Mini Cooper SE review: the electric hot-hatch is here

Mini Cooper SE
(Image credit: TechRadar / Myriam Joire)

Two minute review

For many, the Mini brand is synonymous with smaller, lighter, fun-to-drive cars. While modern Minis have grown in size and weight under BMW's watch, they're still a blast to toss around the bends, and much safer than the 1960's original. 

No model in Mini's lineup epitomizes this more than the 3-door Cooper S, which is now available as an EV – known as the Mini Cooper SE in the US, and Mini Electric in the UK and Australia.

This isn't Mini's first foray into electrification. BMW used the Mini E (2009-10) and the BMW ActiveE (2012) – both lease-only demonstration cars – as testbeds for the BMW i3. 

Unlike its bespoke predecessor, today's Mini Cooper SE is mass produced on the same assembly line as its ICE (internal combustion engine) counterpart. But, while it shares some drivetrain components with the BMW i3, it doesn't benefit from its own EV platform.

As such, the Mini Cooper SE makes one major compromise: the 32.6KWh battery provides a range of just 110 miles EPA (177km) – or 144 miles (235km) WLTP. 

It's fine for commuting, but certainly not sufficient for long-distance travel – something that's often required in vast countries like the US and Australia. But don't dismiss the Mini Cooper SE or lump it alongside the Mazda MX-30 just yet.

Mini Cooper SE

(Image credit: TechRadar / Myriam Joire)

With prices starting at just $29,900 / £27,000 / AU$61,479 (before incentives) the Mini Cooper SE is one of the most affordable EVs currently sold, and it's currently the most affordable electric car in the US. 

The base model is well equipped in all markets, and includes heated seats and a heated steering wheel, an 8.8-inch infotainment system with navigation, plus auto LED headlights and wipers. Other trims add a power moonroof and power folding mirrors, leather seats, a Harman-Kardon audio system, adaptive cruise control, and self parking.

All versions support 50KW DC fast charging (80% in 36min) and 7.4KW AC (level 2) charging. The Mini Cooper SE also includes basic driver assistance and safety features plus wireless Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto). Some trims even offer a (small) Qi wireless phone charger and a heads-up display. What's strangely missing are power seats, although the manual controls include adjustable lumbar and thigh support.

Modern Minis are full of personality and charisma, with quirky yet delightful retro design touches inside and out, and the Mini Cooper SE is no exception. It's basically identical to the gasoline-powered 3-door Cooper S, with a few tweaks.

Ditto the interior, which matches the ICE model's, but boasts yellow accents for the start / stop button and gear selector, plus custom Mini Cooper SE finishes for the dashboard and central display surround.

Mini Cooper SE

(Image credit: TechRadar / Myriam Joire)

Technology isn't the Mini Cooper SE's forte. It only packs basic connectivity, with LTE providing real-time traffic for maps and enabling phone remote control plus Amazon Alexa support via the Mini Connected app. There's no level 2 ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) here, nor WiFi hotspot, and the infotainment system feels dated.

The Mini Cooper SE is an absolute hoot to drive and it's one of the fastest Minis available today. The ride is typically Mini, meaning it's stiff, but unlike Mini's ICE versions, it's tuned to be slightly more compliant.

Disable the traction control, and the Mini Cooper SE becomes downright hilarious. All that torque makes it easy to spin the front wheels like a hooligan – especially in corners, where the resulting understeer is easy to control with the throttle. Prefer to chill? The Mini Cooper SE features four drive modes (Sport, Mid, Green, and Green+), and two levels of regen (low to coast and creep, and high for one-pedal driving).

Whether you're commuting, getting groceries, or taking your granny to bingo, the Mini Cooper SE will put a smile on everyone's face. It’s also comfortable enough for two adults, plus maybe two kids.

Overall, we really like the Mini Cooper SE. It delivers incredible value, looks fantastic, and is an absolute blast to drive. Yes, the tech isn't very fresh, and space is at a premium, but build quality and materials are best in class. 

Ultimately, the Mini Cooper SE's biggest shortcoming – and a dealbreaker for many – is its limited range. But if you can live 110 miles (177km) at a time, we think this EV makes a ton of sense.

Mini Cooper SE

(Image credit: TechRadar / Myriam Joire)

Mini Cooper SE price and availability

The 2022 Mini Cooper SE starts at $29,900 for the base Signature trim, making it the most affordable EV on the US market today – and that's before incentives. 

For example, the Mini Cooper SE's price drops to just $20,400 with California's $2,000 state rebate and the $7,500 federal tax credit. This trim includes heated seats and a heated steering wheel, an 8.8-inch infotainment system with navigation, plus auto LED headlights and wipers.

Considering the lowest trim gas-powered Cooper S costs $26,900, that makes the Mini Cooper SE a fantastic value.

Upgrading to the $33,900 Signature Plus trim adds a power moonroof, Harman Kardon audio system, and power folding mirrors. The $36,900 Iconic trim further adds leather seats, adaptive cruise control, self parking, a Qi wireless phone charger, and a heads-up display. 

