Out of Germany comes one the cheapest EVs in South Africa.

WHAT IS IT?

Mini’s little icon has been given the greenest and most fashionable of power sources – electricity – and it is absolutely brilliant. Except when it’s not.

WHY THIS?

Electrical power suits the character of Mini perfectly. It’s trendy, just like the car, and the primary characteristic of the power source, the instant acceleration, highlights the lively, fun, seat-of-your-pants, go-kart-like drivability of the car. Also, at the time of writing, petrol costs R25.54, so there’s that…

OUTSIDE                     

The Mini has barely changed in the 20 years (yes, 20 years!) since the modern reinvention of the brand, so we all know what the car looks like in broad strokes. The electric version has a few telltales in the form of plug icons in places like the fuel filler cap and the tailgate, and the peculiar, asymmetrical wheel covers that are said to lower the drag coefficient – I suggest that the trade-off isn’t worth their appearance.

INSIDE

The interior will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Mini before, with a large round screen in the centre of the dash and an oval one for the instrument cluster. There are lovely little switches for everything, and spectacular sport seats that add to the driving enjoyment. Up front there’s loads of space, but in the back, you need a shoehorn to slip the kids in. The boot’s a briefcase, but no smaller than the Minis with petrol engines.

THE DRIVE

In a word, electrifying. The numbers say that the Mini SE will accelerate from 0 – 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, but the numbers can’t convey the exhilaration of the linear torque curve.

When you press the Start button, nothing much happens, but push the accelerator and you’re off with a whir. Trample it to the floor and you’re suddenly accelerating very quickly, with no increase in noise. It’s disconcerting and arresting at the same time. Another thing to note is that driving an EV is different in that the regenerative braking slows the car down dramatically – as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, you start braking, and that takes a while to get used to.

And now for the downside – with a claimed maximum range of 215km and a safe, real-world range closer to 160 – 180km, range anxiety is a real thing. I charged the Mini at a local mall, where it went from 10% to 95% in under an hour, but charging at home from your normal plug point takes all night. Charging at all BMW and Mini-branded public chargers, using the standard Mini charging card, is free of charge.

FINAL WORD

I loved driving the Mini SE with all that instant torque and the non-reliance on petrol. It’s also fun silently sneaking up on people in the parking lot. But no matter how much you enjoy the car, it’s frustrating having to spend an hour “filling it up” a few times a week. This is the definition of a second car.

GO GET IT

EVs are expensive – at R681 000, you could choose many other alternatives, so you’ve got to really want the electric experience. The price includes a two-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and an eight-year/100 000km hybrid-battery warranty, as well as a five-year/100 000km maintenance plan. Visit www.mini.co.za  or more.

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