Is an electric Mini your next autocrosser? | Mini Cooper SE Hardtop review

Steven Cole
By Steven Cole Smith
Sep 18, 2022 | Mini, Review, Cooper SE | Posted in News and Notes | From the June 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Courtesy Mini

Say, have you noticed those gasoline prices lately?

You haven’t?

Then you must be reading this magazine at your dentist’s office. Research suggests the vast majority of our readers drive and thus must have noticed gasoline prices–even if it’s for their own amusement. And those amused people would be electric car drivers.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s entirely logical that when the first number on a gallon-of-gas sign at your local station nudges toward a 5, you’d turn to the only ready escape from petroleum. 

Here’s a possible alternative: the two-door Mini Cooper SE Hardtop, which hasn’t undergone a price increase since it was introduced as a 2020 model at $29,900 plus $850 for shipping. And that’s before the federal tax credit of $7500 and any state credits that might apply. That puts the price close to the base Mini, which costs $23,400, up $500 for the 2023 model year.

The additional savings, per the company’s math before the recent gas spike, compares the SE with a Cooper S sporting the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 30 mpg combined. Based on 10,000 miles driven each year, with premium gas at a you-wish $3.30 a gallon and electricity at 15 cents per kilowatt, you could save $1850 over a three-year period. You can adjust that with your own math at whatever premium gas costs when you’re reading this. Likely it’s north of $3.30.

There are a couple of downsides with this electric car. One, of course, is that the SE has to be plugged in, and if you’re an apartment dweller that may be an issue. The other is that after you plug it in, you can expect only 110 miles of range from its 28.9 kWh battery–definitely on the low end for inexpensive electric cars.

The Nissan Leaf, the only electric car less expensive than the Cooper SE with a starting price of $27,400–or $28,425 with shipping–advertises a 149-mile range with the standard 40 kWh battery, or 226 miles with the optional 62 kWh battery. We recently tested a Hyundai Kona Electric, and it had an impressive 237-mile range at full charge.

That said, the Cooper SE’s performance is pretty sporty. The front-wheel-drive electric motor pumps out 181 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque. Mini claims the SE’s top speed is 93 mph and that it can go from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, though Car and Driver clocked it at 6.1 seconds.

At a recent Mini program, we spent some time in several 2022 Cooper SE models, which differ from the 2023s only in very minor color and interior trim changes. You will not be surprised to hear that an inordinate amount of our time was spent on an autocross course. The location of the battery pack places the extra weight down low, and that center of gravity played well on the tight little circuit.

The two-stage regenerative brakes took a little getting used to, as did the impressive off-the-line launch and the rush of the one-speed automatic transmission, but it sure makes gear selection simple. The Cooper SE was as go-kart tossable as a regular Cooper, especially with enough laps around the track to get comfortable with its all-electric quirks.

On the road, its ride may be a little better than the base Cooper, certainly smoother than the Cooper S. Steering is precise, and brakes are quite good once you’ve become accustomed to their progression. 

Weight is about 3100 pounds–not bad for a battery-powered car. The Nissan Leaf S weighs 3516 pounds, but it’s quite a bit bigger overall than the Cooper SE with a length of 176.4 inches.

The biggest problem with the Mini Cooper SE Hardtop might be finding one. We did a nationwide search on Mini’s site and found a comparative handful of electric models. We suspect that until gas prices drop to more reasonable rates, the few SE models that are out there might carry a healthy dealer markup.

All that aside, we like the electric Mini. If you can live with a 110-mile range and have a place to plug it in, we suspect you will, too.

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Comments
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SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/6/22 11:37 a.m.

I didn't know this existed!

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
5/6/22 11:37 a.m.

The Mini used to be a cute and very useful and economical small car. They had an 80" wheelbase, and weighed approx. 1400-1500 lbs.  It got great fuel mileage.

The new Cooper Clubman has a 105" wheelbase, and is the size of a small SUV, weighing 3600 lbs. (but you are right, getting the battery powered version down to c. 3100 lbs is indeed a laudable accomplishment).

I don't think that the new ones really merit the use of the 'Mini' description any more.....they should probably just label it a BMW X1.

SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/6/22 11:50 a.m.

In reply to wspohn :

I don't care what they call it or what it weighs. I like driving mine. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
5/6/22 11:52 a.m.

Is an electric Mini your next autocrosser?

Were you going to provide any information about its autocross performance? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/6/22 1:19 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

This was a first drive at the press intro. Hopefully soon we can run numbers. Initial indications, though, show that it’s fun and in the ballpark. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/6/22 1:32 p.m.

I'm not sure what to think about the non-symmetrical wheels.  

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/6/22 1:41 p.m.

Max charging rate is 50 kW, so it's not a great road tripper. The Mini site says 80% in 36 minutes (sounds about right for that battery size), and 80% is 88 miles. This is the sort of thing people are worried about when thinking of taking an EV on vacation, and it's real in some cases.