In the UK, the Mini Electric costs between £27,000 and £34,500 with three versions to choose from. Australia gets two models costing AU$61,479 and AU$68,956.

The 2022 Mini Cooper SE we reviewed came with the Iconic trim, Moonwalk Grey Metallic paint, white roof, yellow side mirror caps, Scissor Spoke wheels, Carbon Black leather seats, and Mini Electric dashboard finish. It cost $36,900.

Mini Cooper SE design

  • Lovely retro design 
  • Stylish and welcoming
  • Limited back seat and trunk space
We drove

Mini Cooper SE

(Image credit: TechRadar / Myriam Joire)

Mini Cooper SE Iconic
Power: 181hp / 135kW
Battery: 32.6kWh
Top Speed: 93mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Range: up to 110 miles EPA
Price: $36,900

If you're familiar with the gas-powered Cooper S, then you'll feel right at home with the Mini Cooper SE. Both cars are pretty much identical inside and out, save for a few minor cosmetic tweaks. 

As such, the Mini Cooper SE delivers the same funky yet charming retro design Minis are famous for. And while BMW has updated the Mini's design several times over the last twenty years, it's still full of whimsy and character.

The most obvious exterior update is in front, where Mini's familiar grille shape remains, but is closed for better aerodynamics. Both the plug-shaped 'E' logo and 'S' emblems on the rear hatch, front repeaters, and door sills are painted yellow. 

The same 'E' logo is also embossed in the charging port door. Matching yellow side mirror caps are optional. While not unique to the Mini Cooper SE, we like the Union Jack tail lights.

As you'd expect, the interior also carries over from the ICE model. Here, you'll find yellow accents on the gear selector, start / stop button, and instruments, plus a unique pattern on the circular center screen surround, and an optional Mini Electric dashboard finish. 

Everything else is standard Mini inside, from the central 8.8-inch infotainment display to the iconic toggle switches between the sun visors and below the climate controls.

The oblong instrument panel is attached to the steering column and moves up and down with the steering wheel. It looks fully digital at first glance, but actually combines a rectangular display with a semi-circular analog power gauge on the left and a semi-circular LED battery meter on the right.

All three instruments are backlit and mounted behind a translucent panel, making them look like one screen. It's simple but effective.

Surprisingly, the Mini Cooper SE lacks power seats, even as an option, but the manual heated seats are comfortable and offer adjustable thigh and lumbar support. You even get additional Union Jacks – embossed in the head rests – if you choose the Carbon Black leather seats. 

Overall, we're quite happy with the interior design, but we'd love to see yellow seat belts as an option. Can you please make this happen, Mini?

The Mini Cooper SE also features the same back seat as other 3-door Minis. It's pretty cramped, only includes seatbelts for two, and lacks a center armrest. 

Realistically, it's best suited for kids, though adults will probably fit in a pinch. Luggage capacity is only 8.7cu-ft (211 liters) – just like the gas-powered Cooper S – but the back seat folds down 60 / 40, for up to 34 cu-ft (731 liters) of storage. There is no frunk (front trunk).

Mini Cooper SE drive, range and charging

  • Incredibly fun-to-drive
  • Playful but comfortable
  • Limited range (110 miles)

With 181hp / 199lb-ft (135kW / 270Nm) on tap, the front-wheel drive Mini Cooper SE does the 0-60mph sprint in about 6.5 seconds (0-100km/h in about 7s). That actually makes it one of the fastest Minis currently on the market. 

Unlike other EVs, which tend to be heavy, the Mini Cooper SE only weighs 3,144lbs (1,426kg) – about 300lbs (136kg) more than the ICE version – primarily because of its smaller (and lighter) 32.6KWh battery.

Most of that extra weight is located below the floor, and distributed more evenly – 58/42 vs. 63/37 on the gas-powered Cooper S. And despite riding 0.7-inches (1.8cm) higher than the ICE model, the Mini Cooper SE handles quite well, with very little body roll. 

While it's nimble and tossable, it's still compliant enough to keep its composure on bumpy roads. The ride is pleasantly stiff, but not as punishing as some earlier Minis. 

Basically, the Mini Cooper SE is the closest thing we've driven to an electric hot-hatch. It's playful and begs to be hooned during every errand. While it's definitely not as fast as some other EVs on paper, the combination of ample torque, great handling, and small size makes it feel much quicker than it is. 

And for even more LOLs, just disable the traction control and use the throttle to modulate wheel spin and understeer. Fun!

Mini Cooper SE

(Image credit: TechRadar / Myriam Joire)

That's not to say the Mini Cooper SE is always high strung. With two levels of regen (high for one-pedal driving, and low to coast and creep), plus four drive modes to choose from (Sport, Mid, Green, and Green+), it calms down when you want it to. 

It's also refined and comfortable enough no matter where you're going and who's riding along. We mostly drove in Sport mode, switching to Green mode to conserve energy.

