Driving the Mini Electric is as simple as can be. Press the start button and it silently leaps to life – so silently, in fact, that you have to wonder if it’s even on yet. There is ‘acoustic pedestrian protection’ (now required under EU law), which delivers a sound at low speeds to alert pedestrians of the car’s presence, however it’s all but inaudible inside the cabin.
Propelled by BMW Group’s synchronous electric motor, which in turn is powered by a 32.6kWh 12-module lithium-ion battery (more on that later), the Mini Electric makes a maximum of 184PS (135kW) and 270Nm (200lb ft) of torque. Nought to 62mph takes 7.3 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 93mph.
While these figures aren’t exactly going to set the world alight, it’s worth remembering that electric cars are famed for delivering all of their torque from zero, and the Mini Electric is no exception, unleashing its silent potential from the moment you put your foot down. In the fruitiest of its four driving modes, Sport, it’s an absolute hoot to drive, with immediate acceleration throughout its rev range and direct, fast steering. However, the fun certainly comes at the expense of the already short range, and I was alarmed to see the battery level, (displayed visibly on the screen behind the steering wheel) dropping quickly. In just 33 miles I ate through almost 50 per cent of the battery.
Mid mode is a happy medium, extending the range accordingly, while Green and Green+ are just increasingly sluggish. For a crawl home mode its fine, but frustrating on any other occasion. The modes are further configurable through the 6.5-inch centre circular touchscreen, with options such as climate control available to activate and deactivate.
The regenerative braking is switchable, and in the most aggressive mode is certainly intrusive, especially under 60mph. After this, it doesn’t cut in quite as hard, which is a welcome relief when travelling at motorway speed in heavy traffic. Another gauge behind the steering wheel displays the amount of regeneration happening.
Despite its battery pack, and additional undercarriage protection, the Mini Electric is only 145kg heavier than a current Cooper S three-door auto, at 1,365kg. Combined with a 30mm lower centre of gravity, and revised weight distribution, with less over the front end, it boasts all the characteristics of Mini’s trademark go-kart drive – agile, squat to the ground and with minimal body roll.
The model also features switchable Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which purports to improve traction when pulling away and stability when in brake regen mode and also when accelerating from tight bends. While there’s certainly no jerky forward motion when the brake regeneration kicks in, it’s still easy to get the wheels screeching on roundabouts.