2020 Mini Cooper SE (All-Electric)

If there ever was a car that felt perfectly matched for the transition from gasoline to electric propulsion, it is the Mini Cooper. 

Mini Cooper SE

Launched in 1959 to provide relief from (another) global fuel shortage as well as the increasing price of car ownership, Mini instantly changed the landscape by rethinking the traditional automobile design. The engine sat sideways, the wheels were pushed out to the corners, and the small hatchback design meant that it was space-efficient and fuel-efficient. Perhaps unexpectedly, the Mini’s low cost and inherent agility made it a favorite for amateur racers and once former Formula One car builder, John Cooper got his hands on the Mini, it became a favorite for professional racers as well.  

Mini Cooper SE

And so we fast-forward to 2009 when, under the leadership of BMW, Mini again set the stage to redefine the automotive landscape with an all-electric Cooper. Launched with a limited release of 500 units, the lease-only program provided critical data as to how people use EV’s differently across the world, however, it was another 11 years before the Mini Cooper EV was deemed ready for prime-time.

Mini Cooper SE

Fitted with a proven-powertrain under its belt and filled with the same guiding design principles that made the original Mini such a delight to drive, the 2020 Cooper SE brings a welcome breath of “sporty” air to the EV market. 

Everyday EV sports car

There is no denying the significance of the advantages that electric motoring has over the traditional powertrain. Instead of waiting for valves to open, fuel to be injected, and the combustion to take place, full power from the motor is just an electrical signal away. Instead of running through stepped gears, a one-speed transmission is made possible by the motor’s peak torque at any speed and is always at the ready to provide smooth and uninterrupted acceleration. Lastly, instead of burning fossil fuels, the Mini Cooper SE can be recharged using renewable energy sources and hence the concept of guilt-free full-power acceleration is born. 

Mini Cooper SE

Of course, big power is worthless without a corresponding level of grip and thankfully, the Mini Cooper SE’s traction control is up for the challenge. Instead of utilizing the brakes to quell a spinning tire, the Cooper SE modulates the motor’s torque output which is faster and far more precise. In fact, it is so finely tuned that only a slight wisp of tire spin can be heard as the system maintains power at the threshold of tire traction. It is truly very impressive. 

Mini Cooper SE

Even though the powertrain is the focal point of the Cooper SE, the engineers were able to maintain the frisky nature of the Mini’s chassis. It doesn’t need to be going Mach 10 to get the smiles going. Its quick turn-in, balanced chassis, and instant torque turn any canyon road into a driving session, however, the additional weight of the batteries puts a noticeable burden on the brake capacity and overall grip from the summer-only performance tires.  

Mini Cooper SE

Around town, the Mini Cooper is just as much fun to drive. Its small size and excellent outward visibility make negotiating busy city streets stress-free while the instant punch from the motor is nice to have for those just-in-case scenarios. Throttle control at low speeds is spot on and the one-pedal driving arrangement is easy to learn and quickly becomes the preferred method for “braking” in most situations. 

Mini Cooper SE

The interior strays from the original Mini’s simplicity-rules-all design, but at least its price tag remains reasonable even in this fully-equipped Iconic trim. In typical modern-Mini form, the level of included features pushes the boundaries for what features can be had in a small car. Some of the most notable ones include LED headlights, fog lights, and taillights, a panoramic sunroof, power folding mirrors, a soft leather and comfortable-to-hold steering wheel, and supportive seats that feel like they were plucked from the BMW parts catalog. Furthermore, the details such as Union Jack patterns in the taillights, MINI ground projection light, lighted door handle and door opening, and mirror puddle lights that help make the car feel a cut above, especially at night. 

Mini Cooper SE

While the Mini’s features and styling details make it feel a step above, one can’t help but notice several areas that already feel ready for an update.  

The central 8.8-inch touchscreen display is crisp and the infotainment system is easy to learn, however, the information screens for data-hungry EV owners are lacking in content. The head-up display’s flip-up reflective screen is genuinely useful but it fits into the dash like an afterthought. The main gauge cluster display is a 5.5-inch screen which does an excellent job minimizing glare but its graphics are blurred and it looks way outdated while the automatic climate control required more frequent adjustments than what is normal, and the assembled plastic bits like those on the door handle creak when pressed or pulled.

Mini Cooper SE

Passenger space is about what one would expect from a two-door hatchback. It fits four though tall people won’t fit behind one another and the cargo space is the same as a gasoline Mini, meaning, pack lightly. The second row is a split-fold seatback and, with both seats folded, the Cooper’s cargo area is usually enough. 

Mini Cooper SE

Despite all of those qualities and luxuries, the Mini’s driving range will likely be the ultimate deciding purchase factor.

The Mini utilizes an older EV powertrain that was first seen in 2013 in the BMW i3 and as a result, it now sits near the bottom of the pack in terms of energy efficiency according to the EPA. And rather than using a dedicated platform for the Cooper SE, it adopts the gasoline model’s which limits its battery pack size to just 32.6 kWh. 

