When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007, it had its fair share of critics. People said it wasn’t revolutionary, would fail, and certainly wasn’t the future. Yet here we all are 15 years later, still using iPhones. They were the future then, and they still are now.
I think electric cars will be the same.
EVs generally offer better performance, efficiency, and reliability than their gasoline counterparts. But they’re still in the early stages of adoption, making up only around 5% of new-car sales in the US. Despite the hesitancy of the masses, I’ve owned electrified vehicles for nearly two years.
I bought my first fully electric car, the Mini Cooper SE, in July.
Electric cars offer an incredibly smooth powertrain with nearly instantaneous accelerator response. The responsive accelerator makes even the most basic EVs feel incredibly quick.
Besides the local and broader environmental benefits, electric cars are cheap to run. With very little annual maintenance and far less expensive “fueling” costs, driving an EV made plenty of sense.
My Volt was an outstanding vehicle: It had an electric range of 53 miles and a total range of 420 miles with a gasoline generator. Even in gasoline mode, it’d still get over 40 mpg. For a transitory vehicle to wean oneself off of fossil fuels, the Volt is an excellent option in the used-car market.
Once 2021 rolled around, used-car prices went haywire. By the end of the year, Vroom, an online car buying and selling website, offered me a ridiculous $20,338 for my Volt (which I put more than 6,000 miles on), netting me a profit of $5,338 minus taxes and insurance. I accepted the offer, and within a few days, my Volt was hauled off.
I first considered the BMW i3. Used i3s used to be relatively affordable, but their prices had risen dramatically with the heightened prices for used cars.
In early 2021, I could easily find used i3s for around $15,000, but a year later they had increased in value by nearly $10,000. Spending $25,000 for an out-of-warranty BMW didn’t feel like the best financial decision, so I reverted to Plan B.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf started at $27,400, and the Mini Cooper SE started at $29,900. I gravitated toward the Mini Cooper SE, despite it costing slightly more, because it shares many of its technical components with the BMW i3 since BMW Group owns Mini.
I decided the Mini was the best decision. I was excited to place my order, but then Mini removed the base $29,900 Signature model from the online configurator and replaced it with a $34,225 Signature Plus one.
I decided to call my local BMW center before totally giving up. My local BMW dealership in Charlotte, Hendrick Mini, had a limited number of allocation slots available for special order 2023 Signature models. Upon hearing the news, I zoomed over and put a $250 deposit down in March 2022.
I was hit with extra dealer fees — like mandatory window tinting and door-edge guards — but my final price was $32,963, including destination fees and taxes. Once I applied for the credit, my total would trend down to $25,453.
After I placed my order, I followed its production timeline and eagerly awaited its arrival. In early July, I was notified that my vehicle was ready. After filling out the paperwork, the shiny red Mini sitting in the lot was now mine.
I’d never driven a Cooper SE before, as most dealerships don’t have models to test drive, but my first time behind the wheel beat my expectations.
The first thing I noticed was its upscale interior. Despite being a base model, there are plenty of soft-touch materials coating the interior, aluminum control knobs for the windows, and toggle switches for many cabin functionalities.
The Mini’s infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay is intuitive and highly responsive. This is because the Mini’s infotainment software is based on BMW’s iDrive system — much higher-end technology for an under-$40,000 car. It even has an app with remote functionalities such as cabin preconditioning, which on hot summer days is incredibly convenient.
The vehicle’s standard safety features include lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and rear parking sensors paired to a backup camera. Unfortunately, there’s no adaptive cruise control available on the base model, but it’s hard to complain, because it’s one of the least expensive electric vehicles on the market right now.
Despite weighing around 300 pounds more than the internal combustion Cooper S, the SE has a lower center of gravity with the batteries being placed down low. Around corners, the little Cooper cuts through curves like a champ.
With all electric vehicles, acceleration seems to be a central point, and the Mini’s 181 horsepower powertrain does not disappoint. From a standstill, the Mini seems to ramp up its power and peak at around the 35-mph mark. That said, at around 35 mph, the Mini feels very quick with wide open throttle.
The Mini claims it takes 6.9 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph, but MotorTrend recorded a mere 6.0 with the one-foot rollout, the same as a RWD Mustang Mach-E.
As for the Mini’s range, it houses a 32.6kWh (28.9kWh usable) liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, with an EPA-estimated range of 114 miles. The EPA’s 114-mile estimate seems to hold up very well. I think 130 miles would be realistic with relatively nice driving and air conditioning. That said, high-speed freeway driving takes the most significant toll on range, but over 100 miles of range should still be possible.
I charge primarily at home via a 220V level 2 socket. A purchase of a Cooper SE includes a 110V level 1 and a 220V level 2 charger. Due to the Mini’s 7.2kW onboard charger, it only takes around four hours to go from a zero to completely charged.
In North Carolina, a full charge costs a little under $3.50. Additionally, the Mini is Level 3 DC fast charging compatible, albeit the charge rate is pretty low at just 50kW. Many new electric vehicles on the market can accept around 100 to 250+ kW. This lower acceptance rate means slower charging times. A zero to 80% charge takes around 36 minutes. It isn’t slow, but it’s in line with its competition in the same price range.
While I haven’t taken it to a DC fast charger yet, I plan on doing so soon since I’ll be taking my Mini on an upcoming 200-mile road trip.
I’ve enjoyed every moment of owning my Mini Cooper SE. It’s one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever driven, let alone owned. From its brilliant driving dynamics to its classic Mini styling, the Cooper SE proves that affordable electric vehicles don’t have to be boring.
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