2022 Mini Cooper SE Long-Term Update: Notes While Sitting at Chargers
As our yearlong test of a Mini Cooper SE nears its end, here are a few random observations from time spent sitting at charging stations.
Updated July 20, 2022 2:00 a.m. PT
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Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
Because our long-term 2022 Mini Cooper SE has a relatively small 32.6-kilowatt-hour battery, and because said battery only accepts a maximum charging speed of 50 kW, we've collectively spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for our little EV to juice up. And as the chaperone of CNET's Los Angeles-based long-term test fleet, I've probably spent more time chilling at chargers than most.
These extended stays at DC fast chargers are boring, for sure, but they've also given me time to take notes about the Mini's little pluses and minuses I might not have otherwise noticed. So as our year with the Cooper SE nears its close (stay tuned for a full wrap-up story next month), here are a few scattered observations from my plugged-in sessions over the last 11 months.
I have a tendency to get a little antsy and restless when I'm just sitting around, but every time I'm forced to just hang out in the Mini, I find I'm pretty relaxed. Our test car has heated leather upholstery, and the seats are both cushy and decently bolstered. It's been great to just recline the seat a few notches and get comfy during charging sessions.
While driving back to LA through Orange County one night, I stopped to charge at an outlet mall and decided to catch a few Zs while I waited. I fully reclined the seat -- which nearly lays flat -- and shut my eyes, expecting to conk out for 15-ish minutes before discomfort inevitably woke me back up. Instead, I slept for three hours. Oops. But hey, at least the battery was at 100%.
There's a sunroof hack
You can run an EV's audio and climate control systems while it's plugged in, but that obviously uses electricity. On days when it's nice and breezy outside (thanks, California), I've found it best to crack a window or open the sunroof to get some fresh air so I can turn the air conditioning off. But that brings in bugs. And I hate bugs. And one time a bird pooped on me through the sunroof of a Cadillac Catera. So yeah.
All Cooper SEs come standard with a panoramic sunroof, broken up into two panels. The front panel lifts and slides over the rear, and the sunshade is a retractable piece of mesh fabric. What's great is, you can close the mesh while the sunroof's glass is open. This allows air to still flow into the cabin, but prevents bugs (or bird poop) from killing the vibe. It even adds an extra layer of wind buffeting if you keep it like this while in motion. As someone who loves a gentle breeze at all times, it's great.
Our Cooper SE's top-spec Iconic trim level adds a standard Harman Kardon stereo, and it's really nice. Warm, punchy and crystal clear, I can really crank up the jams without having to screw with the equalizer, and there's very little distortion when I feel like living loud. It's great for when I want to put on one of my favorite albums and let the person charging next to me know that, yes, I do have excellent taste in music, thanks for noticing.
The gauge cluster sucks
It's cool that Mini fits all its cars with a digital instrument display, but wow, I wish it was better. The graphics are pretty low-res and the screen easily washes out in sunlight. It also picks up dust like no screen I've seen before, though maybe it's just amplified because of how shiny the surface gets in the sun.
I like that you have to turn it on and off
Call me a luddite, but what's wrong with a good old-fashioned on/off switch? Newer EVs from companies like Polestar,
rely on the get-in-and-go method, where once the car detects your butt in the seat or you press the brake pedal, it wakes up and you're good to go. When you're done, just walk away. Maybe I just don't quite trust technology, or maybe I'm just a control freak, but there's something reassuring about having to turn the car on and off myself. Plus, the Mini's bright yellow toggle in the center stack is cool. Why wouldn't you want to flip that?
The control knob is backwards
You can touch the 8.8-inch central infotainment screen, but I still like to use the control knob on the center console every once in a while. (I'm a sucker for tactility, what can I say?) Problem is, it works in the opposite direction of the way my brain thinks it should. You turn left to go down, right to go up. All the more reason to just use the touchscreen, I guess.
It's so freakin' cute
OK, I know everyone kind of hates that Minis aren't so mini anymore. And while I agree with that sentiment, this thing is still cute as hell. I love the big eyes, the various mix-and-match color options and especially the Power Spoke 17-inch wheels exclusive to the Cooper SE. (Hey, remember when they were called Corona Spoke?)
But the cuteness isn't just specific to the design. The little ambient light signature around the big center display is cute. The little toggle knobs are cute. The "boop-BOOP, boop-BOOP" door chime, the alert tone and even the click of the turn signals are all cute. Big as this Mini might be, it's still bursting with personality.