The 1950s cultural icon has been updated with an electric motor, and it’s no less fun, says Jemma Slingo
The original 1959 Mini was more than a triumph of design and engineering. It was also a cultural icon with “classless appeal that made it popular not just as an affordable small family car, but as a fashion accessory that no self-respecting celebrity would be seen without,” says Jesse Crosse in The Daily Telegraph.
Now the classic Mini has gone electric with the help of British technology company Swindon Powertrain. You’d think nothing had changed.
“From the outside it’s impossible to tell the difference between the Swind E Classic and a conventional Mini, except for the lack of an exhaust pipe poking from under the rear bumper.”
It’s a different story when you dig a bit deeper. “To create an electric Classic Mini, Swindon Powertrain started by stripping out the car’s original A-Series engine, gearbox and fuel system,” says Luke Wilkinson in Autocar. In came a 110bhp electric motor, a 24kWh battery pack and a charging socket in place of the fuel cap.
For a small electric car, the new Mini is impressively nippy. The lithium-ion battery is “enough to propel the E-Classic to 60mph in 9.2 seconds (compared with about 27 seconds for the original)”, says Crosse – and it can go 125 miles without being re-charged.
Although it has a modest top speed of 80mph, the car is made for darting around city streets, not for zooming down motorways. “As you’d expect from any original Mini, the small British machine dances fleet-footed around corners.” When you steer, the Mini reacts – it really does handle like a go-kart.
What’s more, as soon as you hit the throttle pedal, the Mini’s electric motor powers it ahead as if there were no tomorrow, while the engine buzzes “in a manner reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter”, says Wilkinson.
Swindon Powertrain has skilfully reconciled traditional Mini features with 21st-century creature comforts. The retro Smiths speedometer at the centre of the dashboard has been re-fitted with digital internals, for instance, while USB ports and a heated windscreen are included too, says James Allen in The Sunday Times. The removal of the petrol tank also frees up 200 litres of boot space, which isn’t bad for such a small car.
Don’t expect to see many Swind E Classics on the roads, however. Each car will cost an “eye-watering” £79,000 and Swindon Powertrain only plans to make 100. “The original Mini has always been a special car”, says Wilkinson. “And this one-off conversion honours that tradition while also showcasing the future.”
Price: £79,000 Top speed: 80mph 0-60mph: 9.2 seconds Range: 125 miles