Two icons among British badges entering the electric car market
18 July 2019
It’s no secret that BMW now owns the MINI brand, the Chinese have revitalised MG and Vauxhall has recently been absorbed into France’s PSA (Citroen, DS & Peugeot). Meanwhile, Japan’s Nissan plus the Americans at Tesla were admittedly the first manufacturers to stick their flags into the all-electric car landscape with any aplomb and success.
No matter who owns who, though, there’s something heart-warming in knowing that three badges still rightly perceived by many as British companies will be introducing affordable mainstream electric cars this year and in early 2020, while the Jaguar I-PACE competes in the luxury segment.
Starting with perhaps the most loved and dynamically-renowned of this initial bunch of smaller British electric cars, the MINI Electric is set to look more or less identical to the current three-door hatch, which we think is a good move to prevent alienating the model’s sea of fans. Besides, it’s never looked better in its overall silhouette, so why change it?
The only tell-tale indications of the battery powering it are the smooth, closed grille, which is something most if not all EVs share for aerodynamic and functional reasons, along the new logo MINI has designed for its electric models, plus some optional dashes of yellow here and there, from the wing mirrors and grille to the unique alloys. Pleasingly, the MINI Electric keeps the Union Jack taillights, which are a special finishing touch.
It sits 15mm higher than its petrol, diesel and plug-in siblings with whom it shares its chassis and underpinnings, but the interior will feel instantly familiar to MINI drivers. The large circular display in the centre of the dash is now fully digital and so is the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, typical of an electric car, while the conventional handbrake has made way for an electronic parking brake as per many models these days. Sat nav, Apple CarPlay connectivity and Real-Time Traffic Updates will all come as standard, and MINI is proud that it has managed to prevent the battery and motor from eating into boot space, which stays at 211 litres.
The MINI Electric is powered by a 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack positioned in the centre of the floor, mated to an electric motor sourced from BMW that produces 184bhp and 270Nm torque, which will kick in instantly on pressing the accelerator – one of the many enjoyable attractions of electric power. Only 145kg heavier than a current 3-door Cooper S hatch, with the front wheels liberated of an engine sitting on top of them, plus a lower centre of gravity, MINI’s engineers have unsurprisingly burned the candle in endeavouring to preserve the car’s revered handling characteristics - and the press have given it nothing but praise so far.
Charging the battery can be done at home using a domestic electricity socket and will take around 12 hours, but this can be reduced to 4 hours by having a wallbox installed. Plugging the MINI Electric into a public charging point will enable a full charge in 2.5 hours using AC or 35 minutes via DC. Compared to some other similarly-sized electric cars out there already or in the pipeline, the MINI Electric’s WLTP battery mileage range of between 124 and 144 miles isn’t brilliant but our experience in the car sales and leasing market indicates that most MINIs are used for modest rather than long-distance journeys.
We’re excited over seeing the MINI Electric on the roads of Cheshire following its dealership arrival in March 2020 and, priced from £24,400 including the government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) that now provides £3,500 of assistance, we expect it to be a popular choice for drivers wanting to embrace green electric power.
Along with the Ford Fiesta, this compact British hatchback perennially finishes in each year’s Champions League or at least Europa League equivalent spots in the table of the UK’s best-selling cars, so it’s a big deal that an all-electric Vauxhall Corsa is on the way. Although specialising in preowned prestige car sales, Leama also incorporates a business contract hire and personal car leasing brokerage, and we anticipate there being significant interest in the Corsa-e, including among fleets.
The electric Corsa-e will only be sold and leased as a 5-door hatchback and, as far as supermini city cars go, it’s a looker, with an edginess to its design all the way from the front and down its flanks to the rear. Distinctive daytime running lights and rear LEDs, a black floating roof and bespoke two-tone alloys set Vauxhall’s newcomer apart and Elite Nav is the spec’ to go for if feasible.
