► Mini's companion app tested
► Nav, range tracking and more
► Plus getting scored on your driving
If you make a car in today's world, you're going to need to make an app to go with it. Preferably with the word 'connect' in the title; Volkswagen has We Connect Go, Nissan has NissanConnect and here we have Mini Connected (its parent company has BMW Connected, too).
Each operates on a similar principle: use the app to access a number of remote features, including being able to lock or unlock your car, flash the lights to help you locate it in a car park, find its location on the map or send a destination to the sat-nav in advance. With Mini's app, unlike Tesla's, you can't drive off unless you also have the key with you, or summon your car from a parking space.
We downloaded the free app for the new Mini Electric. In the Electric's case, it's handy for keeping an eye on how much mileage is in the battery, or how long left to a full charge when the car's plugged in. The same app works with petrol or diesel Minis, where it shows the amount of fuel left in the tank rather than battery percentage. If you're a multi-Mini household, you can add more than one car to the same app.
VW Connect app: does it work?
Like VW's app, it can also give you a how-green-was-my-driving efficiency rating for each journey. I'm not convinced by its veracity; stroking the car along on a short EV-friendly drive, backing off early for speedbumps and junctions, I scored 1.5 stars out of five. Separately, when I gave in to the driving equivalent of sugar cravings and enjoyed the Mini's pointy steering and torque-zap acceleration, I scored 3.5, with glowing reports for my 'acceleration' and 'anticipation'. Hmm.
Pre-setting the air-con on a sunny day meant climbing into an interior comfortably cooler than the outside air (and with a mile missing from the projected range). If you have an Amazon account, Alexa compatibility turns your Mini into a giant smart speaker. You ask it to play music, tell you what the weather's like where you're headed, find somewhere to eat and so on, and it sends your location to Amazon with every request.
On a related note, the app uses algorithms to remember your travel patterns and automatically label destinations as 'home', 'work' or 'Orwellian dystopia'; okay, not literally, but it can make you feel uneasy. 'Find Mate' is a further app within the app – not a dating service but a tracker for lost items, so long as you fix a £31 Bluetooth tag (sold separately) to that thing you lose often enough.
How it works
Sign your life away
Enter your vin
Hook up to the infotainment system via Bluetooth, then enter the VIN number to make car and app blood brothers for life. Or until resale.
Go indoors again
Where you can remotely flash headlights, check the sunroof's closed, prime the air-con or have your driving judged by a digital arbiter.
Mini Connected: does it work?
Yes, but it's unlikely to revolutionise your habits. It's a handy one-stop tool, and the charging info makes it more useful for the Electric than it would be in other Minis. But it doesn't do much that other manufacturer apps can't, and you're likely to carry out most of its functions independently anyway.
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