MINI just released some official images of its new electric MINI Cooper prototype, along with some specs. However, a few European publications were allowed to actually drive it. One of the publications that drove it was Autocar and there are some very interesting details about its driving experience. Since MINI already released the specs, so we’re more interested in the differences in how it drives.
Since the new MINI Cooper E (or SE, depending on if you get the sportier model) is built on an entirely different platform from other BMW products—an EV platform developed by MINI and China’s Great Wall Motors—it’s a very different car than the previous model. Not only is it packaged far better, with a larger 40 kWh battery pack to start (SE gets a 52 kWh battery), but it has more range. The standard MINI Cooper E gets 185 miles of range and the SE gets 240 miles.
According to Autocar, the interior is also entirely different. Gone are almost all physical controls and MINI switched back to a single centralized screen. So the digital driver’s display behind the steering wheel is out and all driver information is in the massive, circular center screen, as with older MINIs. While the lack of physical controls might be concerning for most enthusiasts, Autocar says it frees up the center console for more storage and more elbow space. Judging by Autocar’s photos, it also has a MINI-fied version of the BMW iX steering wheel, which is an interesting choice, considering the MINI Cooper E will likely cost about the same as the iX’s options list.
Interestingly, you supposedly start the MINI Cooper E with something similar to an ignition key, which is delightfully old-school. Once started, the new MINI is apparently a big improvement over the previous-gen car. Its steering is light—which is actually more like classic MINIs, rather than the BMW-heavy steering of current MINIs—and it even has some torque steer, as a proper hot-hatch should. Also, praise the car gods because the new MINI Cooper E has a fixed steering ratio, without any of the variable junk you get in almost all modern cars. That means it’s actually predictable and you can learn how the steering behaves and it’s always going to do the exact same thing, time and time again.
The ride is said to be firm but that’s sort of how MINIs are supposed to be. However, it’s also said to be fun to drive and quite sporty. If you switch its DSC mode to Sport, it will use the brakes to torque vector a bit and allow for some proper fun. We’re very excited to drive this new electric MINI, let’s hope we get to soon.