My first car was a Mini, a basic 850 and I visited Paddy Hopkirk’s shop in Belfast, run by his brother Eric, on a number of occasions to purchase add ons. It was that first Mini which sowed the seeds for my love for the little car; I became a fan as I watched it become a global star in motor sport, films etc.
When the new MINI appeared, I was at the reveal and down the years I have had the pleasure of driving a number of versions including the first EV, if my memory is correct, that was in 2009. With an inadequate range this test car slipped away until BMW could deliver one with a decent range, currently you can expect about 145 miles. The opportunity came to test the latest version, an Electric Collection in Island Blue.
Twenty years have passed since the launch of the modern MINI and the latest model generation moves to the next stage of its evolution, with the three door hatch, the Electric, the five door hatch and the convertible getting fresh new design and technology updates, bringing parity across the line-up. A refreshed exterior delivers looks even more modern looks, with more attention now focussed on the car’s central design features. The front-view is dominated by a larger radiator grille and its black, hexagonal surround, and the hallmark round headlights. The position lights have been replaced by vertical air inlets to optimise aerodynamics and the central bumper strip is now in body colour, rather than black. The wheel arch has new contours, the side indicators have been redesigned to feature LED technology and at the back of the car, the fog light is now integrated into the rear apron as a narrow LED unit. An innovative and unique roof-paint finish features a colour gradient from San Marino Blue through Pearly Acqua to Jet Black, created with a new painting technique. The three colour shades are applied one after the other in a wet-on-wet painting process, a paint finish called Spray Tech, which is fully integrated into the mechanised production process at MINI Plant Oxford. Slight deviations in the colour pattern occur due to changing environmental conditions during the painting process, so every car with a Multitone Roof is completely unique.
The interior has been redesigned, sophisticated and modern featuring an 8.8 inch colour touchscreen display are now standard and the audio control unit and function buttons for hazard warning lights and driver assistance systems are integrated more harmoniously into the circular control unit. Chrome elements have been reduced throughout the interior with the two outer air outlets framed by black panels and the internal air vents have been completely redesigned and are now embedded to be flush with the interior surface.
The version, in very limited numbers, I tested is a fixed specification model and the only way to access new exterior paint choices on a MINI Electric. Based on the Level 3 model, it can be specified in either Island Blue or Rooftop Grey and comes with Multitone Roof, already noted, black mirror caps, Piano Black Exterior and 17 inch Electric Collection Spoke wheels, alongside model-exclusive exterior graphics. In addition there are unique door entry strips and steering wheel badging; aluminium interior trim and a zero-cost option to add a Panoramic Glass Sunroof. A newly-designed sports leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons simply adds to the drive pleasure and a new structure for the keypads optimises operation of the audio and telephone functions, voice control and driver assistance systems.
Behind the wheel in its latest guise, you get a sporty and rewarding drive with super kart like handling. Okay performance is far from earth shattering, rest to 100kph (62mph) in 7.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 150kph (93mph); on a par with the original Cooper. Thankfully the EV version still manages to retain a slice of that magic associated with one of the most popular small cars in the world and long may it continue to entertain.