Last year, BMW announced its first all-electric vehicle since the i3. The 2020 Mini Cooper SE is a juiced-up version of the 2-door Mini hardtop and promises to stay true to the brand’s handling characteristics. So should we be expecting an electric go-kart? Because that would be fun. And “fun” is the key word in the short film from BMW entitled The Getaway Car. Are you getting The Italian Job vibes? Well, you should be!

The promo video shows the electric Mini Cooper SE performing a job more important than any gold heist: escaping rush hour traffic. The little hatchback winds its way through the side streets of Turin, Italy and ends up on the roof of the Lingotto Building, which was featured in The Italian Job. The structure was also home to Fiat until the 1980s, and the Italian manufacturer maintained a test track on the roof. The electrified Mini pays homage to the 1969 film when it faces its predecessor, an original Morris Mini Cooper S (badge engineering allowed Mini Coopers to be marketed under both the Austin and Morris brands).

Squeeze the juice

The Mini Cooper SE’s 135-kilowatt electric motor sends 184 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The SE can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 7 seconds, according to a BMW press release. Top speed for the SE is limited to about 93 mph. BMW says the electric Mini is about 320 pounds heavier than the Cooper S 2-door hardtop with Steptronic transmission.

Range anxiety

BMW cites a range of 235-270 kilometers (146–168 miles) based the world harmonized light-duty vehicles test procedure (WLTP) cycle. We turned to a formula at to translate this into EPA figures. The WLTP range converts to an EPA range of 130–150 miles with an eight percent margin of error. This car will find more use as an urban commuter or errand runner rather than a road tripper.

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BMW’s own i3, which was introduced in 2013, has a base range of 153 miles. The base model Nissan Leaf has an EPA range of 150 miles and the Chevrolet Bolt steps it up to 238 miles. When compared to small EVs from other manufacturers, the Mini Cooper SE looks to fall short. It does top the Fiat 500e’s 84-mile range, however.

The Cooper SE’s lithium-ion battery is located in the vehicle floor, preserving luggage space while contributing to a center of gravity that is “at least 30 millimeters [1.2 inches] lower than in the MINI Cooper.” The battery cells are divided into 12 modules and provide 32.6 kWh of power. The battery pack can be charged with a household 120 volt socket, wall mounted charger, and public charging stations. It also supports Level 2 AC charging and DC fast charging. The latter allows up to an 80-percent charge (50 kW) to be achieved in 35 minutes. Whether you charge at home or opt for the Mini Electric Wallbox, standard charging takes two-and-a-half hours to hit 80 percent, and three-and-a-half hours for 100 percent.

The motor’s quiet power delivery features “acoustic pedestrian protection.” The new Mini Cooper SE employs a speaker system to deliver noise when it is moving along at low speeds.

Spot the differences

It’s clear that this car is intended for use as an urban commuter or errand runner rather than a road tripper

The SE maintains the body lines, short overhangs, and wide-set wheels of the ICE hardtop. Yellow “MINI Electric” logos distributed among the front end, turn indicators, and tailgate are unique to the electric vehicle. The front end is closed, since the electric motor does not require much cooling. Optional yellow accents can be found in a bar that runs along the front end and on the mirror caps. The rear apron has been resigned to reduce aerodynamic drag. The unique standard 16-inch wheels and optional 17-inch wheels are made from lightweight alloys. The car rides .7 inches higher than its ICE cousins to provide ground clearance for the battery pack.

The SE has its own unique instrument cluster with digital displays that can show available range, current drive power, outside temperature, time and mileage, traffic sign detection reports, and navigation.

Electric touch

The SE’s suspension has been tuned specifically for this model to maintain the tight handling expected of a Mini. A Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system is implemented to deal with instant electric torque in any weather condition.

Four selectable drive modes allow you to set up your Cooper SE for comfort, economy, or performance. The regenerative braking system has two settings that determine how strongly the car will automatically decelerate when you lift off the throttle pedal. The stronger level allows one-pedal driving while the milder level gives a more traditional driving feel. You’ll get the best range in GREEN+ mode, which limits creature comforts such as heating, air conditioning and seat heating.

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The Cooper SE’s heat pump uses uses 75 percent less energy than a conventional electric heater. You can set the car’s interior temperature via a smartphone app before getting in and setting off.

The electric Mini Cooper SE will be produced alongside its conventionally powered brethren at the Mini plant in Oxford, U.K. Rhe EV is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in March this year as the Electric Hardtop 2 Door. Prices start at $29,900 for the base Signature model before any possible tax incentives. The Signature Plus adds rear park distance control, power-folding mirrors, a panoramic moonroof, and a Harman Kardon Sound System for a bump to$33,900. The top-of-the-line Iconic trim upgrades the interior style and adds an 8.8-inch touchscreen navigation package.

The website for the USDM (United States Domestic Market) electric Mini cites a range of 110 miles from a full charge. BMW appears to be erring on the side of caution here.

The forgotten E

This isn’t the first electric Mini, though it will be the first offered for general sale. In 2009 BMW released the Mini E, which was available for lease in select areas in the United States and U.K. It was developed as part of the testing process that led to the BMW i3. Brake Energy Regeneration allowed for some one-pedal operation. The Mini E had an average range of about 100 miles.

Update Notes: Added more information on the Mini Cooper SE’s performance and features. Added details on the USDM electric Mini’s release date and pricing. 

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