Mini Cooper SE

That means that the Cooper SE is only good enough for about 110 miles of range which means that it was always on my mind. Nearly all trips become pre-planned and figuring out where to top off the battery became a frequent concern. Without a Level II charger at home, I always took advantage of the opportunity to top off at public stations whenever possible and according to a recent GM-published report, many EV owners are in this same situation. 

Conclusion: 

The Mini Cooper SE takes on much of the Mini’s inherent goodness and makes it better with its electric powertrain, with the single exception of its limited range. For most, the Cooper SE would best serve as a second car with a Level II charger easily accessible and reliably available. On one hand, the Mini is a tremendous value and loads of fun for those who can make it work, but, for all others, the added stress of constantly topping off the battery will become too much of a burden. Despite Mini’s best efforts to learn how owners would use their electric cars, the 2009 study couldn’t predict how the market would look in 2020 and the competition actually feels better prepared to meet the demands of most Americans. It’s an unfortunate realization for one of the most entertaining and natural EV’s on the market.  

Mini Cooper SE
Mini Cooper SE
Mini Cooper SE

2020 Chevrolet Blazer

Automakers usually look to the model’s past to adopt what worked and what needed rethinking, however, in the case of the Blazer, Chevrolet chose a different path and there are no similarities with the rough and tumble SUV that once roamed for 25 years. Considering the frenzy that Ford has generated with its retro-inspired Bronco, one can’t help but wonder if this soft-natured crossover should have been called something else. But even after putting the nameplate aside, the new crossover’s concept feels disjointed and as such, it becomes difficult to appreciate more than just the sum of its components.

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2020 Ford Expedition

Each key vehicle development stage from styling all the way through mass-production, leaves its own impression on the vehicle’s overall personality. True success depends on whether they all carry the same tune. In the case of the Expedition, all teams contributed to a confident and very capable machine, although, its $72,000 price tag will be difficult for most to justify.

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2020 Honda CR-V

For every model redesign, there is an expectation that the new version has naturally inherited the best traits of the previous generations while also continuing to push the design forward into the next era. It’s a simple formula in concept, however, it is not always easy to pull-off. 

Older generations of the CR-V featured clever design details, spacious cabins, and were engaging to drive and that’s very much how one can describe this generation as well. However, now the CR-V design’s later years, it feels a step behind its rivals’ premium feel yet it can’t be beaten when it comes to ultimate utility and driver engagement. 

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2020 Toyota Highlander

With expectations of a new design every five years, the automotive market doesn’t take kindly to models that don’t continuously push their boundaries. That is especially true of the crossover market, where an ever-increasing number of new players means that even the Toyota Highlander, the segment’s best selling model since 2016, needs to take some calculated risk. 

Toyota Highlander

And sure enough, the Toyota Highlander went big with its 2020 redesign and is impressive in nearly every regard.

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2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

As one would rightfully suspect, the Corolla Hatchback has a lot in common with the Corolla sedan (which is a good thing) but one peek around at its backside, and it becomes instantly clear that the stylists went for some added edge. The focus on styling may have cost some utility points but for the individual seeking practicality and a sense of individuality, the “HB” is an appealing small car. 

Toyota Corolla Hatchback
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2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

Putting context to the phrase: “It’s a Jeep Thing”.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Ecodiesel

There is a bond between people whose sense of off-road adventure has brought them to the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It’s simply diagnosed as “a Jeep Thing” but what does it mean?

It may be beyond me to pin it down, but after experiencing the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with the all-new 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel, I at least came away with a better understanding.

Here are my eleven most distinguishing take-aways.  

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2020 Nissan Frontier Receives a Surprising Update

As the 2020 Nissan Frontier rolls down the assembly line for one final year looking very much the same as it did 15 years ago, there’s a significant upgrade hiding underneath in the form of an all-new powertrain. Even though it may be the result of fortunate timing of events rather than some sort of farewell tribute, the Frontier’s notable improvements in power, emissions cleanliness, and fuel efficiency are certainly worth a celebratory dance. 

2020 Nissan Frontier
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Kia Niro EV

Kia Niro EV front

Practical, powerful, and efficient, the Niro EV is easy to like although the current charging rate from commonly found charging stations means there’s still some pre-planning necessary – especially for longer trips away from a guaranteed charging spot. With an unlimited range of near guilt-free power, the Niro EV is a pretty fun runabout, while its crossover styling cues and an interior with physical buttons and knobs make it feel instantly familiar.

But before stepping into the land of power plugs and kWh, here are ten EV-specific characteristics that are worth knowing: 

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2020 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier 2.0T

Chevrolet Equinox Exterior

The Chevrolet Equinox competes in the same segment as the venerable Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 where high-quality designs, materials, and assembly are expected. Its strong sales might indicate that Chevrolet has landed a home run, however, taking a closer look shows that there are a lot of opportunities for improvement.

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