Quick spin in the fully-electric Mini Cooper SE
PRETORIA - One of the things about lockdown prior to the current level 2 was that one did much less driving around. Gone was the school or office run, the weekend outings and trips away. The car pretty much stayed parked in the driveway, unless something essential was needed at the shops.
Once the regulations changed, the roads became busier as people revelled in the freedom to move around again. This was the backdrop to my going for a test drive in a brand new car being launched in the South African market - the purely electric Mini Cooper SE.
Electric vehicles are still a novelty in SA and I remember the experience of test driving the BMW i3. Now, BMW is bringing the all-electric Mini Cooper - the first small car in the premium segment to run on electrical power only - to our market.
I do recall that when I was a young child, my parents had a Morris Mini-Minor that we did long holiday trips in, but I had never driven a Mini Cooper before. But, it was a joy and, although I only had this one for an hour or two, I took it on a cruise around Midrand - past landmarks such as Gallagher and Grand Central, the Randjesfontein racehorse training centre, the Nizamiye mosque and to the Mall of Africa.
There was a fair bit of stop and go and some short stretches of the N1 where I could accelerate to 120km/h, and I got to test braking when a truck changed lanes in front of me.
During my test drive, I not only got a good feel of the car’s agility but also a sense of how others see it. The all electric Mini is based on the conventional model and is a head turner in silver with a greenhouse roof, electric yellow embling and mirror caps, wide wheel set and those Union Jack tail lights.
It has a connected navigation and sound system and instrument display on a touchscreen, and the toggle buttons for the various features such as four driving modes are easy to use.
Of interest to Mini drivers is that the EV has slightly higher ground clearance than the conventional model (because of the battery in the vehicle floor).
For the record, the Cooper SE’s electric motor produces 135kW and 270Nm, and the vehicle’s 12 lithium ion batteries allow a range of 217km between charges, according to Mini.
The car was fully charged when I started, with the indication I could do around 175km - not enough for a trip to Durban or the Kruger Park, but this is really an urban car. I did joke on returning the car that my ride had been tame - no crazy stunts as done by Charlize Theron in ‘The Italian Job’.
When I reached into the back for my bag, I was reminded that this is a three door car and while one could take passengers there is barely any legroom in the back.
The new MINI Cooper SE will be available for sale in South Africa, in limited quantities, from the first quarter of 2021, with prices starting at R642 000.
Val Boje is editor of the Pretoria News