It’s a sign of the times that there are now so many electric cars on our roads that they almost go unremarked – and it might not have registered that there’s now an electric Mini.
With its bug-eyed headlamps, rounded front end and distinctive, stubby profile, the car isn’t obviously different from its conventional siblings.
Likewise, the distinctive interior, with its plethora of switches, round, mantlepiece clock-style information display in the middle of the dash and small instrument binnacle perched behind the steering wheel follow a familiar aesthetic. Mini clearly wants this to be perceived as a regular car, rather than something outlandish.
One issue with electric cars is where to put the batteries, which can steal interior and boot space, but this one is no worse than its petrol three-door siblings, an important consideration for a car not over-burdened with interior room in the first place. The rear seat would be a compact, but not intolerable space for a pair of grownups and acceptably roomy for two pre-teen children.
With the back seats up, the bonsai boot would have room for three or four soft bags of shopping, but the company has come a long way from a limited run of electric Minis it leased about a decade ago, whose batteries were so big that they took up all the boot and rear seat space.
Those early Mini electrics went like stink, but sounded like dentist’s drills. The new ones are still quick, but no longer audibly offensive – near silent most of the time, or making a soft whine when accelerating or slowing down.
The Cooper S I drove was like a regular automatic and had different power delivery modes controlled by a dashboard switch. Take your foot off the accelerator and the motor charges the batteries as you slow down. The fiercer the engine “braking” mode the more juice is generated and once you get used to the slightly unnerving feeling of speed being quickly scrubbed off, you barely touch the brakes.
This is a nimble, fun car, with quick, communicative steering and it corners like a go-kart, without riding like one. Accepting that its 145-mile range is hardly class beating, a domestic trickle charge would take 15 hours (think about 30 minutes for an 80 per cent fast charge), this is actually a very easy car to live with and easy to like.
If this is the future of motoring, it could be worse.