With such strong sales of the electric version, BMW could make the next MINI a pure-electric car just like Fiat has done with the 500e. However, the 2024 MINI will be available in petrol and pure-electric forms just like the current car, but that’s as far as the similarities go.
While Volkswagen builds one basic structure and then designs different bodies to sit on top, BMW is developing one body with two different platforms underneath. Petrol versions of the new MINI will continue to be built in Oxford, while the electric models will be built in China thanks to an agreement between BMW and Great Wall Motors - makers of the Ora Funky Cat.
Both petrol and electric cars will have the same retro-styled body, they’ll just have different structures underneath and be built in two different factories thousands of miles away.
The new MINI will come in two flavours – Cooper E and Cooper SE. The former will have a 40kWh battery giving around 190 miles of range and power will come from a 182bhp electric motor – a small useful 50-ish-mile gain in range compared to the current MINI Electric’s 145-mile range from a 32.6kWh battery and same 182bhp motor.
The Cooper SE, meanwhile, will be the more sporting model thanks to its 222bhp electric motor and also the one with the biggest range. This SE will get a 54kWh battery and 250-odd-mile range, while both will be able to be charged up to 80kW just like the cutesy Ora Cat.
I was given the opportunity to drive a prototype version at a test track in Austria to get an early idea of what it will be like to drive. Although MINI bosses were keen to point out that the set-up has yet to be finalised (a rather handy way of deflecting any criticism), I experienced enough to know that it will be a great package when deliveries start early next year.
Like the current car, the low-slung battery pack gives it a very low centre of gravity, which makes it feel very stable when going around corners. The new MINI also comes with a wider track (the distance between the front wheels), which adds to the feeling of security. It's also fractionally shorter than the outgoing model - all of which enhances the sporty feel that MINI owners have come to love. From what I could tell from my limited time on the track, the ride quality feels improved, although we'll need to tackle a bouncy British B-road to deliver the definitive verdict, while cabin noise also feels reduced. The steering feels noticeably lighter than the current car, and if I was nit-picking, I'd say that it doesn't quite have the right 'MINI' feel yet. Thankfully, MINI's engineers are already in process of fine-tuning that element, so I'm expecting the final production models to have more feel through the wheel.
We can’t say too much about the interior as that was even more covered up, but there will be and even larger version of the traditional circular infotainment screen and a focus on plush-feeling plastics and retro detailing.
Will it be enough to continue the MINI's epic electric success? I think so, especially since it will be joined by other MINI electric models which will widen its appeal.