If you are looking at an EV, take a look at that charge rate. Of the other cars mentioned in the article, the Kona can charge at 75 kW and the Leaf can hit 100 but requires the CHAdeMO format which is rapidly becoming obsolete. The Bolt, which should probably have been mentioned, is at 55 kW. These charging rates only matter if you use more than your rated range before a long stop (such as an overnight).

Good price point, and the MINI has some style on its side with minimum dorkiness. That'll help bring some people over.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/6/22 2:00 p.m.

One question that always has to be asked about short range (and thus likely compliance) EVs: are they available everywhere? The Kona Electric mentioned in the article is only available in 12 states. Is the Mini available everywhere?

Placemotorsports
Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
5/6/22 2:06 p.m.

Mileage sounds comparable to the i3

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
5/6/22 2:45 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Nothing a set of RFP1's won't fix.  But yeah, those are pretty awful looking wheels.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/6/22 3:28 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

One question that always has to be asked about short range (and thus likely compliance) EVs: are they available everywhere? The Kona Electric mentioned in the article is only available in 12 states. Is the Mini available everywhere?

Valid question. MINI sold an electric version of the R56 about a decade ago, but it was lease-only (with no buy option) and was only offered in CA and NYC-metro areas.  

Aspen
Aspen HalfDork
5/6/22 3:32 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

My daughter has a 3 door, it is nothing like an X1.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
5/6/22 4:05 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

One question that always has to be asked about short range (and thus likely compliance) EVs: are they available everywhere? The Kona Electric mentioned in the article is only available in 12 states. Is the Mini available everywhere?

Let me follow up with another question: Can it be served at any Mini dealership?

I remember when the Fiat 500e came out, you could only take it to be serviced at certain dealerships. Granted, there was plenty to pick from (even ones outside of the states it was originally sold in), but it's something worth looking into before you buy.

thashane
thashane GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/6/22 4:17 p.m.

With gas prices, this is definitely appealing. Also since I already trailer the R55 MINI to most events. 

 

 However - ignoring the 30% dealer market exploitments here on the west coast, the 22' Civic Si is the same MSRP, and also in GS. edit: looking at MINIs website - the standard justa Cooper is $27.4k, the SE shows $33.9k starting for me. I'd say that's a price increase.

 

Found this in a quick search. Looks like only used 14% over 5 runs. 

 

edit:  he got 14th in PAX also. 

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/6/22 5:21 p.m.
Colin Wood said:
Keith Tanner said:

One question that always has to be asked about short range (and thus likely compliance) EVs: are they available everywhere? The Kona Electric mentioned in the article is only available in 12 states. Is the Mini available everywhere?

Let me follow up with another question: Can it be served at any Mini dealership?

I remember when the Fiat 500e came out, you could only take it to be serviced at certain dealerships. Granted, there was plenty to pick from (even ones outside of the states it was originally sold in), but it's something worth looking into before you buy.

Possibly. I would think the MINI would use similar EV architecture as their BMW cousins and therefore could be serviced at authorized BMW dealers. That said, BMW used to have a thing about not allowing BMW dealers to do authorized service on MINIs - something that has caused MINI some problems over the years due to the rather sparse dealer network.  So who knows. 

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
5/6/22 5:55 p.m.

In reply to thashane :

Some manufacturers are sneaky about figuring fed/state EV incentives into MSRP in advertising. That being said the article MSRP matches what I am seeing, so unsure why you are seeing something different.

In my area of California, the Cooper SE qualifies for just over $10k in rebates thanks to federal and state EV incentives. At about $19k it's a lot more appealing than it is at $30k.

 

SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/7/22 9:44 a.m.

In reply to pointofdeparture :

At $19K, it's a steal. 

SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/7/22 9:48 a.m.

In reply to thashane :

The article doesn't say the SE is equal price to the base model. It says the SE hasn't had a price increase since 2020, and that it is comparably priced to the base model AFTER INCENTIVES. 

 

thashane
thashane GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/7/22 12:52 p.m.

In reply to SV reX :

You are correct, I misread the Leaf MSRP @27.4k

thashane
thashane GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/7/22 12:59 p.m.

In reply to pointofdeparture :

In Northern California the MINI website starts at 33.9 for me, and jumps up to 34 something (guessing 850 shipping) at the end of the build. 

If you look into the CA rebates, to get the full amount you have to "retire" (scrap) a car that has been registered for the last 2 years. The Fed rebate is very appealing though.

te72
te72 Reader
5/7/22 6:38 p.m.

Such a small battery pack has me wondering if you'd be recharging between run groups... I'd love to stick one of those Koenigsegg electric motors in the Exocet, but it would have to be enough for a good 20 runs or so, without needing a battery pack that would take weight above the stock Miata drivetrain it would replace. Not sure we are there just yet on the battery side of things.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/22 9:13 p.m.

