Kelly Bertrand takes a new Mini Electric Hatch for a blat and reports back on what electric cars are actually like to drive.
I’ve never been what you’d call a car person.
I look at cars from a pragmatic place – they get you from A to B. They go forwards, they go backwards. They hopefully don’t go sideways. Perfectly placed cupholders are a luxury, and bonus points if it has petrol in it.
I’ve always thought this was a well ingrained, cellular level thought.
And then I got in a Mini. Turns out I am a car person – I was just driving a rubbish car (that was actually cruelly hit and was out of action the exact same week I was offered a test drive of this, so I’m thinking this is the universe’s way of telling me something?)
The overarching feeling of driving a Mini is fun. It’s a car that just seems to want to have a good time and wants you to have a good time driving it. It’s a cheeky wee thing with decades of heritage behind it. Everyone knows a Mini, you know? And that’s before to the Spice Girls’ iconic closing ceremony performance at the London 2012 Olympics.
(And yes, I was channelling that Spice Up Your Life medley when I was cruising down the motorway, thanks for asking.)
As I’ve said before when I’ve been (somewhat inexplicably) reviewing cars, I’m not really interested in what’s under the hood. For me, it’s about how a car makes you feel and how it can make your life just that little bit easier.
But when looking at the Mini Electric you most definitely have to pop that bonnet of facts and have a looksie.
I’ve never driven a fully electric car before and I was jazzed to do so, especially hot on the heels of the government’s Clean Car rebate announcement and also because it’s the future, kids.
So, the details – if you have the proper fast charger, you can get an 80% charge in 36 minutes, otherwise you’re all good if you plug it into a normal outlet overnight. You get more than 200kms out of a single charge, so if you’re mostly an urban driver, you’ll have no dramas or worries about running out of juice on the run, and you can find the closest public charger via the onboard navigation system.
So you’ve got no worries with the power – what about the fun stuff? So glad you asked.
Driving the Mini reminded me of finding that perfect handbag. You know, not too big, not too small with just the right number of pockets and dividers for your stuff, so everything is just easy to access.
My favourite features included the integrated Siri button on the steering wheel that works in with Apple Car Play, the Mini logo that projects onto the ground when you’re getting to the car in the dark (FANCY), the parking assistant and reversing camera that made me look like I could actually parallel park, the wireless charging that meant my phone had full battery for once, and the multi-coloured ambient lighting that changes depending on what mode you’re in (my favourite was red for sport because you really do get amongst the racing driver-ness, within the speed limits of course.)
The biggest difference between the Mini electric and a normal petrol car lies in the accelerator. In my car, I use different pressures on the accelerator pedal to slow down and speed up, and I’ll take my foot off to slow down gradually. But the Mini’s pedal is SUPER sensitive, and as soon as you take your foot off the figurative gas, the car stops. So some advice – driving along with someone who hasn’t driven an electric car before might not be pleasant for the first few hours.
Mini have always talked up their ‘go-kart’ feel and I totally get it. But what shook me was the handling around corners. Because they were able to position the battery along the length of the car’s floor, the centre of gravity is lower than a petrol car which means you can zip around a corner like an absolute pro and feel like you’re in your own version of Wacky Races.
Once you master the pedal, it’s a ride that leaves you feeling good about your driving ability and good about helping save the planet.
She’s not a cheap car, coming in around $59,900, and committing to a fully electric car, especially if you’re flatting or your house isn’t quite set up for easy fast charging, can be a bit daunting, so perhaps starting with a hybrid could be the perfect way to build up to being a full eco-warrior.
But God, she’s a ride and I miss her. Perhaps it’s time to take the leap?