In July 2019, MINI introduced its first ever electric car, the Cooper SE. Technically, the automaker’s first EV was the MINI E which debuted in 2008, but that car was a strict two-seater (the battery pack took up most of the rear space) and production was limited to just 500 units for private leases.

The new Cooper SE, on the other hand, can be purchased by just about anyone who wishes to ride on the new-age mobility bandwagon. It actually sits on the same UKL platform that underpins the 3-Door and 5-Door hatches, so dimensions, weight, design proportions, and interior space are more or less identical. These are exactly what the MINI team strived to keep, by the way.

It should also be known that the UKL platform became the base for BMW’s FAAR platform, which was designed from the outset to accommodate hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains for its compact cars. Introducing the Cooper SE at the end of the F56’s life may not seem like a good strategy, but let’s just say it’s better having it made now than later, especially with all the post-Brexit uncertainties.

The recipe for the Cooper SE is simple – take the heart of the BMW i3s and flip it for a front-wheel drive application (the i3s is rear-driven and the transverse electric motor is fitted at the back). The compact electric motor, which has integrated power electronics and single-stage transmission, is held in place by a solid tube structure. It also weighs less compared to a conventional engine.

What’s new is the T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack, which has been designed to maximise the underfloor space vacated by the exhaust system, and thus is unique only to the Cooper SE. The gross energy content is 32.6 kWh (net content is 28.9 kWh; 350.4 volt), and a solid base plate protects it from the damaging effects of road debris. Should the car get into an accident, an automatic failsafe function immediately switches off all drive components. Other vital electronics are also shielded by reinforced bumper support.

As an extra step of precaution, the car’s height is raised by 18 mm to provide more ground clearance for the battery, and the only visual evidence of this the wider gap between the tyre and the wheel arch. In all, MINI says the Cooper SE weighs 145 kg heavier (1,365 kg) than the Cooper S 3 Door with Steptronic transmission, but its centre of gravity is lower, and perhaps affects weight distribution for the better as well.

Now for the numbers. The electric system provides 184 hp (135 kW) at 7,000 rpm and 270 Nm of torque from 100 to 1,000 rpm, figures which are close to the Cooper S’ 192 hp/280 Nm output. Being a city car, outright performance takes a step back in favour of daily usability and range, although peak acceleration remains impressive – the nought to 60 km/h sprint is achieved in 3.9 seconds, but 0-100 km/h is nearly double that at 7.3 seconds.

There’s still lots of pep for when the roads clear up. MINI says getting from 80 km/h to 120 km/h takes just 4.6 seconds, but the top speed is capped at 150 km/h. For those wondering, this is as hot as the Cooper SE gets. There won’t be an electric JCW model in the near future, and we’re told that the electric motor is currently at its peak potential. We daren’t ask more for a city car, to be frank.

What you’ll get is decent urban mileage, or up to 270 km to be exact. Charging tech is identical to the i3s, and there’s an 11 kW onboard AC charger with a Type 2 connection. Charging can be done via a 7.4 kW MINI Electric Wallbox for a single-phase AC outlet, but this takes 4.2 hours (or 3.2 hours to 80%), the longest needed for a full charge.

When plugged into the more powerful 11 kW three-phase wallbox, a full charge requires 3.5 hours or 2.5 hours from 0 to 80% charge. DC fast-charging is also supported (via CCS Combo 2 connection), although only up to 50 kW. Here, it takes just 35 minutes to get 80% from flat, or 1.4 hours from 0 to 100% charge.

There’s brake regeneration as well, with two thresholds (-0.19 m/s/s and -0.11 m/s/s) – to choose from. The former allows drivers to experience single-pedal driving (it decelerates more aggressively), while the latter feels more like a natural deceleration in combustion engined cars. There’s no switch to turn this off, so just keep that in mind.

The suspension is also very much similar to the regular Cooper S. The front is managed by a single-joint McPherson strut with aluminium swivel bearing and anti-dive control, while the rear gets a multi-link setup with weight-optimised trailing arms. No adaptive dampers here, and the Cooper S’ Passive Sport Suspension (makes the Cooper SE slightly more comfortable) is omitted as well.

For design, the Cooper SE is differentiated by the psychedelic highlights which adorn the closed radiator grille, side mirror caps, scuttle plates, alloy wheels, and tailgate decors. Standard wheel size is 16 inches, but this can be upgraded to larger 17-inch items which are unique to the electric model only (pictured here). Those who don’t fancy the design can opt for any 17-inch alloys available on the 3 Door and 5 Door models.

Step inside and you’ll be greeted with a largely familiar cabin. To start, the instrument panel is brand new, featuring a 5.5-inch digital instrument display with the similar bright yellow theme. The display itself is coated with a matte finish, which cuts out reflections. This provides info such as battery charge level, selected drive mode, available range, and basic multimedia info.

Other touches unique to the Cooper SE are the yellow start-stop ignition toggle, eDrive mode (Sport, Mid, Green, and Green+), yellow topstitching, and floor mats with MINI Electric embroidery (the last two is part of the Interior Style MINI Electric option). Standard kit includes LED headlamps, dual-zone climate control with pre-conditioning (via MINI Connected), and 6.5-inch Connected Navigation system (upgradable to 8.8-inch Connected Navigation Plus with wireless charging tray in the armrest).

As mentioned earlier, cabin space is unaffected by the switch to electric propulsion, and so is the boot space. There’s still 211 litres of space, enough to fit a couple of luggages, and the rear seats fold flat (60:40 split; both seats come with Isofix anchor points) to provide 731 litres of space.

Lastly, for safety, there’s a hydraulic twin-circuit brake system with ABS, Cornering Brake Control, DSC with brake assistant, hill start assist, brake dry function, fading brake support, electronic differential lock control, and performance control. There’s no hardware to enable more advanced features like autonomous emergency braking or active cruise control with braking function, and it’s unclear if there will ever be. So, anyone looking forward to this?