Recently we picked up a MINI Cooper SE for my wife, who is a huge MINI fan. We bought it as part of our move as a family to driving mostly electric vehicles. I also enjoyed the look of MINIs and gave up a MINI Countryman when I got my Model 3. We’ve had the MINI Cooper SE for about a week and have put a few hundred miles on it, and wanted to share a bit about what I’ve learned in that time.
First, the MINI is built for a different person than the Tesla is. To me, the MINI is for drivers and Tesla for tech people and those who want to let the car drive them. Let’s start with the elephant in the room first, range. The first thing people often talk about on the MINI is the range, which is 100miles or so in our experience this week. There hasn’t been a trip yet in our week that hasn’t been easily doable with this range, including a 30 mile one-way trip home from the dealer, and a trip there and back later in the week to get a feature added. Range is often touted as the main factor in a lot of people’s electric car decisions. I really which people would consider their actual driving habits when considering their range needs. Each day starts with a full battery, so you don’t need days at a time of range. With that said, 100miles feels right at the bottom end of a commuter car to me and a sweet spot for a city car for my wife. I drive about 60 miles a day, and if we consider winter range losses, it might be around my number (I’ll share that once it gets cold again). However, my wife drives 15 miles to work each day, which is well within the range in any weather.
Tesla has made a name for itself with its quick 0-60 speeds around 4.4 or so in my Model 3 in regular mode. I drive around in my Tesla most of the time in the chill mode because I prefer the smoother acceleration in stop and go traffic and when using autopilot. The MINI does 0-60 is around 7.5 seconds, which is pretty much what chill mode does. It’s quick enough and vigorous enough to make slicing through city traffic or highway merging a breeze. The handling in the MINI is much like its predecessors and feels like a go-cart, which I love. My Tesla feels a bit like a shark knifing through waters, smooth and easy. The driving experience is a matter of preference, but I enjoy driving the MINI a bit more. A huge drawback for me in the MINI is the lack of Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist. Tesla’s standard AutoPilot makes quick work of a morning interstate traffic flow. The MINI’s close cousin, the BMW i3, has excellent ACC/LKA features as well. But when you put Tesla’s Navigate on AutoPilot on there as well, and all other systems feel outdated.
Also, I think I enjoy the driving experience because of the seats in the MINI as well. While not as fancy as the seats in my model 3, which are fully adjustable and memorized each driver, the MINI seat is comfortable. It hugs you in without making you feel trapped and is much cushier under you as well. BMW (who builds MINI) has a long history of proper car seating and finishing inside touches. That continues to be right in the MINI Cooper SE.
MINI has chosen to retain the standard button and control setup typical in their F series cars, and that is awesome for people who prefer physical buttons over touchscreens; however, they have a friendly touch screen system in the vehicle as well. Telsa owns in this area for me, though. The Tesla system is more responsive, intuitive, and modern. I do wish it had a few buttons as well for specific settings.
Tesla talks a lot about their entertainment options (Hulu, Netflix, etc.); however, I rarely use these, and I don’t consider them an attractive feature for me. Nonetheless, I can imagine that some parents love it. What I miss in my Tesla is SiriusXM, I enjoy it and do use my phone’s Bluetooth connection to stream it to my Tesla, but the MINIs built-in Sirius is both more comfortable and safer to use. The MINI also has full CarPlay support, which adds some quality features to the entertainment system overall if you are in the Apple ecosystem.
So for our family, the MINI Cooper SE is a perfect electric car. It can handle most anything our days throw at it and be a fun daily driver. For longer trips, it’ll be more difficult. A typical trip for us is to the Smokey mountains and around 230 or so miles. That means roughly three charging stops in the MINI vs. one in the Tesla. These charging trips aren’t long, and even in the Tesla, I end up stopping twice because of my travel habits (My god, why did I drink that massive bottle of water), but it does mean you can’t hide most of the charging over a meal with the MINI on a trip like that. The charging process is quick, and in my area, Level 3 high-speed chargers are plentiful along the way to my most common travel destinations for both vehicles.
So I’d recommend either one of these cars to someone interested in electric vehicles, both are winners for different reasons and have a place in the EV market. If I could have anything I wanted, I would take the Audi E-Tron or Tesla Model Y today. However, if you want a small city car, then the MINI Cooper SE is a delight, and if you want a mid-size sedan, then the Tesla Model 3 is also enjoyable. I want MINI to make a fully electric Countryman (SUV) with around 250 miles of range or so, that would make the switch my next dream car from the Audi to the MINI. In the more realistic future, I’ll likely consider the Model Y.