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First drive: 2024 Mini Cooper SE. Image by Mini.

First drive: 2024 Mini Cooper SE
Mini has officially bestowed the Cooper name on its three-door hatch as part of a massive revamp, but how does the electric version stack up?

   



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2024 Mini Cooper SE

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Mini is going through a revolution at present, with a whole new model range hitting the market in a single calendar year. Things kicked off with the Countryman, the new Cooper is here now, and the Aceman is coming later. But we're concentrating on the Cooper for the time being, which has replaced the Hatch in Mini's range. Yes, Mini is finally calling its three-door supermini the thing everyone called it anyway.

But the new Cooper has more than just a new name. New bodywork and a new interior hides fresh underpinnings, including a choice of two revamped electric powertrains that sit alongside petrol options. So we aren't just questioning whether the new Cooper can cut it; we're finding out whether the electric options can be good enough to wean customers off petrol?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive
Price: Cooper from £23,135, Cooper SE from £34,500
Engine: 160kW electric motor
Battery: 54.2kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Economy: 4.1-4.5miles/kWh
Range: 250 miles
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Boot space: 280-800 litres

Styling

As with the new Countryman and Aceman models, the new Cooper has had a pretty serious visual tweak compared with its predecessor. Gone is some of the bulbousness, replaced with a cleaner, more modern aesthetic that still includes some of the Mini hallmarks. There are, obviously, round headlights and a piece of trim that hints at the classic Mini grille, while the clamshell roof and rounded mirrors are all typical of Mini hatchbacks.

At the back, though, things have perhaps changed a little too much, with the Union Flag tail lights remaining in situ, albeit in a strange new shape and joined by a swathe of black trim. There's a somewhat pinched look to it, and it doesn't sit that easily with the rest of the car, which looks great from the front.

Interior

Mini has taken the Cooper's dashboard straight from the Countryman, and that's absolutely fine by us, because it looks fantastic. The clean, minimalist image is carried over from the exterior, and the dash is almost devoid of switchgear save for a small panel low down that houses the switches for the gears, driving modes and ignition. There's a remarkably sporty steering wheel, too, and there's some cool fabric trim punctuated by clever ambient lighting tech.

As well as looking cool, the cabin feels really smart, with lots of tactile materials all over the show and impressive build quality. Admittedly, there are some cheaper plastics situated lower down in the cabin, and the low door handles bash your knees when you go around corners enthusiastically, but overall it's very well judged and well built.

But the highlight is undoubtedly the round touchscreen that dominates proceedings. Fitted to every model as standard, it steals tech from Mini's parent company, BMW, and it looks the business as a result. A high-resolution display helps, but Mini's strong choice of themes and colour schemes ensures it feels really upmarket, while the list of functions on offer is seemingly endless.

However, using the screen takes a bit of getting used to, because the round display has necessitated a new approach to layout. Things aren't always exactly where you expect them to be, which means there's a bit of hunting around for the right setting, but once you're used to it, you can navigate more quickly. And the ability to add your own shortcuts to functions you use more regularly is also a welcome and useful addition.

But because that screen is the sole system in the dashboard, it also houses the speedometer and other driving-orientated displays that have to be on show all the time. The problem is, they aren't really in your line of sight, which makes the head-up display, available as part of the Level 1 package, a desirable feature to add. The package is standard on the mid-range Exclusive trim tested, but it's a £2,000 option on the base-spec Classic.

Practicality

As the name suggests, the Mini Cooper is not the most spacious thing on the market, but there is plenty of room in the front for two adults to sit very comfortably. Getting into the rear, however, might be a little tricky thanks to the three-door design, and the space in there leaves something to be desired. You can just about wedge a six-foot adult in there, but they won't be especially comfortable, particularly if they're sitting behind someone else who's long of leg.

And even for those who do fit back there, it'll feel a bit claustrophobic thanks to the darkness of the cabin. The low roofline and dark roof lining mean it's quite dingy in there unless you opt for the panoramic glass roof, and that only really brightens things when the sun is shining outside.

