First drive: 2023 Mini Cooper Electric prototype review

Despite the modernisation of the interior (for better or for worse), you start and stop the new Mini with something that looks quite like an ignition key, adding a bit of control and theatre.

We first headed out on a short road loop, followed by some time on a technical little test track. A conclusive verdict and a star rating will follow once we’ve driven a finished car, but first impressions are very positive indeed.

The steering is transformed. The engineers say they’re still working on dialling in some on-centre feel, but it already felt pretty good to me. The leaden feel and limp turn-in that characterises many versions of the current Mini has been banished completely. It’s now actually quite light, even in Sport driving mode, feeling natural and delicately letting you know what’s going on. And the hint of torque steer when you accelerate hard out of corners is all part of the hot hatch experience.

With just 2.2 turns lock to lock, the rack is pretty direct, and it’s a fixed ratio, so while it takes a moment of acclimatisation, you always know how much turn-in you’re going to get.

The chassis backs up the fast steering with grip and response, even on winter tyres in cold and wet conditions. The nose darts into corners in a way that the old car’s never did. You can easily load up the front end and then bring the rear out to play at will.

If that isn’t your bag and you prefer the steadier balance that Minis have tended towards, you haven’t been forgotten about. The engineers have put a lot of work into the traction and stability control systems, and it shows. Leave everything on and the systems will carefully mete out power to maintain traction while smoothly intervening to maintain the agile handling while keeping the rear axle firmly in line.

DSC Sport mode is possibly even more impressive, because it maintains the traction and nips at the individual brakes to subtly rotate the car into corners. It lets you play with the balance of the car and even encourages it, while still keeping an eye out to make sure that things don’t get out of hand. DSC Off will still rein in the worst of the wheelspin but will let you throw shapes on track to your heart’s content.

Source link

Leave a Comment