Infotainment includes DAB radio and a 7-inch touchscreen as standard, which is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while top-spec’ models can be specified with a 10” unit. Options like the Winter Pack with a heated steering wheel and heated seats with three different settings will come in handy during British cold snaps, and the car’s safety credentials are reassuring for all types of drivers, with plenty of now commonplace ‘assist’ systems plus autonomous emergency braking fitted.
As with the MINI Electric, it’s the Vauxhall’s vital statistics and real-world usability that primarily matter to potential customers, though – and with a battery range of up to 205 miles, the Corsa-e gets off to a good start. It’s a case of swings and roundabouts, however, as its 7.5-hours full recharging time plugged into a 7kW home wallbox is considerably longer than the MINI, but then the electric car from Luton has a 50kWh battery whereas Oxford’s effort is rated to 32.6kWh. Crudely dividing the cars’ touted ranges by their ‘from flat’ charging times reveals that the Corsa-e recharges at a rate of 27.3 miles per hour whereas the MINI Electric gets topped up at 36 miles of driving range per hour of charge.
Discipline and routine are required in order to fully get the most out of switching to electric car models that have more modest ranges than something like an EQC, I-PACE or Tesla, and the 62 miles Vauxhall reckons that 2.5 hours plugged in will provide is pretty good for daily localish use, really. For drivers who make the extra effort to find a public rapid charger, the Corsa-e can be replenished to 80% charge in just 30 minutes – enough time to stretch one’s legs and grab a coffee. Perhaps surprisingly, the Vauxhall Corsa-e comes with an on the road price of £26,640+, making it slightly more expensive than the MINI Electric, perhaps reflecting its greater real-world practicality from the larger battery pack. Deliveries are expected early next year.
MG ZS EV
We finish our look at the first clutch of affordable electric cars sporting British badges with the ZS EV from MG, backed by SAIC Motor of China, where EVs are positively booming. Unlike the hatchbacks on the way from MINI and Vauxhall, MG’s ZS EV is an SUV, a body-style that UK and European car buying and leasing customers gobble up in mushrooming numbers each year. Pitching at the mid-size SUV crossover sector instead with a model similar in size to the GS may seem more lucrative, but the British public have only ever nibbled at MG’s debut SUV, whereas the smaller ZS has been doing relatively well.
Marketed by MG as ‘the first truly affordable, family friendly electric car’, the ZS EV is indeed quite a bit cheaper than its Kia e-Niro rival and costs from around the same as the Hyundai Kona Electric. Entry-level Excite trim models kick off at £28,495 but the PiCG shaves this down by £3,500 and MG are even offering to match the subsidy for the first thousand customers who will therefore get their ZS EVs for £21,495.
It’s not especially eye-catching on the outside but then many of its class contemporaries are equally quite pedestrian aesthetically, and the MG’s Mercedes-esque grille, windmill-like wheels and some attractive colour choices like Pimlico Blue do boost its case.
Inside, the MG ZS EV features an 8-inch touchscreen and most other equipment expected by today’s drivers, but upgrading to Exclusive trim is required for 3D Sound, a rear parking camera, heated front seats and leather upholstery. MG promises ‘beautifully soft materials’ and ‘ultimate refinement’ from the cabin of its all-electric SUV, which is only available with an automatic gearbox and incorporates different Eco and sporty driving modes, just like other EVs and hybrids.
Under its skin, the Midlands’ compact electric SUV incorporates a 44.5kWh battery and produces an unremarkable 143PS, but its torque figure of 353Nm once again means that it will provide fairly rapid, smooth and near-silent acceleration. Charging times range from 7 hours using a 7kW charger to 40 minutes plugged into a rapid charger, and MG reckons the ZS EV will provide a battery driving range of up to 163 miles, which seems decent, but the Kona and e-Niro pledge 279 and 282 miles respectively.
Leama Specialist Cars is synonymous with hand-picked, preowned luxury, sports and prestige vehicles, but we also incorporate a car leasing brokerage, arranging the best PCH and PCP deals and offers across all makes and models. Compact electric cars like this British trio nicely complement the lifestyles of people who own more powerful or exclusive cars, so if you’re thinking of adding electric to your personal collection, contact us for more information.