Mini Cooper SE Vs Chevrolet Bolt EV: Which Is The Better Budget Electric Car?

Electric vehicles have been picking up steam in recent years, with electric pickup trucks taking over construction sites and even high-end electric motorcycles making headlines. Hatchbacks are a staple for budget-conscious car buyers, often striking a good compromise between price, features, and the fun factor. With electric vehicles growing in popularity, budget hatchbacks were bound to start popping up. The Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Mini Cooper SE are both early entries into this new class of small, affordable electric vehicles, coming in at around the $30,000 to $35,000 mark.

The EVs may be similarly sized, but the price is only one of many significant differences between the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Mini Cooper SE — differences that make one a serious, small family car, and the other more of a fun plaything for short trips in the city and nights out on the town. While it's difficult to make an objective judgment about which vehicle is best — that would depend on your priorities, habits, and personal preferences — there are certain areas where one wins out over the other, despite their similarities.

What is the 2023 Mini Cooper SE?

The 2023 Mini Cooper SE is the third iteration of Mini's two-door, electric, front-wheel-driven hatchback. If you've ever seen a Mini Cooper, you'll know they're not exactly designed for practicality. While they're not quite the comedic relief they once were, the Cooper is and has always been a small car. The 2023 Mini Cooper SE is no different — unsurprising since it's basically just an electrified version of the gas-powered modern Cooper models. 

The Mini Cooper is praised by reviewers as being pleasantly compact and agile on the road, reminiscent of its predecessors, but invigorated by the extra low-end kick of an electric motor. The base model starts at $34,225, which gets you a 32.6 kWh battery attached to a single motor that kicks 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque to the vehicle's front wheels. Mini equips the base-model Cooper SE quite well, with the vehicle featuring a wide range of safety features like Active Driving Assistant and Dynamic Stability Control, as well as creature comforts like heated seats and steering wheel, while upgrades are mostly to trim and aesthetics rather than performance or range.

What is the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV?

The 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV is an iterative improvement over the 2022 model that drastically drops the starting price down to a very affordable $26,595 for the 1LT trim level — which admittedly stacks the deck in its favor compared to the Mini Cooper SE. The 2LT trim level bumps that starting price to $29,795 and includes a few extra creature comforts, like upgrades to perforated leather seats, heated steering wheel, 17-inch machined-face aluminum wheels, and adaptive cruise control, among other things

The 2023 Bolt comes equipped with what Chevrolet calls an Advanced 65+ kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, which feeds the single 200-horsepower 150-kW, permanent-magnet electric motor driving the front wheels of the vehicle. The motor and battery on the Chevrolet Bolt are more than capable enough, while Chevrolet's Safety Assist bundles automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, follow distance indicator, Lane Keep Assist, lane departure warning, and Intellibeam Auto High Beam Assist.

In terms of additional safety features, Chevrolet's online vehicle builder also allows you to equip the 2023 Bolt with an optional lane-change alert, rear park assist, side blind zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert, all of which make the Bolt an appealing package if you're after practicality and safety.

Interior and creature comforts

When it comes to the interior of a vehicle, the entertainment package can play a huge difference in your choice. While you can always upgrade your vehicle's sound system with aftermarket speakers, upgrading the integrated streaming options is going to be more complex. It's worth mentioning that both the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Mini Cooper SE come with Wireless Apple CarPlay, but that's where the similarities end. The Bolt EV also features Android Auto, while the only other included modern connectivity option in the Cooper SE is SiriusXM satellite radio with a free 12-month subscription. 

Apart from entertainment, the Cooper SE wins in the creature comforts segment, coming with heated leather seats and steering wheel as standard features. The base model Mini Cooper SE certainly is better-equipped, but stepping up to the 2LT trim version of the Bolt EV and selecting the optional infotainment package gets you heated front seats and steering wheel, an upgraded stereo system, and a pretty solid selection of accessories that pretty much bring it up to par with the Mini Cooper SE once more. What's more, the upgraded 2LT Bolt EV still comes in at almost $3,500 less than the base model Mini Cooper at $30,765.

Note: Mini lists a heated steering wheel as a standard option on the SE, but also includes it as a paid upgrade option in the vehicle builder online, so it's best to double-check with a dealer if you're interested in buying one.

Range, performance, and fun factor

When you talk about performance, range, and charging, you start to truly see the difference between the Mini Cooper SE and the Chevrolet Bolt EV. The motors have similar output — 200 horsepower and 150 kW for the Bolt EV, 181 horsepower and 135 kW for the Cooper SE — and the performance numbers tell a similar story. 

Mini alleges that the 2023 Cooper SE takes 6.9 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour, while Chevrolet claims the Bolt EV has an impressive 6.5-second time. When it comes to range, the Mini Cooper EV starts to show its cracks even more, adding to the unfortunate negative stereotype that electric vehicles are impractical. While Chevrolet claims the 2023 Bolt EV can deliver 259 miles on a full charge, Mini puts the 2023 Cooper SE at around a pitiful 110 miles. With over twice the range of the Cooper SE, that's a clear win for the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Mini Cooper SE's range could definitely do with some boosting, but fortunately, both vehicles are equipped with one-pedal driving and adjustable regenerative braking to maximize efficiency and range. 

Things don't look good for the Mini Cooper SE in terms of performance or range at this point, but it's worth noting that the 2023 Mini Cooper SE won the hearts of reviewers thanks to its great handling and responsiveness. While the prices are similar, the vehicles are not entirely targeting the same demographic — the Bolt EV targets practicality with its large storage spaces and long legs, whereas the Cooper SE seems aimed at someone who enjoys driving and wants a distinctive, fun ride more than a workhorse.

Charging and final verdict

While the Cooper SE and Bolt EV are both compatible with DC fast charging as well as regular 240- and 120-volt charging, Chevrolet sets itself apart by offering free Level 2 in-home charging installation with the lease or purchase of all 2023 Bolt EVs. The Mini charges at up to 50 kW at DC fast charging stations, arriving at 80% (88 miles) in a mere 36 minutes, while the Chevrolet claims to charge to 100 miles in around 30 minutes using DC fast charging. 

Given the veritable canyon in prices, it's safe to say things don't look good for the Mini Cooper SE in terms of performance, range, or value. It's worth noting that the 2023 Mini Cooper SE received praise from reviewers for its low center of gravity, great handling, and go-kart-like driving characteristics. While the prices are similar, the vehicles are not entirely targeting the same demographic — the Bolt EV targets value and practicality with its large storage spaces, long legs, and tall ride, whereas the Cooper SE seems aimed at someone who enjoys driving and wants a distinctive, fun ride more than a workhorse. 

Deciding which car is better leans towards subjectivity at times, but it's clear that the Mini Cooper SE has more shortcomings — and more severe ones at that — than the Chevrolet Bolt EV, making the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV the practical choice for most people.