Mini Cooper SE 2020 first drive: Quintessential Mini, but eco-friendly

8.8 Mini with a big heart

There aren’t many things in this world that can bring a human such joy. A small, nippy, responsive electric vehicle that is exactly what South Africans need. The short range may be an issue come December holiday, but from R642,000 you get a whole lot of character.

  • Design 10
  • Handling 9
  • Infotainment 8
  • Battery 8
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0

Electric vehicles have been a rare sight in South Africa in recent years. Not many of the buggers make it to SA shores, and if they do it’s generally aimed at the upper class. You know, people who can afford upwards of R350,000 on a new car (and even a secondhand Nissan Leaf). We’re here to tell you that nothing’s really changed, but the coolest-looking EV is coming to the market in the shape of the Electric Mini Cooper SE. 

Imagine a quintessential Mini, except this time it features zero emissions and a slightly adjusted design style both on the exterior and inside. 

Based on the 3-door Mini, this special Cooper SE is equipped with an electric motor, powered by a 96-cell 32.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the vehicle’s floor. The drivetrain is similar to that of the BMW i3, which we spent an extended amount of time with

We played with the adorable powerhouse of an EV for a morning in Johannesburg, putting it through the paces and zooming through mid-morning traffic on the N1. Who could’ve known Joburg traffic could bring a mere mortal such pure joy?

Speedy Mcspeederson

We’re not saying we broke any road laws at all. What we’re saying is that if you pair the instant torque of an electric motor with a small Mini body, you get one nippy little car. The all-electric Mini produces peak outputs of 135 kW and 270 Nm of torque… it can also accelerate from 0 to 100kmph in just 7.3 seconds without the front wheels leaving the earth. 

Just to give you a small rundown of how an electric motor works: Whereas a petrol engine has to build up revs to generate torque, the Cooper SE puts out the maximum torque immediately. Done and dusted. 

The exact moment you lay your foot down ever-so-slightly on the petrol pedal, you’ll feel it. The absolute rush of feeling real Gs in a tiny little vehicle is one of the most exhilarating you could ever imagine. Driving an electric car on a daily basis should be like taking the rollercoaster to work. 

But it’s a city car

But as much fun as the all-electric mini is, it does come with a few small drawbacks. The one major problem coming in with the range. Electric vehicles historically don’t feature impressive ranges, and the same goes for the electric Mini, coming into SA with a max range of approximately 220km on a full charge.

The range can vary substantially according to your driving habits, however. If you’re gonna zoom everywhere in sports mode, you’ll get even less. But change to mode to economy, and make use of the regressive brake charging feature a lot, and you’ll get up to 300km on a charge. This really depends on the driver. 

Of course, this isn’t ideal for the average South African, who regularly travel further than 200km for holidays or business trips. Although electric vehicle charging stations are popping up all over the country, it’s still not a viable travelling vehicle. You’d likely need a secondary vehicle for long-distance. But that doesn’t make the EV Mini any less of a fun city car. 

In the cockpit

So the outside is awesome, right? But the inside’s where all the fun stuff happens. Again, if you’re a Mini-fan, it looks almost identical to a Cooper S that just left the factory. Just this time, you get some EV-specific features to improve the whole experience. 

The Cooper SE features a 5.5in digital heads-up display that hosts all of the important info you’ll need at first sight. We were too busy enjoying the electric drivetrain to play with the stuff we already know. At its centre, you’ll see vehicle speed, with a scale band that lights up in colours that match the drive mode: red (Sport), white (MID), green (Green/Green+).

Alongside this, you get the 6.5in Mini Connected Navigation system with a touchscreen that sits in the centre. This holds the infotainment system which gives you access to all of the connectivity features you may need. 

Electric Mini Verdict

Our favourite feature in the all-electric Mini is the attention to detail. From the bright yellow side mirrors to the circuitry-esque mags on the wheels, it’s brilliant to see how Mini approached the design on this little car. Keeping to Mini’s universally loved style while giving it an updated EV-friendly twist. 

There aren’t many things in this world that can bring a human such joy. A small, nippy, responsive electric vehicle that is exactly what South Africans need. The short range may be an issue come December holiday, but from R642,000 you get a whole lot of character.


About Author

Digital Editor at Stuff. Nevermind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.


  1. Minimum battery needs to be at least 40KWhr, preferably 50KWhr. 32KWhr is quite underwhelming, especially given the price tag.

    This is nowhere near adequate, especially when Tesla offers 75KWhr+ batteries.

    Good to finally see some other options though, even if they’re still kak.
    Hoping for a Renault Zoe or Kia e-Soul at some point here, or even a Tesla.

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