MINI Electric Convertible review

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We at last have a Convertible version of the MINI Electric. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.

Ten Second Review

As the current MINI Hatch nears the end of its production run, the brand has taken the belated decision to introduce a Convertible version of the electric model for a limited production run. It's pricey and doesn't go particularly far on a single charge but the concept of an EV convertible is pretty unique and that will be enough for this car to sell out quickly.

Background

If you've ever wondered why the MINI Electric wasn't offered as a Convertible, then you're not alone. The brand plans to plug that gap with the next generation MINI, but the drop top version of that won't be on sale until 2025.

MINI though, did produce a prototype of the current MINI Electric in Convertible form in 2022 and has decided to put that design into limited series production to round out this current generation MINI's production life. Just 999 examples of this MINI Electric Convertible will be built, with 150 of those set aside for the UK.

Driving Experience

Like the fixed top model, the MINI Electric Convertible uses a 32.6kWh battery pack with a 184hp output and maximum torque of 270Nm. From rest, 62mph takes just 7.3s, which is just under a second slower than the standard MINI Electric thanks to the weight of the roof mechanism. That affects driving range too, which is rated at 125 miles, 20 miles less than the fixed-top. As with all EVs, the maximum speed is restricted - in this case to just 93mph. But then, when was the last time you drove over 93mph? The car sits a little higher off the road than a comparable Cooper S Convertible to give the battery more clearance but the centre of gravity is lower because more of the mass is concentrated further down. Weight distribution is quite different to a normal MINI Hatch too, the battery's bulk dictating a 54/46 front-to-rear ratio rather than the usual 60:40-split.

To get the most from the electric motor's torque, you'll need to master the various driving modes - 'Normal', 'Green' and 'Sport', the latter offering slingshot acceleration. The digital dashboard provides information on the current flow of energy and the range, as well as offering ways of increasing range by deactivating comfort functions or boosting energy regeneration. On the navigation map, a circle that indicates the car's range can be shown. When the route guidance starts, it displays the fastest and shortest route and also suggests a GREEN route involving the lowest level of power consumption.

Design and Build

The MINI Electric Convertible uses exactly the same body and roof mechanism as an ordinary MINI Convertible - as you might expect. Its dimensions are virtually the same as the combustion model, at 3863mm in length and 1727mm in width. As is the Union Jack-embossed cloth soft top. The roof is customisable and retracts in 18 seconds. When that folded fabric roof is down, it forms a wrap-around collar around the back seats, rather than disappearing completely. It encroaches slightly into the boot area but despite this, the luggage capacity is a reasonably acceptable 215-litres with the roof closed and 160-litres with it folded down (again, the same as the combustion model). For comparison, the boot capacity of an ordinary fixed-top MINI Electric is 211-litres.

Inside, it's the same as that fixed top model. Through the sports steering wheel, you view a 5.5-inch colour screen to replace conventional instrument gauges. Road speed is shown at the centre in figures with a peripheral scale band, as well as information on the charge level of the battery, the selected MINI Driving Mode, the status of the driver assistance systems and check control messages. In addition, details of the available range, current drive power, outside temperature, time and mileage are displayed, with traffic sign detection reports and directions from the navigation system. An 8.8-inch centre infotainment screen tells you everything else you need to know.

Market and Model

If you're tempted by this open top EV MINI, you'll need a couple of strong sweet tea after taking a look at the asking price, which is £52,500. Yes, really. To give you some perspective, the priciest version of the fixed-top MINI Electric you could choose - with plushest 'Resolute' trim - is £17,000 less. This model is based around 'Cooper SE' trim and you do at least get a lot of equipment for the asking figure. There are edition-specific 17" Electric Power Spoke 2-tone alloy wheels, made from 100 per cent secondary aluminium. Door handles, side scuttles and the surrounds of the front and rear lights are finished in Resolute Bronze, and the MINI logo and model lettering feature in Piano Black. And Edition-specific details are found on the side scuttles and door sill trims, featuring consecutive numbering for each of the 999 units available.

For the interior, 'MINI Yours' sports seats in a 'Leather Lounge' design offer seat heating and adjustable thigh support, while the multi-functional sports steering wheel - finished in Nappa leather - is also heated and features the MINI Electric logo. Interior surfaces are finished in Piano Black, while ambient lighting and signature MINI Electric yellow colour accents, such as the start-stop toggle switch, complete the interior design. Premium interior materials are complemented by eDrive services, providing the driver with current energy consumption, range, and tips for economical driving, all displayed on the MINI Head-Up Display. On longer journeys, the Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, and MINI Driving Assistant enhance comfort.

Cost of Ownership

As with the fixed-top MINI Electric, the main issue here is driving range. As we told you in our Driving section, the battery can only take you 125 miles, 20 fewer than the fixed-top model. Which doesn't sound much given that this car's most obvious competitor, the part-convertible Fiat 500C EV, can take you up to 199 miles.

MINI bullishly says this isn't a problem because a long driving range isn't really needed in an urban-based car. The brand has worked out that the average daily driving distance for a MINI customer is 23 miles - though we've heard that argument before and in our view, it doesn't excuse feeble driving range provision.

Rather more pertinently, the company also points out the issue of cost and weight. The larger the battery, the more expensive and heavy it will be, which of course then affects performance and handling - both crucial criteria for a potential buyer of this car. Hence BMW's decision to specify a relatively compact 32.5kEWh battery here which, it reckons, gives the best trade-off between purchase price, handling and driving range. It also means relatively quick charging times. Charging from empty to 80% at an AC 11KW point takes two and a half hours - or three and a half hours to you charge to 100%. You can charge from empty to 80% at a DC 50KW charging point in just 35 minutes. The charging plug is located above the right-hand rear wheel, where the petrol filler would normally be.

Summary

There are a few disappointments here. First that MINI didn't put this car into production earlier. Second that it costs so much. And third that only 150 examples will be available for our market. As with the fixed top MINI Electric, you might well be disappointed with the relatively feeble driving range too.

If this were not the only proper EV convertible on the market, all of the above would be enough to sink this MINI's prospects. But it is and that'll mean that the limited production run will sell out quickly. If you miss out, don't worry. Our council would be to choose the far cheaper Fiat 500C EV (which is almost a convertible) and hang on for the rangier next- generation MINI Convertible to come. By then though, the market for drop-top EVs might be a little better populated.

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