It’s the car that fans of the original Mini have been waiting for – and it could be the biggest-selling new MINI yet. With stringent emissions regulations and spiralling petrol prices, the demand for compact cars is going through the roof.
And the new baby MINI is set to head a new breed of penny-pinching small cars that prove you don’t have to sacrifice style and driving fun for low running costs. Based on the Rocketman concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, the ‘mini’ MINI will expand the burgeoning brand even further.
It will create a new entry point and mark the beginning of a new era, too, with a range of three-cylinder engines on offer, lightweight materials throughout and an all-electric version in the pipeline.
Our images show how the pint-sized production car is likely to look – and all those who have been waiting patiently for a true successor to the Sixties model will be pleased to see this car’s tiny footprint on the road. The ‘mini’ MINI is only 40cm longer and 50cm wider than the original, and engineers are intent on making the production car no bigger than the concept.
It will make the most of every inch available to it, though, with a space-saving 3+1 seating layout similar to the Toyota iQ’s. While there will be seats for four, the chair behind the driver will only be suitable for short trips. However, the instrument cluster moves backwards and forwards with the steering wheel to boost room when necessary.
Carried over from the concept will be the dual-function boot, which features a conventional compartment accessed via a hatch with a drawer-like storage area underneath. The centrally mounted ‘Coke can’ exhaust is also slated for production. Predictably, however, the concept’s Union Jack glass roof will make way for a more conventional metal top. Plus, the concept’s three-dimensional ‘handlebar’ rear lights will be replaced by simpler clusters fitted flush into the bodywork.
The distinctive door hinge spikes will be smoothed out, too, but the exposed carbon fibre sections on the front flanks and grille will be retained. Speaking to Auto Express, BMW sales and marketing director Ian Robertson told us: “MINI will never produce a car under the ‘i’ brand – this is exclusively for BMWs – but the technology we are developing for the ‘i’ family of cars will certainly be made available for the rest of the BMW Group.”
This suggests the structure of BMW’s electric i3 city car, with its carbon fibre passenger cell mated to an aluminium chassis, could be adapted for the production car. That would strip out weight, and give it benefits including trademark ‘go-kart’ handling and improved efficiency. The i3’s all-electric powertrain would slot neatly into the MINI, too, although power would be sent to the front wheels, rather than the rears.
Electricity won’t be the only power source available – petrol and diesel versions of BMW’s forthcoming family of three-cylinder turbocharged engines will be offered from launch. Although there are no specifics on power outputs or performance, BMW claims the most efficient petrol unit will be capable of returning 94mpg.
The next MINIs to go on sale will be the Coupé and Roadster in 2012. Expect the ‘mini’ MINI to arrive in 2014 – the same time that the next-generation hatch is due.