CHARGED WITH PASSION: DRIVING THE MINI ELECTRIC IN LISBON
Date posted: 14 February 2020
At the recent International MINI Dealer Event in Lisbon, we were lucky enough to be among the first people in the world to #FEELMINIELECTRIC and drive MINIs first ever fully-electric car. Our very own MINI Franchise Marketing Manager, Leah Shearer, tells us all about the trip and gives us her thoughts on the MINI Electric.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS – FEELS LIKE ELECTRIC, LOOKS LIKE MINI.
The MINI Electric is everything we already love about a MINI, sharing the same body shell as a 3-door hatch, with an electric engine. With heritage spanning over 60 years, MINI have kept to their roots with the iconic design of the well-known face and union jack tail-lights. There are, however, a number of key differences which give a quirky nod to the electric battery underneath.
An embossed MINI Electric logo appears on the side scuttles of the car, as well as on the tailgate and front radiator grille. The grille is closed as the car requires less cooling; this also contributes to the aerodynamics of the car. Another differentiating feature are unique and optional exclusive 17” corona spoke wheels which really make the car stand out.
Other optional design features, giving you the choice to make the MINI as ‘electric’ as you like, are the yellow mirror caps and yellow blade on the front radiator grille.
URBAN AND RURAL DRIVING – WE’RE BUZZING!
Over the duration of the weekend, we experienced urban, rural and track driving. We also took part in a competitor review. The series of activities were designed to test the MINI Electric in any modern-day scenario and to challenge any doubts we may have had about switching our combustion engines to a more eco-friendly electric one!
Putting our bags in the boot we were impressed with the size, which is often compromised in electric cars. We were pleasantly surprised to learn the MINI Electric offers 211 litres of boot space, expanding to 731 litres with the back seats down. This is down to the innovative T-shaped battery which has been arranged in the vehicle floor between the front seats and below the back seats.
Seated in our MINI Electric with its level 3 trim, we admired the premium feel of the car with stand-out features such as the panoramic sun roof, 8.8” infotainment touch screen (5.5” on level 1), MINI Yours Leather Lounge upholstery, Harman Kardon sound system and head-up display. The cabin is a generous size too, with plenty of leg room and comfortable seats.
First things first, we tested the MINI Electric and its ability to drive in the city, pushing its handling, performance and technology to its limits. Now Lisbon isn’t just any city to drive in, the Portuguese capital is famous for being one of the most difficult to drive in in Europe with old and narrow winding roads, steep hills, congestion and almost non-existent signage - a challenge for any car but one that the MINI Electric was up for!
Our first challenge, when comparing the MINI Electric to a conventional combustion engine car was the regenerative braking system which meant more of a one-pedal driving style was required. This technology allows the car to recharge the battery when the driver lifts off the accelerator, preserving energy and acting as a braking force. Luckily, with the MINI Electric you have the choice of intense or low-level power regeneration which allowed us to ease gently into this change in driving style.
Driving around the city the MINI Electric was nippy, agile and gave us that ‘go-kart’ feeling we were promised; the one gear allowed seamless acceleration and taking on the tight corners of Lisbon was no effort with the MINI Electric’s easy steering. Facing the steep hills were also a breeze with the 184HP enjoying the challenge and climbing with ease.
At the start of our journey, we were purposefully given cars with only a 60% charge and half way around our city drive we were instructed to stop off at a charging point. This was not because the MINI Electric was struggling on charge but to demonstrate how quick and easy it was to charge up. At the 50kW DC public fast-charging station a 30% - 100% charge was reached in approximately 25 minutes. It’s worthwhile noting that the new MINI Electric also comes with AC cables for easy home charging which, with a wall box installed, will take just 2 hours 30 minutes to charge 0 – 80%.
These 25 minutes were the perfect amount of time to grab a coffee, catch up on our emails and enjoy the Portuguese weather! Before getting back into the car, we were able to remotely activate the air conditioning via the MINI Connected App. This handy feature can also be used for pre-heating the car on those chilly mornings in the UK. The pre-conditioning also allows us to get the optimal performance from the battery of the car without affecting the car’s range. Working the heat pump also maximises efficiency by allowing excess heat from the motor to be utilised for heating as it’s needed.
Following our urban drive, we took to the rural outskirts of Lisbon, travelling down by the sea and the São Jorge Castle. This was where we could really test the acceleration of the car and its range, going from 0 - 62MPH in just 7.3 seconds and gliding through the 110 miles of the route with a good 20% of charge to spare at the end of the journey. With a driving range of up to 145 miles we could really see how the MINI Electric could easily fit around our commute back at home.
TECHNOLOGY – IT’S TIME TO FEEL MINI ELECTRIC.
Our city and rural drives were aided by the new MINI eDrive Services, specifically developed for the new all-electric MINI and designed to make electro-mobility even easier and more convenient. It provided us with useful details such as available range, charging status and the closest charging station. It also told us how to increase our current range by taking into consideration our driving habits to establish the most efficient route. So, whether we were driving it like a sports car, or cruising with extended range, we were in complete in control.
The new MINI digital dashboard behind the wheel is also making its debut on the MINI Electric. Here, you can find useful information such as road speed and information on the charge level of the battery, range and directions from the navigation system. This was especially useful for navigating around the city of Lisbon with its bottleneck roads and limited road signage.
FACING THE COMPETITORS ON THE TRACK – A NEW ERA OF GO KART HANDLING.
The next challenge of the MINI Electric was checking out its performance against its key competitors by driving around a circuit which we were convinced had been designed by John Cooper himself! The competitor models included the electric Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf, but we also had the chance to directly compare the MINI Electric with its combustion petrol engine sister, the MINI 3-door Hatch Cooper S.
We raced each car consecutively around the course made up of slaloms, tight bends, emergency lane changes and sprint finishes. At the end we were asked to rank each car in terms of ‘go-kart’ feeling, agility and driving stability.
In all three categories the MINI Electric and the MINI 3-door Hatch unanimously came out on top. As we flew around the course, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces if we tried. While the MINI Electric lacked the emotive engine sound of the petrol engine, it took the trademark MINI go-kart driving feeling to new heights with technology designed especially for the MINI Electric including updated suspension, a centre of gravity that is at least 30mm lower than the Cooper S, reduced weight over the front wheels and balanced weight distribution. The MINI Electric also benefitted from an innovative Stability Control System which gave it outstanding traction, stability and fast acceleration out of bends.
In second place came the Nissan Leaf. Everyone who took part in the activity agreed on the practicalities of this car - it felt spacious, safe and reliable. Its agility and power around the track were also respectable although it couldn’t deliver the driving joy of the MINI models. The interior and exterior styling also felt slightly dated and lacked a premium feel.
In last place was the Renault Zoe. The car lacked in acceleration, dragged around corners and felt unstable at the best of times. The Zoe lacked style, but it was disappointing that it didn’t make up for it with performance and the engine let out an off-putting whirring sound when it was moving. While we can see why the Renault Zoe might be to the taste of some drivers, a similar price tag to the MINI Electric. We know which one we would choose.
ROUND UP – FEELING FULLY CHARGED.
Back on home turf and back in the office, we’re feeling fully charged about the MINI Electric. The car by far exceeded my expectations of what an electric vehicle could do and is most certainly, as we look to reduce our car footprints, a credible alternative to the petrol combustion engine. The handling and the technology of the car were outstanding with easy charging and the range more than adequate for the majority of commutes. There is no doubt that this car is the future for MINI.
The MINI Electric will be available in our showrooms from March 2020.