybe you just don’t drive far every day. Or maybe, like us, you live in or around the edges of a big city, commute 20 miles on a big day and travel maybe 40 to see friends every so often. Maybe, also like us, you own a second, engined car, which is always there to get you where you need to go on the few occasions you need more. Or maybe even another electric car – like a Tesla, Hyundai Kona Electric or Kia e-Niro – that will do 250 miles, or a plug-in hybrid.