Then there's the question of boot space, which is a little tight in the back of the Cooper. At 280 litres, the luggage compartment is way smaller than that of most small hatchbacks, and though it doesn't look so bad alongside the Fiat 500, it's pretty pathetic next to a VW Polo. And the 800-litre space you get when you fold the back seats down is equally stingy in comparison with the Mini's rivals.

Performance

Mini is offering the Cooper with a choice of petrol engines and two electric motors, the more powerful of which we are testing here. It wears the SE badge, and it uses a 218hp electric motor to power the front wheels, while thereís a 54.2kWh battery to store the energy. As a result, itíll get from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and, if you drive a little more sedately, itíll cover 250 miles on a single charge. At least, thatís what the official figures claim.

In comparison, the other electric motor, which wears the E badge, has 184hp and a 40.7kWh electric motor, giving it a range of around 190 miles on the official economy test. And when the battery runs flat, the E can charge at 75kW, permitting a sub-30-minute charge from 10 to 80 per cent, while the bigger-batteried SE can achieve the same feat thanks to 95kW charging.

As a result, the SE is arguably the more appealing of the two, thanks to its more compelling range and straight-line speed. But though itís quick enough to worry some hot hatchbacks, it has a few vices ó not least a little torque steer that tugs at the wheel when you put your foot down, and a propensity to spin the front wheels when the surface is greasy.

However, while the stats give the SE a huge lead over the E in terms of range, the real-world effectiveness of the battery isnít as spectacular as the figures suggest. Youíll struggle to do 200 miles on a charge at motorway speeds, and if you use the performance on offer to any great extent, youíll probably be looking at 150 miles. But in urban environments and with a gentle right foot, you should make it well past the 200-mile mark.

Ride & Handling

Mini is very keen to make sure all its latest-generation cars are fun to drive, and the chassis engineers have worked hard to ensure the Cooper continues where its predecessor left off. And, we're pleased to say, it does so brilliantly. Precise steering, good body control and impressive agility combine to make the Cooper great fun on a back road, particularly when combined with the instant acceleration of the electric motor.

Effective brakes help, too, although the pedal does require quite a push to get the response you want, so they take a little acclimatisation. That isn't unusual with electric cars, however, and the pedal feel is at least consistent, which places it ahead of the game.

However, the slight trade-off for all this driving pleasure is a firmness to the ride, with the Cooper occasionally finding bumps in otherwise smooth roads. But it feels direct and involving, which is handy when you're driving quickly, and though it is a little stiff around town, the car settles down quickly from any impact, and it doesn't wallow as it tries to sort itself out.

The other slight complaint comes from an unlikely source: noise. Yes, the Cooper's motor is quiet (aside from the synthesised motor sound, that is), but there's a surprising amount of wind and road noise, which is possibly exacerbated by the quietness of the powertrain. Either way, a little more soundproofing would be welcome.

Value

The new Mini Cooper comes in at just over £23,000 in petrol form, which is pretty competitive, but you'll spend at least £30,000 to get the electric version. That pays for the basic Cooper E Classic, which comes with the E powertrain and plenty of standard kit, including two-zone climate control, alloy wheels and a reversing camera, among other features.

The Cooper SE, however, costs £34,500 with that level of standard equipment, and the mid-range Exclusive model we drove adds £2,200 to that price tag. In fairness, the extra money pays for the Level 1 option pack, which gives you the desirable head-up display and driving modes, as well as a heated steering wheel and heated front seats.

Verdict

On this showing, the new Mini Cooper looks like a bit of a gem. It isn't without its flaws, but the new cabin looks and feels great, while the driving experience is every bit as good as we were hoping. Combine that with a choice of usable electric powertrains or a selection of petrol engines, and the Cooper has all the tools it needs to build on the foundations laid by its predecessor. Whether the SE will be the powertrain of choice will depend on customers' readiness for electric power, but this is definitely a more useful EV than the old electric Mini.



James Fossdyke - 15 May 2024



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2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.

2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.2024 Mini Cooper SE Exclusive. Image by Mini.








 

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