Motoring / Motoring News
Jaco Van Der Merwe
It’s a well-known fact that people are scared of change. When the subject of electric mobility comes up they often base their instant dismissal of the idea of electric vehicles on cold facts like the hefty price tags and range/loadshedding issues. This is strengthened on an emotional level on where motorists find it hard to associate themselves with the all-electric offerings we’ve seen locally.
The four electric vehicles (EVs) that have been sold in South Africa to date, the Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3, the Jaguar I-Pace and the Porsche Taycan, never existed with internal combustion engines. They were all designed as EVs and no matter how good these offerings are, they are fighting on two fronts. They have the daunting task of not only convincing people that EVs are very much the future, but also having to do so with completely foreign name plates.
Enter the Mini Cooper SE. Unlike the i3, which in all respect lacks personality because of its clinical futuristic design, a Mini needs no introduction. And in staying true to its rich heritage, for the EV version the brand has gone back to its roots of offering it exclusively in three-door guise.
If you ever thought that driving a Mini couldn’t be any more fun, think again. The deceptive acceleration associated with an EV combined with the distribution of weight from the electric motors and batteries make handling the Cooper SE fun with a capital F. It’s a bit like Scalextric for grown-ups.
Inspiration comes from an electric motor which sends 135 kW of power and 270 Nm of torque to the front wheels. The motor is powered by lithium-ions cells subdivided into 12 modules which forms a T-shape in the vehicle floor and has a gross energy content of 32.6 kWh.
Because of the weight of the battery, the Cooper SE’s kerb weight of 1 365 kg does make it 145 kg heavier than the Cooper S 3-Door with the Steptronic transmission. But you hardly notice the additional weight as the full complement of power and torque from standstill combines to get the Cooper SE from 0 to 60 km/h in 3.9 sec and from 0 to 100km/h in a lively 7.9 sec.
Equally impressive is the recuperative braking, which allows energy to charge back into the battery. As soon as your foot is lifted from the accelerator, the car brakes by itself, which can be quite intimidating at first. But once you get used to this, it’s possible to complete most of your journey through one-pedal driving without the need to even use the brake pedal.
The Cooper SE’s range is a claimed 217 km, which similar to a car with an internal combustion engine, will depend on how you drive. To help you get more fun or more economy out of the car, four driving modes are available. They are Sport, Mid, Green and Green+.
During our introductory drive in the Cooper SE we put all the modes to the test to establish how each affected the range. After some fun in Sport mode, we eventually had to rely on Green+ – which incidentally prohibits the use of the aircon – to get us back to base with a mere five kilometres left on the range. The battery can be charged to 80% capacity through a standard wall socket of and optional home wallbox in two and a half hours, while a fast-charging station can achieve the same result in 35 minutes.
The Cooper SE’s design has been largely left untouched, with the addition of some funky styling to differentiate itself from its siblings. On the outside there are striking yellow side mirrors and front grille inset to complement the unique wheel covers in three-point plug design. Albeit the British rectangular three-point plug and not the rounded three-point system we use locally.
Inside the highlight is the 5.5-inch oval-shaped instrument cluster replacing the traditional analog setup on top of the steering wheel. The futuristic start-up sound and display on the crystal clear screen suits the car perfectly. The designers have also left the traditional gear lever intact for a more authentic feel, unlike other EVs where the gear selector switch is a nondescript little button.
The Cooper SE will be available locally later this year in a choice of two trim levels, the S priced at R642 000 and the flagship L at R722 000 with the latter offering a significant number of additional specifications.
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