MINI bets on affordability over range.

The 2020 MINI Cooper SE is now only about 2 months away from its U.S. release. We had the opportunity to attend MINI's media drive for the Cooper SE this week, alas, driving impressions are embargoed until January 29th, so we need to hold off another week before we post our full driving review. 

We thought it would be a good idea to post the general details about the electric coupe now, so we can focus on our driving impressions in our review on the 29th. 

MINI Cooper SE
A row of MINI Cooper SEs during the media drive in Miami

Trims and Cost

There are three trim levels, with the base MINI Cooper SE called "Signature" trim. In the conventionally-fueled MINI line, Signature trim is optional. MINI representatives said they wanted to offer a base model of the Cooper SE that was well-appointed, therefore they stacked it up with features that are optional on their other cars. The only thing the customer needs to do is select a color, and the base price is $29,900 (plus an $850 destination charge).

Standard features include:

  • Navigation system with 6.5” display
  • Apple CarPlay Compatibility
  • Heated Front Seats
  • Comfort Access Keyless entry
  • LED Headlights and Fog lights
  • Active Driving Assistant with Forward Collision Warning
  • Acoustic Pedestrian Warning
  • Rear View Camera
  • Bluetooth with phone and audio streaming
  • Auto Rain Sensing Wipers and Headlights
  • Automatic Climate Control
  • Heated Mirrors and Washer Jets
  • Cruise Control
  • Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel
  • Dynamic Digital Instrument Cluster
  • Energy Efficient Heat Pump
  • AC Charging up to 7.4 kW
  • DC Fast Charging up to 50kW
  • Carbon Black Leatherette Upholstery
  • 16" Sport Wheels
  • Storage Package
MINI Cooper SE Trim options

The next step up is the Signature Plus trim, at an additional cost of $4,000. Signature Plus has everything in the Signature trim and adds: 

  • A choice of 17” Wheels
  • Upholstery upgrade to Cloth Leatherette Black Pearl / Light Grey
  • Power folding and auto-dimming mirrors
  • Panoramic Sunroof
  • Garage Door Opener
  • Rear Park Distance Control
  • Harman/Kardon Sound

The top-of-the-line Iconic trim adds $7,000 to the cost of the base Signature trim for an MSRP of $36,900. It has everything in the Signature Plus trim and adds:

  • Additional 17” Wheel choices
  • Upholstery Upgrade to Chesterfield Satellite Grey Leather
  • Front and Rear Park Distance Control
  • Parking Assistant
  • MINI Head-Up Display
  • MINI Yours Leather Steering Wheel
  • Navigation Upgrade to 8.8” Display w/ additional connectivity features and concierge services
  • Wireless phone charger

Power

All of the Cooper SEs have the same powerplant. That is a 181 hp, 199 lb-ft of torque electric motor borrowed from the BMW i3s. If you watch the video above, you may notice that I say the horsepower rating in 184 hp. That is the correct figure for the European rating. For the US market, the testing is slightly different and the SAE power rating is officially 181 hp.

MINI Cooper SE

Regenerative Braking 

That's good enough to propel the 3,006 lb Cooper SE from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. Regenerative braking has two settings, with the default setting comparable to the BMW i3, with one-pedal driving possible. MINI decided to add a weaker regen setting based on feedback from customers, but to engage the weaker setting, the customer has to select it every time they enter the vehicle, as it will always default to the stronger regen setting. 

Charging

The Cooper SE is basically a BMW i3-clone with regards to charging. It can charge at 32-amps on a level 2, 240V source, good for 7.4 kW. For DC fast charge it uses the combined charging system (Combo plug) and can accept up to 50 kW. That's good enough to charge the Cooper SE's battery to 80% in less than 30 minutes.  

MINI Cooper SE

Battery and Range

The Cooper SE has a 32.6 kWh battery, of which 28.9 kWh is usable. It notable to point out that this isn't a purpose-built EV. MINI is using the same platform that the ICE MINIs use, so they had to get creative with the battery packaging. They fit the cells they secure from supplier CATL in the tunnel down the center of the vehicle, and under the rear seats on a "T" configuration. They do not use the same cells as used in the BMW i3, because they are too tall to fit in that configuration, however, they are still prismatic cells, not the smaller cylindrical cells that Tesla uses. 

EPA range figures haven't been released, but MINI had told us to expect an EPA rating of 110 miles. We realize there's going to be a fair amount of criticism about the range, and we get it. However, you have to consider the cost before ripping into MINI for the range. If MINI had done a purpose-built electric vehicle, it would have cost a lot more. Sharing the platform with their existing line saved a LOT of money.

Plus, since they could only fit 32.6 kWh of batteries, that also reduced the cost. Look at the list of standard features that come with the Cooper SE. A MINI rep I spoke to said that in Europe, a Cooper SE is actually almost $2,000€ less than a comparably-equipped MINI hardtop. Every EV doesn't have to be a long-range-EV, there's plenty of people that can live fine with a 110-mile car.  

Here in the US, if you qualify for the full federal tax credit, the cost of a Cooper SE Signature trim after the credit is $23,250. Then, if you live in a state that also has incentives, it's even less. Here in New Jersey, we just passed state EV rebate legislation which will give the Cooper SE another $2,750 off, meaning I can now get a 2020 Cooper SE with an effective cost of $20,500. I imagine I could probably get a 3-year lease for about $125 per month - that's a compelling offer. 

MINI Electric (MINI Cooper SE)

My 2018 BMW i3s lease just ended, so I'm now down to just the Model 3 in the garage that my wife and I are sharing. The Cooper SE will have the same, if not a little more range than my i3s did, and I was just fine with it. I'm starting to think the Cooper SE might be the Model 3's stable-mate soon. Am I crazy? Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Check back in a week for my full Cooper SE driving review which we'll post on the 29th when the embargo ends.