Mini has a new Cooper SE coming, an all-electric delight of a little hatchback. It's improved across the board over the outgoing Mini SE, but it carries one crucial flaw that might make it a total non-starter in the United States.

It's not power, with the new SE carrying 215 horsepower, up about 35 over its predecessor. It's not range, either. The new Mini platform made room for 54.2 kWh of cells, a significant upgrade over the old machine's 32.6 kWh pack and anemic 114 miles of EPA range.  

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

So what's the problem? It has to do with where it's actually from.

(Full Disclosure: Mini flew me business class to Barcelona, Spain for the first drive of the Cooper SE. The company provided lodging and meals during the event.)

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The new Mini Cooper SE is built in China by Great Wall Motor. It's not a question of build quality or performance, as this new Mini feels as polished as any other European-built one I've been in. But, the Biden administration's new 100% tariff on Chinese cars makes them non-viable financially.

So, then, is the new electric Cooper destined to be forever forbidden fruit on American shores? Not necessarily. There is hope. I'll get into that in a moment, but first, let's dig a little deeper into that platform and go for a drive.  

Gallery: 2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

Updated Underpinnings

The outgoing Mini SE (now out of production, but still available at dealers if you hurry) made do with the same basic platform as the other Minis of its era. That is to say, it stuffed batteries, motors, inverters, and everything else into a chassis that was not really designed for the purpose.

Mini engineers did their best but only found room for 32.6 kWh of batteries. That gave the 2024 Mini Cooper SE an EPA range of just 114 miles. They were entertaining, engaging miles The Cooper SE was one of the most lively electric hatchbacks on the market. But it was one of those "for a good time, not a long time" situations.  

Output 215 hp
Maximum torque 243 lb-ft
Drive Type Front-wheel drive
Battery 54.2 kWH Lithium-ion
Speed 0-62 MPH 6.7 seconds
EV Range 250 Miles (WLTP Cycle)
Weight 3,538 Lbs
Charge Type Up to 95-kW DC fast charging
Base Price N/A

 

The new Mini Cooper SE has a wholly new chassis. It’s unrelated to the new chassis found in the other new Mini Cooper, the internal combustion version that is coming to the U.S.  

The new electric Cooper SE, the J01, has grown slightly with 1.2 inches more wheelbase but, more significantly, far more battery capacity. The pack is rated for 54.2 kWh, with 49.2 kWh of usable energy. That's a 60 percent upgrade over before, giving the Cooper SE a big range boost

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

How much? Unsurprisingly, Mini hasn't bothered with the EPA test, but on the more generous European WLTP cycle, the new Cooper SE manages 250 miles. That likely means somewhere north of 200 miles of equivalent range if and when this thing gets run through the American gauntlet.

But with greater cell capacity comes greater mass, to the tune of about 500 pounds gained over the outgoing generation. It has a curb weight over 3,500 pounds. That's modest by modern EV standards (about 400 pounds less than the lightest Tesla Model 3, for example), but awfully portly for a Cooper. How does it perform? I hit the roads around Barcelona to find out. 

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

On the Move

The new Cooper SE didn't just get more batteries. It also gained power, with 215 hp and 243 pound-feet of torque delivered to the front wheels through an open differential. 

That's a lot of twist through the front wheels, especially given that open differentials are prone to spinning one wheel and losing forward traction. Thankfully, the Cooper SE has a virtual limited-slip differential, with automatic braking to mitigate wheelspin on either side of the car. To keep the Cooper moving and keep the tires from shredding, Mini also developed a new traction control system. It is actually worse at its job than the outgoing one, and intentionally so.  

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

Mini got feedback from drivers that the outgoing SE car was so good at maximizing grip and mitigating wheelspin that drivers sometimes felt underwhelmed by the acceleration. It never spun the wheels so it felt slow. Traction control intervention was imperceptible, so it felt like the car was lacking power, not subtly holding back to maximize pace. 

To fix that, Mini engineers added a bit of margin of error, resulting in just a smidge of wheelspin when you get hard on the accelerator, a tactile and auditory signal that your right foot is writing checks the tires can't cash.

Applied fallibility aside, the new Mini Cooper SE scoots forward with all the aggression of its predecessor. It's officially 0.6 seconds quicker to 62 mph than before, 6.7 seconds to be exact, added power more than making up for the extra weight. It has all the low-down torque you want and expect. 