While the Mini Cooper SE's brakes feel pretty decent, the electrically assisted steering doesn't provide much feedback. Still, it's far from numb. The only niggles we have are minor and are easy to fix in software: the drive mode resets to Mid everytime you start the car, the electric parking brake doesn't auto engage when you put the car in park, and there's no setting to auto fold the side mirrors when the car is locked.

Ultimately, the Mini Cooper SE's only major drawback is its limited range – 110 miles EPA (177km) and 144 miles (235km) WLTP. That's not a lot, no matter how you cut it. 

Sure, it's probably enough if you're commuting and charging at home every night, or running errands in the city, but forget doing long-distance road trips in the Mini Cooper SE – something that's increasingly possible with several other EVs. 

That being said, we drove from San Francisco to Bodega Bay and back – about 160 miles (256km) total – and DC fast charged on Electrify America's network in Petaluma each way (about 25 minutes per session). 

While we don't mind taking breaks, this trip doesn't require any charging stops in a Tesla Model 3 Long Range. On the plus side, the Mini Cooper SE is rather conservative with its indicated range, which is a big plus.

When it's time for a refill, the Mini Cooper SE supports DC fast charging at up to 50KW. That's not spectacular, but since the battery is small, it only takes about 36 mins for an 80% charge. 

In addition, the Mini Cooper SE handles AC (level 2) charging at up to 7.4KW (11KW in the UK and Australia), which boosts the charge level by up to 20% per hour. Here in the US, the Mini Cooper SE comes with a 120V 16A level 1 charging adapter.

Mini Cooper SE specs and tech

  • Outdated infotainment system
  • Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa; no Android Auto
  • Basic driver assistance

Most EVs are brimming with tech, but that's not the case here. Other than gaining the ability to remotely monitor charging, the Mini Cooper SE offers the exact same technology package as the gas-powered Mini Cooper S. 

This includes basic LTE connectivity for navigation updates and real-time traffic in maps, plus phone remote control and Amazon Alexa functionality – both enabled by the Mini Connected phone app.

You also get a basic set of driver assistance and safety features consisting of forward collision warning, pedestrian warning, and automatic emergency braking. But the Mini Cooper SE lacks blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. 

Mini Cooper SE

(Image credit: TechRadar / Myriam Joire)

And while adaptive cruise control is optional, there's no level 2 ADAS (advanced driver assistance system), 360 degree view, Wi-Fi hotspot, or support for OTA updates.

Some tech is only available on some trims, like self parking and the color heads-up display. The Qi wireless phone charger is also optional, and is located inside the center armrest. 

Strangely, it's too small for most modern handsets. Perhaps Mini just expects you to buy an iPhone 13 mini? At least there's a pair of USB ports (one Type-A and one Type-C) in front of the center console for charging and connectivity.

The Mini Cooper SE's infotainment feels rather dated, like a leftover from BMW's parts bin. While it's responsive enough, it's simply not very intuitive. You control it either directly via the central 8.8-inch touchscreen or by using the iDrive-like puck in the center console. 

The Harman-Kardon audio system sounds decent and features Bluetooth connectivity, AM / FM terrestrial radio, and SiriusXM satellite radio.

While the Mini Cooper SE supports wireless (and wired) Apple CarPlay, it never worked for us, no matter what we tried. This is odd, considering Apple CarPlay is usually bulletproof on other vehicles we've tested. 

But what's truly surprising is that Android Auto isn't available on the Mini Cooper SE. How is that even possible in 2022? Hopefully, Mini will revise its infotainment system to include Android Auto on next year's model.

Should I buy a Mini Cooper SE?

Buy it if:

You want a driver's car
The Mini Cooper SE is an absolute hoot to drive. It's the closest thing we've driven to an electric hot-hatch.

You want to travel in style
The Mini Cooper SE's retro design is full of personality and charisma, and is basically identical to its ICE counterpart.

You need an affordable EV
At just $29,900, the Mini Cooper SE is the most affordable EV in the US, and that's before up to $9,500 in incentives. 

Don't buy it if:

You want to go on road trips
With a range of just 110 miles, the Mini Cooper SE is fine for  commuting but certainly not meant for long-distance travel.

You need space for people and things
The Mini Cooper SE's back seat is pretty cramped, and trunk space is somewhat limited even with the back seat down.

You want the latest in technology
The Mini Cooper SE only includes basic driver assistance, and the infotainment system feels dated and lacks Android Auto. 

First reviewed: February 2022

Myriam Joire
Freelance Contributor

Myriam Joire (tnkgrl) was born wearing combat boots and holding a keyboard. Moments later she picked up a soldering iron. On weekends, she rally-raced with her father. She's been stomping, typing, hacking, and driving ever since. After spending years being a code-monkey in the video game industry, she joined Engadget as Senior Mobile Editor and later Pebble as Chief Evangelist. Today she hosts the weekly Mobile Tech Podcast, makes videos on YouTube, writes about tech and cars for TechRadar and other major publications, and advises startups on product/media strategy. She's based in San Francisco.