2020 Mini Cooper EV

MIAMI — All-electric power trains may be the future in the automotive world, but the new electric version of the 2020 Mini Cooper SE Electric is already behind the times, which, as we shall see, is unfortunate. With an estimated 110-mile duration on a full charge, the Mini Cooper SE Electric is burdened with a notably short driving range, especially considering several other all-electric competitors are offering twice that and more with recent models.

Yes, it probably meets commuting needs, especially if your place at work has charging stations. Mini expects most if its buyers to use the SE Electric for exactly that.

But if you want to enjoy the perks that come with this fun-to-drive subcompact for more than that, you are going to have to limit your weekend breakaways to close-by destinations. Very close-by, say 50 miles or so unless there is a charging outlet along your route or at your destination.

But the 2020 Mini Cooper SE Electric, an updated reincarnation of the Mini E model that was featured in a demonstration program about a decade ago, is not without its finer points.

When you take into consideration the usual federal and state tax breaks that electric vehicles are eligible for, however, plus an estimated $4,500 savings in fuel costs over five years, the initial cost for the Mini Cooper SE Electric is considerably less than that for its gas-powered brethren as well as other competitors in its class.

With a base price of $30,750 (including destination and delivery charges) before those deductions are taken, the Mini Cooper SE Electric becomes a very viable option as a second car. With the federal tax credit of $7,500 alone, the electric Mini becomes an even a better bargain than the gas-powered Mini Cooper hardtop it is based on.

The company itself says that depending on what state you live in the price could go down to as low as $17,900 when all of the incentives kick in.

Speaking of kicks, the Mini SE Electric is a kick to drive.

It absolutely destroys the notion that you can’t have fun driving an electric car. With its135 kilowatt motor generating 181 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque with the torque delivered at an instant, it scoots from zero-to-60 mph in 6.9 seconds and has a top speed of 93 mph.

Nor is this is a bare bones Mini.

Standard equipment includes LED headlights and fog lights, adaptive cruise control, a multi-function leather-rapped steering wheel, heated front seats, keyless entry and push-button start, and floor mats (hooray!), forward collision warning, rear-view camera, the traditional circular display with LED center ring and Mini navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and automatic modes for headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

You might think that after so many years that Mini might come up with another design for the display than the huge circle at the top of the center stack, but I guess it’s just a Mini thing.

Adding $7,000 to my test Mini’s MSRP was a special trim and navigation package that among other things included a panoramic moonroof, Harmon Kardon premium audio, parking assist, and Apple CarPlay and ran the bottom line total to $37,500.

As is common to many electric vehicles, the Mini Electric also features one-pedal driving to take advantage of regenerative braking. Pressing the accelerator gives you an immediate forward boost but instead of coasting when you ease the pressure, the car gently begins to slow you as if you are braking. It actually will bring you to a full stop, and then you can press the pedal again and move forward without raising your foot.

With the Mini, you can set the car in full-regenerative mode or partial, meaning when you lift your foot you continue to glide along in customary fashion.

It does take some getting used to and you have to wonder about how lazy we may be getting when we don’t have the energy to lift our right foot and apply it the brake. But if you want to add a bit of energy back to your electric motor to slow the reduction in range, you’ll want to take advantage of it.

You also can extend your range a couple of miles by turning off the A/C, but I never noticed any increase when I turned off the radio.

The bottom line: Mini, please extend the battery range. I may want to get past Islamorada in the Florida Keys and back next time.

What I liked about the Mini Cooper SE Electric: It is a fun car to drive. Torque responds at the slightest tap of the accelerator. There’s not a whole lot of room in the back, but the way the front seats  slide forward gives easy access.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Mini Cooper SE Electric: More range is needed than 110 miles on a charge. That is probably enough for daily commutes to work, but what about weekend jaunts to the Keys? You can use your second car for that, but then you miss out on the fun the Mini offers. Luggage space behind the second row is minimal. The one-pedal driving experience does take some getting used.

Would I but the 2020 Mini Cooper SE Electric? Not now. The abbreviated range is a deal breaker for me. Actually, until they get the infrastructure to provide full recharges in the same time it takes to fill up your tank with gas, I will pass on all electric vehicles, not just the Mini.

— Paul Borden