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

Once you get up to speed, though, that instant throttle response softens somewhat. As you approach highway speeds, you can feel the Cooper SE running out of steam. That's fine. This is a machine best suited for zipping between stoplights and squirting out of tight, twisty bends, and it's an absolute joy at that.

But perhaps slightly less so than the old SE. The weight is definitely noticeable, the steering heavier and more detached than before. It's a slight step backward, but an unavoidable one in the quest for more range.

That doesn't kill the fun, though. The Cooper SE is still an absolute blast to drive. It turns and swings through corners cleanly, body roll kept to a minimum even as the g-forces start to ramp up. Get too hard on the accelerator too early and it'll run wide, but driving this hard never felt like the exercise in patience that some front-drive rockets require.

Taking a Seat

While in Europe Mini offers a choice of basic or upgraded John Cooper Works sport seats, I spent much of my time in the standard seats, which honestly did an excellent job of keeping me centered behind the wheel even as the roads to the east of Barcelona swung back upon themselves with an ever-tightening cadence.  

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

The steering wheel, though, wasn't quite ideal. It's awfully chubby, which I don't mind so much, but the thumb rest portions at the 10 and 2 positions were almost comically large. I'm not sure the idea there, but honestly that's the only thing about the interior that I don't like.

Mini's designers pulled in some concept-car tech to make the interior unique, too, and borrowed ideas and techniques from the modern sport shoe industry to create an interior landscape unlike any other car on the road (except the Countryman SE, which shares virtually the same interior design).

The focal point is the 9.4-inch circular OLED display standing proudly in the middle of the dash. Though this serves double-duty as gauge cluster and infotainment screen, a pop-up HUD is situated just short of the windshield to help. The shape of the display is novel, but it’s the software running on it that creates a new experience that's unique to the brand. You swipe left and right to access different panes of information, while vital features like HVAC and speed live around the edges. 

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

As you cycle through the Cooper SE's seven driving modes, the entire look and feel of the UI changes for each mode. The Cooper SE also includes a suite of fake engine noises matched to each one, including one sampled from an original 1959 Mini. I can't say as I really enjoyed any of them, but they do add to the fun, and they're easily disabled.

Two small projectors nestled behind that display spread subtle light patterns across that woven dashboard. These also match your chosen drive mode. It's another novel touch for providing a degree of personalization. It can be a little garish, but I think most Mini fans will eat it up.

Practicalities

I'm always surprised at how comfortable the rear seats in a Cooper are, and that doesn't change here. I'm six feet tall with short legs and I could still sit bolt upright without issue. My feet, though, were properly wedged beneath the seat ahead of me. Legroom is necessarily tight.

Up front there's plenty of headroom and legroom. Two grown adults won't feel like they're infringing on the personal space of the other. As ever with the Cooper, the new one does the whole "bigger on the inside" thing quite well.  

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

But there is no magic when it comes to packaging the plumbing required for the EV system. For those of you who might have been hoping this new platform would give the new Cooper SE a frunk, I'm sorry to disappoint. Lift the hood and you'll see a frightening array of high-voltage and coolant lines without even a plastic vanity shroud to hide them. There isn't even a token pocket here for storing a charger. 

Keeping Hope Alive

So, the new Cooper SE is still fun to drive and is even better to look at, inside and out. Is there even any point in getting excited in a machine that seems unlikely to reach our shores?

While Mini isn't saying anything, don't be so quick to dismiss the new Cooper SE. The electric Mini Countryman SE is coming to U.S. dealers soon, thanks to its production in Leipzig. Could Mini start building Cooper SE models there, too? Possibly. And the old Cooper SE was built at the company's factory in Oxford, UK. That factory is getting upgrades as we speak to enable the production of EVs there starting in 2026. I'll let you connect the dots. 

2025 Mini Cooper SE First Drive

So don't give up hope just yet, electric Cooper fans. You may get a new SE, but you might be waiting a few years longer than you'd like.  

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FAQs

Does the Mini Cooper SE qualify for the federal tax credit?

As it stands, the Cooper SE would not qualify for any federal tax credit, with its point of assembly being China. However, the current version of the car is not destined for import into the U.S., and we'll have to wait and see what the future holds. 

Is the Mini Cooper being discontinued?

No, the internal combustion Mini Cooper versions are still coming to the U.S. The electric Mini Cooper SE is also continuing production, but will not be imported into the U.S. for now.

Does the Mini Cooper SE have power seats?

Yes, even the base model Cooper SE has power-adjustable seats, and sportier John Cooper Works seats are available as an option. 

 

 

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