(Pocket-lint) - Last year's first-generation Mini Electric was fantastic fun to drive but was lacking in a couple of areas - the range didn't set the world alight for the not inconsiderable outlay, while the instrument panel didn't feel that ready for an electric future.
So can the gently revised 2021 version make a difference? We went to Mini's plant in Cowley, Oxford, to drive the new car. Mini says it is planning on doubling production of the Mini Electric this year, with all Minis going electric by 2030. While it's a coincidence that it's 20 years since the launch of the modern Mini, it's a fine way to mark such a milestone.
The Mini Electric remains a blast. Our biggest bugbear remains the central display and it really does need a rethink. The Mini Electric's key problem though is that it's expensive when you consider the modest range. If you can get past that, you're getting a really wonderful package.
Mini Electric 2021 first drive: An improvement on last year?
- Great to drive
- Quality interior
- Very comfortable
- Compact but not too compact
- Modest range
- Presentation of info on display needs to be clearer
- Central display needs a rethink.
Design and driveability
- Motor: 181bhp
- 0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
- Automatic, front wheel drive
Just a year after launch, the Mini Electric has been given a facelift as part of a wider 2021 model refresh which sees absolutely zero chrome utilised (those days are gone) and more black and body-coloured detailing. The grille is wider with a new black surround. The old-style separate foglights have been deleted from the bumper though there are new air inlets.
The Mini Electric hallmarks remain in the form of the fluorescent 'E' branding and wheels and there are plenty of these accents inside, with the branding continuing on the steering wheel and fluorescent LED light around the central panel which changes colour depending on the situation.
It comes in Level 1, 2 or 3 trim levels as well as a Collection edition featuring 17-inch Electric Collection alloy wheels and other options like Island Blue metallic paint. Even Level 1 has a decent specification with cruise control, sat nav and air con.
There are also new paint colours including a crazy multitone roof (not pictured here). The jury is out on this one - is it grin or grimace? You'll need to make that choice for yourself. Of course, the Mini lineup is no stranger to a coloured roof, with the John Cooper white roof the most famous of all.
Make no mistake, this is a fun car to drive. It's quick off the line and feels nicely poised although you quickly realise how stiff the suspension is when you go over some humps. It's nimble around the corners, too, while the deceleration is rapid when you take your foot off the accelerator, you rarely need to use the brake in normal driving. The 184bhp motor gives you a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds so it really is nippy.
Interior and dash
- Driver display: 5.5-inch
- Central display 8.8-inch
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support
- Wireless charging
One of our major criticisms of last year's model was the central instrument panel. The five-inch display in front of the driver is great; really clear and crisp (although the remaining range could do with being bigger and perhaps the whole display needs to be more customisable) but the central console felt like it needed further adaptation for the electric era.
These criticisms remain and are extended, with the central display being standard across more of the Mini range. As with all Minis, the central design remains a big circle, designed to reflect the large circular speedo in the original Mini.
The problem is that it's no longer fit for modern purposes and the wide 8.8-inch display (using the well-known BMW interface) is pretty much shoehorned into the shape, with the left-hand buttons being right up against the edge, though there is a navigation dial next to the handbrake control. Retro is cool until it stands in the way of progress.
You can have a split screen set up though and it is fairly usable once you get to grips with it, while charging stations are shown on the maps.
Obviously, the interior is compact, but the boot is tiny - overnight bags only - while the rear seats will be a squeeze for teenagers or adults.
Range and battery
- Cited range: 145 miles
- Battery: 32.6kWh
- Charging: 50kW (to 80 per cent in 36 minutes)
- Four driving modes
Range remains the big issue with the Mini Electric, because although a 145-mile range is cited, our test model suggested nearer 100 miles of range. But at times, the car’s 32.6kWh battery barely depletes because of the energy recovery.
However, we're looking forward to testing range on a much longer drive. The reported range on the dash takes into account how the car is being driven and in which mode - Mid is the best compromise, though Green and Green+ obviously give you more range. The latter setting means there's no air conditioning.
Charge time is decent - with a fast 50kW charger you can juice up in an hour. However, you're more likely to charge in around three hours on a 7kW home unit or 12 hours on a standard home socket.
A new service has been introduced called Mini Charging where you pay one provider, but you have access to over 11,000 charging points across the UK (and 173,000 charge points across Europe). You have a single charge card and the network includes BP Pulse (including ChargeYourCar), ESB, Osprey, Source London and Chargepoint Network UK(including Instavolt). New buyers of the Mini Electric are given free access to the BP Pulse network for a year.
The Mini Electric remains a blast if you can cope with the relatively short range.