- Andrew Lambrecht sold his 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and bought a new car with the money.
- He settled on the 2023 Mini Cooper SE, an all-electric model priced at just over $25,000.
- Lambrecht said the Mini SE proves affordable electric vehicles don’t have to be boring.
When Steve Jobs introduced 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 are all 15 years later and still using iPhones. They were the future then and still are today.
I think electric cars will be the same.
Electric vehicles generally offer better performance, efficiency and reliability than their petrol engine counterparts. But they’re still in the early stages of adoption, accounting for only about 5% of new car sales in the US. Despite the reluctance of the crowd, I’ve owned electrified vehicles for almost two years.
I bought my first all-electric car, the Mini Cooper SE, in July.
There are many things to love about electric vehicles
Electric cars offer an incredibly smooth powertrain with near-instantaneous throttle response. The responsive accelerator pedal makes even the simplest EV feel incredibly fast.
In addition to the local and wider environmental benefits, electric cars are cheap to run. With very little annual maintenance and far less “tank” costs, driving an EV made a lot of sense.
Before I bought my electric Mini, I drove a 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid that I bought second-hand for $15,000
My Volt was an excellent vehicle: it had an electric range of 53 miles and a total range of 420 miles with a gas generator. Even in petrol mode it would still get over 40mpg. For a transitional vehicle to transition away from fossil fuels, the Volt is an excellent option in the used car market.
From 2021, used car prices went haywire. At the end of the year, Vroom, an online car buying and selling site, offered me a paltry $20,338 for my Volt (which I’ve driven more than 6,000 miles), giving me a profit of $5,338 minus taxes and insurance. I accepted the offer and within a few days my Volt was picked up.
With the profit from the sale of my old car, I wanted to buy a “newer” used electric car
I first thought of the BMW i3. Used i3s used to be relatively affordable, but their prices had risen dramatically with the rise in used car prices.
In early 2021, I could find easily used i3s for around $15,000, but a year later they were nearly $10,000 in value. Spending $25,000 on a post-warranty BMW didn’t feel like the best financial decision, so I went back to plan B.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf started at $27,400 and the Mini Cooper SE started at $29,900. I chose the Mini Cooper SE, although it costs a bit more because it shares many of its technical components with the BMW i3, as the BMW Group owns the Mini.
I decided the Mini was the best decision. I was thrilled to place my order, but then Mini removed the $29,900 Signature base model from the online configurator and replaced it with a $34,225 Signature Plus model.
My hopes of owning the Mini have all but vanished
I decided to call my local BMW center before giving up entirely. My local BMW dealership in Charlotte, Hendrick Mini, had a limited number of 2023 Signature Special Edition allotment slots available. Upon hearing the news, I zoomed in and deposited $250 in March 2022.
I was charged additional dealer fees—like mandatory window tinting and door edge protectors—but my final price was $32,963, including destination fees and taxes. After I applied for the loan, my total dropped to $25,453.
After placing my order, I followed the production schedule and eagerly awaited its arrival. At the beginning of July I was informed that my vehicle was ready. After completing the paperwork, the bright red Mini sitting in the parking lot was now mine.
Unlike my Volt, everything on the Mini felt very premium
I had never driven a Cooper SE before as most dealers don’t have models to test drive, but my first time behind the wheel exceeded my expectations.
The first thing that struck me was the upscale interior. Despite being a base model, there are plenty of soft-touch interior materials, aluminum control knobs for the windows, and toggle switches for many cabin functions.
The Mini’s infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay is intuitive and extremely responsive. That’s because the Mini’s infotainment software is based on BMW’s iDrive system – a lot of high-end tech for a sub-$40,000 car. It even has an app with remote features like cabin preconditioning, which is incredibly handy on hot summer days.
Standard car safety features include lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and rear parking sensors paired with a reversing camera. Unfortunately, adaptive cruise control isn’t available on the base model, but it’s hard to complain given it’s one of the cheapest EVs out there right now.
The Mini Cooper SE is great to drive
Although the SE weighs around 300 pounds more than the internal combustion engine Cooper S, it has a lower center of gravity because the batteries are placed low. Around corners, little Cooper carves corners like a champ.
With all EVs, acceleration seems to be a key focus and the Mini’s 181bhp powertrain doesn’t disappoint. From a standstill, the Mini seems to ramp up its power, peaking at around 35 mph. That said, at around 35 mph the Mini feels very quick at full throttle.
The Mini claims it takes 6.9 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph, but MotorTrend recorded just 6.0 seconds with the one-foot rollout, the same as an RWD Mustang Mach-E.
As for range, the Mini houses a 32.6 kWh (28.9 kWh usable) liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack with an EPA-estimated range of 114 miles. The EPA’s 114-mile estimate appears to be holding up very well. I think 130 miles would be realistic with relatively good driving and air conditioning. However, high-speed freeway driving demands the greatest range, but a range of over 100 miles should still be possible.
I mainly charge at home using a 220V level 2 socket. A 110V Level 1 and a 220V Level 2 charger are included with the purchase of a Cooper SE. Due to the Mini’s 7.2kW onboard charger, it only takes about four hours to go from zero to a full charge.
With a typical daily drive of around 25 miles, it takes just an hour to charge
In North Carolina, a full charge costs a little less than $3.50. In addition, the Mini is Level 3 DC fast charge compatibility, although the charge rate is quite low at just 50kW. Many new electric vehicles on the market can take around 100 to 250+ kW. This lower acceptance rate means slower load times. A charge from zero to 80% takes about 36 minutes. It’s not slow, but it’s in line with its competition in the same price range.
While I haven’t made it to a DC fast charger yet, I plan to do so soon as I’ll be taking my Mini on an upcoming 200 mile trip.
I have enjoyed every moment of owning my Mini Cooper SE. It’s one of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever driven, let alone owned. From its brilliant driving dynamics to its classic Mini design, the Cooper SE proves that affordable electric vehicles don’t have to be boring.