IN the same way as the diminutive Mini drove a change in our lives over 60 years ago so its modern equivalent might just make us re-evaluate our motoring lives today.
While some brands are locked in stretching the range, padding up features and weight and asking a lot of money for what is essentially a very simple technology, the MINI Electric takes a different approach with a greater emphasis on driving enjoyment in the five-model range.
Our mid-range Cooper S Shadow edition was fitted with optional heated steering wheel and tinted glass at £500 on standard price.
Depending on power source, the Oxford built electric MINI can be recharged in between 28 mins on rapid box or a little under five hours on a domestic point.
The motor is where you'd find a petrol unit in the traditional car driving the front wheels but the battery lies low under the rear passenger seat and cabin floor, good for handling.
The 33kWh battery and 135kw motor give the car snappy acceleration when kick-down is used in Sport mode and it can embarrass many petrol hot hatches as a result. It's particularly surprising because the absence of familiar sounds associated with a petrol engine seem to catch out a driver's senses and expectations.
The very smooth and swift power delivery is impressive whether in Sport or Green modes, the car's steering is highly responsive if a little dead in feedback and the brakes, should you use them, easily contain that performance but in the high recuperative setting there is very strong retardation which essentially means you can drive the MINI Electric on one pedal alone without the need to touch the brake pedal, but you still have an electronic parking brake.
MINI has traditionally had an agile feel and the Electricdoes respond well to sweeping along twisting roads, swiftly overtaking when pressed to perform, grabbing the ground through tight turns and slowing with total control but it also rides much better than many other MINIs I have driven.
Enjoyable as it was on the open road, the turning circle was not as compact as you might expect when parking. I also became annoyed at the touch and go indicators and wipers and struggled to find the right amount of pressure to apply to effect a short or longer operation, but this is something which only comes with familiarity over time.
The steering wheel spokes carried a lot of secondary switches for cruise control and the infotainment system and these worked well every time by way of contrast.
Infront of the driver is a display for power metering and remaining battery charge which are split by a variety of alerts and displays for roadspeed, remaining miles, temperature etc.. All beautifully clear and easy to read.
The facia is dominated by the 25cms/10-inch diameter circular multi-function display for navigation, entertainment, telephone and personalised settings which a number of passengers said really struck them as being distinctive, taking its design queue from the first Mini's similar display holding just speed and fluid levels readouts.
Below this very big instrument are various climate and heating controls along with switches for added features including the Sport and Green toggle and on/ off power ignition switch.
The air conditioning worked well once we found the ideal setting and it's helped by powered side front windows and our car had a powered tilt or retract sunroof ahead of a fixed glass panel so it looked and felt very airy. The mirror housing carried courtesy lights and e-call button as well as the roof control.
Oddments provision was by a series of small recesses, trays, cup-holders and bins of limited sizes, but it's worth mentioning the inductive charging station for a phone set into the armrest. Seat back pockets in the rear and small bins were also provided and there were several USBpoints in the cabin.
Getting into the back seats was very difficult and once there the leg and headroom was restricted. It was not the place to try and secure a child-seat either.
The wide opening doors gave good access to the front seats by contrast and there was plenty of room for occupants, with manual controls for reach, recline and height, excellent well shaped cushions and bolsters and easily moved headrests.
Bootspace was suitable only for a couple of weekend or shopping bags unless you dropped down the rear seat backs and the bootfloor hid the compartment for the cables and get-you-home tyre repair kit as there's no-where to carry a spare wheel.
Visibility was very good all round and sensors and camera worked well to alert when parking while bright lights and effective wipers front and back did a good job.
As stated, the only real engine noise was a hum from the motor when running, with road rumbles very low and almost no wind noise intruding unless the roof or windows were open.
It was lively when required and using the driving aids it could be economical as well. A full charge on two occasions would not go beyond 125 miles so it's essentially a city or commuting car which may need recharging two or three times a week.
While it does not have the range of some rivals, it is a realistic proposition for many and better priced than less stylish challengers.