Away from the spec sheet and on roads around Miami, where Mini chose to introduce the Mini Electric to the global press, that 144-mile range claim looked more like a real-world 125 miles on a good day, mostly in heavy and slowish traffic. On a quicker, chillier UK motorway commute, I suspect you’d be pleased to get 100 miles between charges. And purely in light of the fact that you can have a similarly sized rival for similar money that’ll go 50 per cent further between charges – and also needn’t spend that much more for a genuine 250- to 300-mile electric car – that will undoubtedly be a problem for a certain kind of rationally minded buyer.
Less dispassionate customers ought to be open to persuasion by the car’s driving experience, however. Partly due to that relatively lightweight drive battery, the Mini Electric has a power-to-weight ratio of better than 130bhp per tonne, where neither the quickest Zoe or the e-208 gets much beyond 90, and the Kia Soul EV – which is itself a pretty fleet-feeling car - doesn’t top 120.
Having driven the Mini mostly in heavy congestion where it was seldom possible to get it above 60mph, I’m not convinced it feels like a car with a strong performance selling point, at least over other comparable EVs – but it’s certainly no slouch. Like all cars of its kind, it’s at its most brisk from rest up to around 50mph, where it has plenty of urgent response to bigger pedal inputs, albeit not quite as much instant torque as some.
There’s enough grunt available above 50mph for the car to easily mix it with quicker-moving traffic, though, and there is fun to be had in digging into the accelerator pedal and feeling the car whizz away so keenly, and with such little apparent inertia. It’s something of a shame that Mini didn’t think to engineer in some more genuinely mechanical motor noise for extra audible charm; as it is, the only notable sound that the car makes is that generic low-speed digital whirr that all EVs sold in the EU must now emit for pedestrian safety reasons. Even that could have been more imaginatively conceived.
The additional mass that the car carries (not quite 150kg more than the Cooper S auto three-door, which could be worse) helps to lower its centre of gravity by 30mm (versus the same sibling rival), and really didn’t blunt the Mini’s flat, agile and immediate handling appeal – as far, regrettably, as it could be assessed on our busy city test drive.
The Mini Electric’s lateral grip is strong, and its handling responses are as keen as those of any of its rangemates. On better roads than we had on which to enjoy it, I daresay it would be plenty of fun. It also clearly doesn’t rely on low rolling resistance tyres to boost its electric range, and has that unmistakably impish Mini-brand dynamism to bolster its driving appeal. It doesn’t feel particularly heavy to drive either, as a great many electric superminis can, with taut vertical body control. If anything, the extra mass it carries seemed to dampen and flatten the car’s low-speed ride better than Mini’s prevailing comfort standard, and to quite agreeable effect.