If you are waiting for the magic battery, i wouldn't hold your breath. It's like the 100 mpg carburetor. Incremental changes will continue, but don't expect a step change.

Even if you gained some weight to hit your goal of 20 runs, it might be worthwhile. We had two Model 3 Performance cars at our autox today. One of them set FTD (by a long shot) and beat a turbo Exocet on Hoosiers by 4 or 5 seconds. 9 runs. He then stopped by a Supercharger. I'll find out what he used. 

te72
te72 Reader
5/8/22 2:31 a.m.

Keith, was the guy's name Bruce, by any chance? Turbo Exocet seems like a handful, considering how tail happy mine is with just a base NB2 drivetrain.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/8/22 10:35 a.m.

That would be Bruce. Turbo Exocet is an awesome tool when set up well and this one's pretty sorted.
 

Bruce didn't tell me how many kWh he used, only "$5" and I don't know the cost for Supercharging around here. 

te72
te72 Reader
5/8/22 9:51 p.m.

Haha, I know Bruce... sounds like I've got my work cut out to edge him out. Friendly rival, of sorts, he's a good dude. Always a pleasure to outdo him, but I suspect we're on a shorter course than you guys are down there.

 

That said my Exocet is far from sorted. Still on stock suspension and bushings from an 02 donor, and pretty sure the rear shocks are blown. Still stupidly quick though.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/8/22 11:01 p.m.

The course yesterday was in the 50-52 second range. Slow. First time we've used that venue in several years, gotta learn how to lay it out. 

If you want to beat Bruce, you're going to need functioning suspension. :) Don't judge Exocet handling until you've got a chassis under you. They work pretty well. Like a Miata that's lost 900 lbs.  

te72
te72 Reader
5/9/22 10:05 a.m.

Most of our courses seem to end up in the 30-40 second range since the lots are fairly small around here. I intend to refresh the chassis fully once the budget is there, no worries there apart from the time it takes to save up. =)

David Elfering
David Elfering GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/19/22 7:17 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens : I'm 100% on board with seeing how much autocross fun you can coax out of it. How much battery would three .6 mile autocross runs take? I don't trailer cars to events, so getting there and home is another factor

 

Pictsidhe
Pictsidhe
11/20/22 8:57 p.m.

I took my 2023 SE to my first ever autocross a few weeks back.

Owing absolutely entirely to the stock Hankooks not sticking, my timed runs were dreadful. Nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it was my first time autocrossing and my aggression level was a touch higher than my experience...

It felt surprisingly neutral for an FWD. At the end of my faster slaloms, I may have been opposite lock. The 180s, I mostly ploughed. That was probably a little too much entry speed. I'm really not sure that I want to stick a 25mm RARB on this thing, it's my daily... A bit more maybe, but not a lot more.

Seriously, the tyres did seem rather slick to start with, but I also sucked. After the timed runs, we had some time left so we did funruns. -5s on my first of those, after the car had cooled for over an hour...

2nd funrun was done by an R53 competitor. In her first time in an EV, she ran 0.6s faster than her best recorded R53 time of the day...

Hmmm. I thought it would be quicker than an R53, which is my other car.

My last funrun sounded dirty, but it was also only 2s off the GS class winner. I was very pleased with that.

Methinks that some sticky tyres and a non-showroom alignment, it should easily hold its own in GS.

Brakes are heavily front biased. 280/54mm JustaF56on the front, 280/34mm F54 on the back. I now have some EBC red front, yellow rear to help there. Sadly, the F54 rear calipers make it unlikely that any non-custom  15" wheels can be used.

Suspension is a mongrel. Ride height is a tad higher than F56. Shocks are unique to the SE. I don't have spring part numbers, but the rear springs measure up like an F54 AWD. Fronts may be F55. I strongly suspect the shocks are slightly longer than F56, but shorter than F54. Front spring seat to knuckle distance is the same as F56, so longer spring there. Others have bolted F56 shocks on... My rear camber adjustment is almost maxed out from the factory.

10 runs used 28% of the battery.

 

Now, you just need someone who knows how to drive autocross to review one.

 

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/20/22 9:38 p.m.

There's one of these in an autocross series I compete in, the series course designers like to squeeze drag strips into the courses and as such the Mini SE sometimes beats me in my 86 in raw time. It reaches startling speeds at the ends of the straights.

AMiataCalledSteve
AMiataCalledSteve Reader
11/21/22 9:24 a.m.

There's a guy who runs his 2022 Mini SE in our autocrosses too. Looking at the results from the last event, it seems he ran about a half-second behind my dad's stock NC Miata on summer tires. It appears to be a pretty quick little car and the guy seems to have fun with it.

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