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New MINI Electric breaks cover – finally

Almost exactly a year after MINI released initial sketches of an EV version at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed, details have finally been revealed about its long-anticipated electric model. Arriving in MINI's 60th year, the Oxfordshire-based company's first fully electric car brings together the MINI's iconic design with a powertrain which, on paper, looks like a lot of fun, and genuine affordability.

At a glance

Let's get the headlines out the way before we go into detail: It's available to order. Deliveries will begin in March 2020. It'll be available in three-door hatch form only (initially). Performance is comparable to the petrol or diesel powered Cooper S variants. It won't go as far as many rivals – but with a starting price of £24k it won't cost as much either.

Now to the detail!

Battery and charging

MINI has opted for a relatively small battery with a capacity of 32.6kWh. It consists of 12 lithium-ion cells arranged in a T-shape between the front seats and below the rear seats, enabling it to retain the same full 211 litres of storage (731 litres with rear seats folded) as the hatch. The motor and power electronics are protected by a revised front crash structure whilst the battery pack is shielded by a solid base plate. Compared to a standard Cooper S with an auto gearbox, the Electric weighs just 145kg more.

The MINI Electric is designed to be compatible with both home and public charging points and comes with both cables as standard. It can be charged with AC and DC via Type 2 and CCS Combo 2 plugs. A major benefit of that relatively small capacity battery is that with a 50kW charger, the MINI Electric can be charged from zero to 80 per cent in just 35 minutes.

Power and performance

MINI hasn't scrimped on performance and the Electric should be able to keep up with a Cooper S in real-world conditions. The motor is a 178bhp unit which packs near-as-makes-no-difference 200ft-lb of torque meaning the car is good for 62mph in 7.3 seconds. It tops out at a more modest 93mph.

Obviously one of the MINI's most notable assets is its lively chassis – all too often compared to that of a road-going go-kart. With the MINI Electric, this should be no different despite its weight penalty. For example the centre of gravity is 30mm lower than a standard Cooper S. The suspension has been specially designed and tuned for the drivetrain and – due to the fact there's no heavy combustion engine over the front wheels – the weight distribution is near-on 50:50.

Whilst the MINI Electric has energy-efficient driving modes (Mid for everyday driving, Green for optimised range and Green+ for ultimate efficiency), the Sport mode tightens up both the power steering and throttle response, maximising the car's dynamic feel.

Digital dash and special equipment

On the outside the MINI Electric looks very similar to its conventionally-powered counterparts, save for a few details such as embossed logos, a closed off radiator grille and optional 17 inch wheels. On the inside it's a similar story; it's generally business as usual – which isn't a bad thing – but there are a few differences, chief among which is an all-new digital dashboard.

The digital dash consists of a 5.5 inch colour screen behind the steering wheel. Road speed is shown at the centre, with a peripheral band displaying information on the charge level of the battery, the selected MINI Driving Mode, the status of the driver assistance systems and check control messages.

In addition, details of the available range, current drive power, outside temperature, time and mileage are displayed, with traffic sign detection reports and directions from the navigation system.

The standard Navigation includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen in the central instrument panel which integrates with MINI Online and Apple CarPlay (though official comms don't mention Android Auto). Real time traffic updates are displayed which also integrates with the charge status and range, showing a map of local available charging stations. Charging can also be controlled by a smartphone that has been paired with the car.

Price and availability

The MINI Electric is available in three trim levels, with the standard trim level starting at £24,400 including the government plug-in car grant – or from £299 per month on lease. At the top level, which adds (among other toys) front PDC, park assist, Harmon Kardon sound system and an upgrade to the 8.8 inch infotainment touch screen, head-up display, panoramic sun roof and Matrix LEDs, the MINI Electric can be yours for £30,400 including the plug-in grant.

Order books are open via dealers or online at MINI.co.uk, with production slots available for £500. Deliveries start in March 2020.

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